Twilight: Eclipse Casts Bryce Dallas Howard as "Victoria"

Howard replaces Rachelle Lefevre as the flame-haired villainess in the third film.

UPDATE: Rachelle Lefevre told Access Hollywood today that she was "stunned" by the decision to recast her role.

After playing the flame-haired vampire villainess Victoria in the first Twilight film and its upcoming sequel, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, actress Rachelle Lefevre (pictured below) will be replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard in the third Twilight film, Eclipse, which begins filming in August. The announcement was made by Summit Entertainment Tuesday; will fans embrace the re-casting of one of Twilight's beloved original cast members?

Here's the full press release from Summit:

Los Angeles -- July 28, 2009 -- Summit Entertainment announced today that Bryce Dallas Howard will take over the role of "Victoria" in the studio's upcoming production of THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE. Actress, Rachelle Lefevre, who portrayed the character in TWILIGHT as well as the upcoming release of THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON, will not continue in the role due to scheduling conflicts with another commitment the actor has made. THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE will start filming in Vancouver this coming August.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE, the third film in the studio's TWILIGHT film franchise based on Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster book series, will be directed by David Slade from a screenplay written by Melissa Rosenberg. The film will be released theatrically in North America on Wednesday, June 30, 2010.

"We are incredibly happy that Bryce has agreed to come into the franchise," said Erik Feig, Summit's President of Worldwide Production and Acquisitions. "Rachelle brought "Victoria" to great screen life and Bryce will bring a new dimension to the character. The franchise is lucky to have such a talented actress as Bryce coming in to fill the role."

Howard most recently starred in TERMINATOR SALVATION as Kate Connor and has been seen in SPIDER-MAN 3, LADY IN THE WATER, and THE VILLAGE. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her leading performance as an actress in the HBO film AS YOU LIKE IT.

In THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE, Bella once again finds herself surrounded by danger as Seattle is ravaged by a string of mysterious killings and a malicious vampire continues her quest for revenge. In the midst of it all, she is forced to choose between her love for Edward and her friendship with Jacob - knowing that her decision has the potential to ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf. With her graduation quickly approaching, Bella is confronted with the most important decision of her life.

Summit cites a scheduling conflict as their reason for casting Howard (pictured above), which is understandable given the quick successive productions of each Twilight film. (The third film, Eclipse, goes into production three months before the second film, New Moon, is released to theaters.)

But the re-casting of such a key character may not go over well with some fans, considering that Lefevre, who originated the role of Victoria in 2008's Twilight, established a faithful fan following during Twilight's many press tours. Furthermore, the character of Victoria -- a "bad" vampire out for vengeance against Bella Swan and the Cullen family following the loss of her lover James -- has a considerably larger role in Eclipse than in the previous films.

What are your thoughts on the casting of Bryce Dallas Howard in Eclipse? Eclipse, directed by David Slade, is slated for a June 2010 release.

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