TORONTO - Fervent fans of the "Twilight" series are rallying around Canadian actress Rachelle Lefevre after she was kicked off the franchise due to scheduling conflicts, while the movie studio is disputing Lefevre's version of events.
An online campaign to restore the red-haired beauty, who plays the villainous vampire Victoria in the first two films, ramped up Thursday as devotees protested a decision to give the role in the next instalment to Bryce Dallas Howard.
Summit Entertainment announced the casting change earlier this week, saying that Lefevre signed up to shoot the Canadian film "Barney's Version" in Europe in August even though it conflicts with shooting the upcoming "Twilight Saga: Eclipse" in Vancouver.
A disappointed Lefevre said she was committed to the series, and that the conflict only amounted to 10 days out of a three-month shoot.
That sent "Twilight" fans on a mission to orchestrate her return, circulating online petitions that had thousands adding their name to the cause.
"If they cast someone else as Victoria, it is totally gonna mess up the movie," wrote a fan who identifed herself as "kate" on the website www.twilighters.org.
On her Twitter page, Lefevre thanked fans for their support.
"I am so touched by all your responses and feel incredibly blessed to have fans like you," Lefevre said on the microblogging site. "From the bottom of my heart: Thank you."
Summit, meanwhile, disputed Lefevre's account of the fracas, stating they only learned of the conflict last week.
"It is not about a 10-day overlap, but instead about the fact that 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse' is an ensemble production that has to accommodate the schedules of numerous actors," the company says in a statement.
"If Ms. Lefevre was, as she describes 'passionate,' about being part of 'The Twlight Saga,' we feel that she and her representatives would have included us in her decision to work on another film that would conflict with the shooting schedule.""
"Eclipse," based on the third book in Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" saga, is scheduled to begin shooting in Vancouver in August. It's scheduled for release in June 2010. Part two, "New Moon," comes out Nov. 20.
Principal photography on "Barney's Version," which also stars Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman, is set to begin Aug. 17 in Rome. Lefevre will portray Barney's first wife, Clara, a wild and troubled artist.
Howard most recently starred in "Terminator Salvation" as Kate Connor and has been seen in "Lady in the Water."