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.