UPDATE: Deadline has word from the studio that Kristen Stewart is still part of the franchise. Scroll down for details. 

One of the more surprising hits of the year was Universal’s action-packed re-imagining of the classic Snow White fairy tale, Snow White and the Huntsman. After earning nearly $400 million at the box office, a sequel to the film was a given, but there was some debate over which direction the film would take.

A couple of months back, we shared the news that the sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman would focus more on Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman character instead of the Snow White character. Now it’s being reported that Kristen Stewart’s Snow White won’t be in the sequel at all.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Stewart won’t star in the film, which is now being conceived as a spin-off rather than a direct sequel. As a result of these changes, screenwriter David Koepp, who was brought on to script the film, is leaving the project and will be replaced with a new writer.

Interestingly, while shifting the focus to the Huntsman character was always in the plans, it wasn’t intended to happen quite so soon. As THR explains:

“…the original plan, according to sources, was to make two films featuring the Snow White character and a third film spinning off the Huntsman, similar to how Fox’s X-Men series has spun off Wolverine.”

So what prompted Universal to drop Kristen Stewart (one of Hollywood’s hottest and most bankable young actresses) from the project? While it’s likely not the only reason, it’s possible that Stewart’s recent cheating scandal may have played a role in the studio’s decision.

If you’ve been in a supermarket check-out lane in the past month, you’ve probably seen the tabloid coverage of Kristen Stewart’s affair with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders. Although both Stewart and the married Sanders apologized for the affair, it’s reasonable to consider that the relationship between the two might have impacted the sequel.

Then again, it’s not clear yet whether Sanders is even returning to direct the spin-off, so the affair scandal might just be a red herring. There are likely a million other possible reasons that Universal chose to go in a different direction – from Hemsworth’s rising popularity to Stewart’s oversized paycheck (which would only get bigger for a second film).

UPDATE: OR NOT. Deadline has gotten a conflicting report from Universal Co-Chairman Donna Langley, who did not mince words over the matter:

“We are extremely proud of Snow White And The Huntsman and we’re currently exploring all options to continue the franchise. Any reports that Kristen Stewart has been dropped are false.”

This would seem to suggest that Stewart is indeed still part of the franchise… for now. What happens down the line (like, say, the studio ultimately choosing to go in the “different direction” of Chris Hemsworth – or minimizing Stewart’s presences?) is anybody’s guess at this point. One thing IS for sure, though: the simultaneous news that Universal has tasked director Rupert Sanders with helming 90 Church (an upcoming crime drama based on a true story of cops vs. mobsters), could be the quiet indicator of how this now-awkward Snow White and the Huntsman situation was ultimately resolved by the studio.

We will have more news on the Snow White and the Huntsman spin-off as it comes out. Once Universal settles on a writer, the studio plans to start shooting the new movie next summer.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter