Speaking to L.A. Times/”Big Picture” columnist Patrick Goldstein about the firing of piece-of-work Twilight helmer Catherine Hardwicke from shooting the upcoming sequels. Summit honcho Rob Friedman yesterday insisted that the first follow-up, titled New Moon , was not being rushed into production.

“We love the draft [that Melissa Rosenberg] turned in,” he says. “Melissa has worked very hard on the material and was an integral part of what made the original film such a success. This is not a rush job. The movie only gets released when it’s finished. I’d like it to be next year, but we’re not going to put out a bad movie to hit a release date.”

“On the other hand, Summit can’t dawdle,” Goldstein writes. “Unlike with Harry Potter, whose characters aged with each book, the characters in the “Twilight” series remain young forever, so if the studio is going to rely on its newly-minted stars, Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson, to carry the entire series, it has to move full speed ahead. Summit has options on its lead actors, but since they are now in demand for other films, if Summit doesn’t press ahead quickly, it could lose them for months on end to other productions.

“Hardwicke’s abrupt departure has also fueled rumors that she clashed with the all-male hierarchy at Summit. It’s a charge often leveled at Hollywood’s largely all-male executive ranks, which has a woeful track record of hiring female filmmakers on mainstream studio projects. Friedman insists there were no gender issues .

“‘It’s an insult to me personally as well as to our company. I’m the father of four daughters. When I was at Paramount, we did Kathryn Bigelow ‘s K-19: The Widowmaker. I was the person who marketed Mimi Leder‘s Deep Impact [often cited as one of the most commercially successful films directed by a woman]. Here at Summit, one of the first films we’ve bought was The Hurt Locker, which is also directed by Kathryn Bigelow. We would definitely make another film with Catherine Hardwicke, just not the sequel to Twilight

Goldstein’s best passage in the piece, to wit: “Summit’s handling of Hardwicke’s departure is more reminiscent of what Universal did with its Bourne series, which was also in the hands of a prickly indie filmmaker.

Doug Liman launched the franchise with his dazzling The Bourne Identity, but he went way over schedule and drove the studio crazy with his improvisational perfectionism. Even though the movie was a big hit and seemed to carry Liman’s personal stamp, the studio ditched him, bringing in Paul Greengrass, a filmmaker with equally indie-minded credentials who could better deal with the deadlines and demands of a studio environment.”