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SXSW Video: Catherine Hardwicke Talks Red Riding Hood, Twilight, Women in Hollywood

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 13, 2011 at 12:31PM

Women directors really do have a tough time. So many factors work against them, no matter how successful they are, in terms of what the powers that be will let them do. Big-budget action films? Mimi Leder and Kathryn Bigelow are among the few who have been allowed into that club. Back in the day when Renny Harlin and Rachel Talalay both directed hit horror sequels, he got a career and she didn't. Even after Twilight, Hardwicke couldn't land the gig directing The Fighter, which went to a director, David O. Russell, who had been in movie jail. It's a boys' club, one in which failure for women is not tolerated. After she turned down the Twilight sequel because it was on a fast track and she wanted more time, Hardwicke tried to make Hamlet with Emile Hirsch, but has yet to raise the money.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Women directors really do have a tough time. So many factors work against them, no matter how successful they are, in terms of what the powers that be will let them do. Big-budget action films? Mimi Leder and Kathryn Bigelow are among the few who have been allowed into that club. Back in the day when Renny Harlin and Rachel Talalay both directed hit horror sequels, he got a career and she didn't. Even after Twilight, Hardwicke couldn't land the gig directing The Fighter, which went to a director, David O. Russell, who had been in movie jail. It's a boys' club, one in which failure for women is not tolerated. After she turned down the Twilight sequel because it was on a fast track and she wanted more time, Hardwicke tried to make Hamlet with Emile Hirsch, but has yet to raise the money.

The movie that she could do: Warner Bros.' Red Riding Hood, a film that played to her strengths, in the sense that it was targeted at the Twilight teen demo. Given that underpinning for the movie, all the subsequent choices made by the studio and filmmaker were aimed at pleasing that group. Plus, the movie was still at $42 million, produced on a budget, shot on a Canada soundstage where Hardwicke, trained as a production designer, created a strange fairy tale world that is neither based on anything real nor believable. Julie Christie, by Hardwicke's own description, is a Boho granny in dreadlocks; the women wear mascara and lipstick and the pretty boys have stylin' haircuts.

Hardwicke sat down with me in Austin, where the movie played on its opening day, to explain what she thought she was doing (below). The picture has earned execrable reviews; hardcore actioner Battle: L.A. is beating it at the box office.

Part One: Red Riding Hood bestseller book tie-ins, films she wanted to make but couldn't, Hamlet, trying to get on The Fighter, aiming at the teen girl demo, the odds against women filmmakers, creating fairy tale world and bad-ass bo-ho granny with dreadlocks (Julie Christie).

Part Two: Hair styles, building village on soundstage, aerial shot of Red Riding Hood with red cape, Heironymous Bosch paintings, keeping it contemporary.

Part Three: Male film critics and the Twilight factor, not doing the sequel.

Part Four: Working with Amanda Seyfried. Critics vs. audiences, roller coaster careers, indie vs. studio.

This article is related to: Directors, Studios, Video, Women in Film, Production , Warner Bros./New Line, Interviews , Costume Design, Art Direction


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.