Director takes 'New Moon' to new heights with young actors

Though he never planned it that way, writer-producer-director Chris Weitz has had a hand in grooming some of Hollywood’s top young stars. Over the past decade, he launched several teen careers with the seminal teen sex farce “American Pie,” helped 12-year-old Nicholas Hoult hold his own against Hugh Grant in “About a Boy” and provided newcomer Dakota Blue Richards with the confidence to carry the overseas hit “The Golden Compass.” Most recently, Weitz took over the “Twilight” saga from director Catherine Hardwicke, tackling the challenge of adapting a book many deemed uncinematic.

But Weitz refuses to take credit for his teen and early-twenties cast. “Even though they are young people, I am dealing with quite technically proficient actors,” says Weitz, who thinks the claim that directors prefer not to work with child actors is overstated. “I think some of my colleagues don’t want to deal with actors at all and would much rather work with the ones on autopilot. If I could diagnose my fellow directors, it (would be) of having actor-phobia — ‘thespiaphobia.’ It’s much easier to engage in technical matters and cameras and all these concrete things than (dealing with) actors or the feelings they are supposed to portray.”

And while Weitz enjoys discussing dialogue and motivations with precocious stars, he’s also proud to watch past collaborators mature. Not long ago, Weitz introduced an all-grown-up Hoult to director Tom Ford, who cast the now-20-year-old actor in “A Single Man,” a film Weitz also co-produced.

“It makes me feel what parents must feel when they see their kids reach college age,” he says.

Impact: Kid-friendly helmer took over the “Twilight” saga for “New Moon.”

Next: “The Gardener.” The half-English/half-Spanish-language drama will focus on the relationship between a Mexican immigrant and his teen son who can barely speak Spanish.

Causes: Disabled American Veterans, Kham Aid Foundation (relief for Tibetans).

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