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Catherine Hardwicke

Teen vampire queen

After establishing serious cred directing teencentric pics “Thirteen” and “Lords of Dogtown,” production designer-turned-helmer Catherine Hardwicke chose to apply her adolescent-savvy sensibilities to a trickier project, high school vampire romance “Twilight” — a film that not only stars teens, but appeals to them as well.

That’s an understatement of course, considering the rabid success of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling four-book series, whose fans call themselves “Twihards.”

“The book is incredible. It draws you in. You feel what it feels like to be this teenage girl,” says Hardwicke, who met Summit’s Eric Feig and Patrick Wachsberger by chance at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, where she was a juror. At the time, “Twilight” had only a small, albeit devoted, fanbase. “I don’t think any of us had any idea it was going to turn into this,” she says.

Today, “Twilight” is a full-fledged pop-culture phenomenon, and Hardwicke is feeling the pressure of pleasing the ever-growing audience of fans. Finding the right Edward Cullen, she says, “I think would be clearly the biggest casting challenge ever on the face of the earth. Because he’s in every scene, he has to be this great actor, 17 years old, pale and the most beautiful man on the planet. I got calls from people of all ages: ‘You’d better get this right, Catherine.'”

She picked 22-year-old Robert Pattinson, of “Harry Potter” fame. Many of her other actors are still teens, including Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. “Thirteen” star Nikki Reed, now 20, also appears as young Rosalie Hale.

“It’s been really a wild process, but really fun that the fans have been so excited about it,” Hardwicke says. “We’d be in the middle of the night freezing our asses off in the rain and there would still somehow be 25 die-hard fans that found us. I want them to love this movie.”

Recent breakthrough: “Twilight” has been called “the next ‘Harry Potter,'” and her adaptation brought the teen girls screaming at Comic-Con.

Role models: “Thirteen” collaborator Nikki Reed. “She’s got a lot of fire and spice. I’d love to work someday with Dakota Fanning. I don’t know what the right project is, but she does blow my mind.”

What’s next: “I’m looking at everything else (asking), Is it as cool as ‘Twilight’?”

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