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

by Anne Thompson
March 13, 2011 12:31 PM
3 Comments
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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.

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3 Comments

  • Avel | March 14, 2011 11:28 AMReply

    I agree with what Sid has said- to the extent that I can't feel bad for a woman who has squandered her opportunities and made, at best, commercial choices, and that speaking of Bigelow and Hardwicke in the same breath is offensive.
    Also, it is immaterial that O. Russell was in what you refer to as "Movie Jail". I, for one, am glad that "The Fighter" went to him rather than the person who made Twilight.

  • samantha | March 14, 2011 9:48 AMReply

    i was just wandering if there is going to be a second movie of red ridding hood

  • Sid | March 14, 2011 8:52 AMReply

    All this noise about female directors is so annoying especially around someone like Hardwicke who has been constantly squandering away the opportunities she has been able to secure since making THIRTEEN. She was bankable then but after NATIVITY STORY, LORDS OF DOGTOWN, TWILIGHT and now this one -- it would be hard for anyone to trust her to deliver on a script. She doesn't deserve to be in the same conversation as Bigelow just because they have the same genitalia.

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