Catherine Hardwicke talks TWILIGHT, Filmmaking and Making Money -Rebecca Murray interviews (Exclusive)

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Catherine Hardwicke began her career in films as a production designer working on such diverse movies as Vanilla Sky, Tombstone, Three Kings, and Laurel Canyon. Hardwicke stepped behind the camera to helm her first movie with the gritty coming of age drama Thirteen and has remained in the director’s seat since that 2003 film. Directing Twilight has thrust her into the spotlight alongside her film’s stars – Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart – and Hardwicke says she’s ready to grab the reins of a bigger budgeted film (which could be New Moon), projects Twilight‘s director points out typically go to male directors.

Rebecca Murray: This has got to be crazy for you. How do you handle this extra pressure – or are you handling it?

Catherine Hardwicke: “I think I’m handling it. I mean in a way you just say, ‘Okay, I’ve just got to do my job,’ you know? And like up till 10 days ago my job was finishing the movie. And then the second I finished it, ‘Okay, get on a plane and go to Spain and Rome and New York, come back and do this.’ So, I’m just kind of like, ‘Okay, what am I supposed to do next?'”

Murray: You just finished it 10 days ago?

Hardwicke: “Yes, I think it’s like 10 days or maybe two weeks. I don’t know. Oh, I guess I was in Spain, so it has to be about two and a half weeks. But, you know, we were literally doing prints and sound and everything. So that’s… Well, when they moved up the release date…

Murray: That added a lot of extra pressure…

Hardwicke: “Yes, three weeks earlier. But that’s good in a way because you’re just working and crafting and trying to like carve it and polish it and make it as great as you can.”

Murray: And there’s a point when you know it’s done, right? You just don’t want to touch it again – it is what you want it to be.

Hardwicke: “Well, there’s so many different stages. Like you have to lock picture it at a certain point so that you can start on the music, and so you can go and do scoring. So, you have this date that we have to go to London and score, so the picture has to be locked. And then you have the date that the sound effects people have to work on it. So, you kind of have to go down like, ‘Okay, now lock picture on this date,’ whether you like it or not. And it was pretty fast. And then sound and then music and then the effects and then… So, it’s kind of rigid when you have to do it.”

Murray: Did they give you more effects money? Did they wind up giving you a little extra to do the effects that you wanted to do, especially with the shining skin?

Hardwicke: “I think they gave us…well, they’ll never tell me in the end how much because they always pretend like you’ve already spent every penny had. But then you talk to somebody and they’re like, ‘Well we found this somewhere in the budget,’ so I’m not really sure if they gave me any more. To be honest, they don’t really open the books. But I think they probably had to give us a little bit more because when we had such disastrous weather conditions, like in the baseball, and now when you see the movie, the skies look consistent. It’s like the stormy sky in every scene. But sometimes there would be just a whiteout, sometimes it would be storm clouds, sometimes it would be this, you know? So, they had to pull some sequences together.”

Murray: So, with everything else you have riding on your shoulders, you had to balance the weather to shoot. That must have been really difficult.

Hardwicke: “Oh yes. Well that was really our worst thing. That was the most difficult situation we had because every day the call sheet would be, ‘Okay, if it’s raining, we’re shooting this. If it’s sunny, we’re shooting this. If it’s cloudy, we’re shooting this.’ You had to be ready for like three scenes. And then sometimes we would even burn out all of our sunny day scenes. On one day’s notice we had to build a whole new set in a maintenance shed so we’d have another place to go if it was sunny again and we had to use that. So, you were just like, ‘Okay, keep my head together like the Rubik’s Cube. Your brain would be like this computer pulling it together.”

Murray: But how do you do that?

Hardwicke: “Well luckily, honestly I have like a math side and an art side. I one time had this wacky test at the University of Texas and they took all the architecture students and the engineering students and then they tested, ‘Are you right brain or left brain,’ and mine was like both. Like, ‘Thank god!’ you know? You’ve got to be artistic and you have to like every minute on the set you’re like, ‘Okay, I’ve got 10 minutes and the light’s going down and if I don’t get this single on her I’m not getting the scene.’ But you still have to be sure that you’re in the right mood, you’re in the right intensity, you’re back in that place, and I have to make the decision, ‘Okay, I’m not going to get the single and I’ll do it another way.’ So, every minute you’re just like ch-ch-ch.”

Murray: That sounds crazy.

Hardwicke: “It is. And this was a wild one because Kristen [Stewart] was a minor too, up until the last two weeks. So, you start out with 10 1/2 hours, then you take the two hours driving one way, an hour each way to every location, then you’ve got the two hours in the chair – she had contacts, she had the hairpiece, the makeup. Then you have three hours of school and then you have lunch. It was five and a half hours I had her and she’s in every scene. So that was its own just brutal challenge. I mean I was just kind of like, ‘Well how did I get into this one?'”

Murray: And it was a short shooting schedule too.

Hardwicke: “It was only 44 days, which we first had 50 and then one day they just came to me and said – they first said, ‘You cannot do this in 50 days. We don’t believe you’re going to get your movie made.’ And, ‘How can you convince us you can actually do it in 50 days?'”

Murray: At what part in the process did they say that to you?

Hardwicke: “This was in January. This was in prep. And they said, ‘For the budget and the amount of money we have, you’ve only got 50 days to shoot.’ So, I said, ‘Okay, I will find a way to do it. I will do it. And then two days later they came and said, ‘Now you’re having 44 days.’ I said, ‘Wait a minute…'”

Murray: They didn’t believe you could do it in 50.

Hardwicke: “‘You just told me that I couldn’t do it in 50.’ I was kind of like, ‘Wow, I don’t understand it.’ And they were just looking at me like, ‘Now you have to do it in 44.’ I’m like, ‘Am I on another planet?'”

Murray: How did you cut back six whole days of shooting?

Hardwicke: “Well, then that was the idea, like, ‘Okay, then Catherine, you have to go cut the script.’ They actually made me cut a lot of action. I said, ‘I think this movie needs action,’ and I had more cool ideas in the baseball and more in the ballet that I thought would have even ramped it up one more level. But at that moment in time, and this is very weird to think of right now, they said, ‘We don’t care if this goes beyond the core girls. We’re not looking for boys. We just want it to be okay for boys, not embarrassing for boys to see it.’ Now, after they saw all the action and everything, now it’s all about getting the boys. But at that moment in time, they convinced me that they didn’t care about boys. But I was the one fighting. ‘I want action!’ I’m like, ‘Girls like action too.'”

Murray: You have to be able to pull in more than the core fans.

Hardwicke: “That’s what I thought too. But it’s been a journey for them too, for Summit. It’s a new company and they didn’t really know that much what’s going on. You know, everybody was struggling to figure it out. Like, ‘What do we do?'”

Murray: Plus Twilight didn’t really explode until you were already in production, right?

Hardwicke: “Right. There were only two books when I started on it, so people didn’t know. I mean it’s still growing. Now it’s exponential – the film, the faces made it even more exciting for people.”

Murray: Everyone seems to be talking about the books and the movie now.

Hardwicke: “Now it’s done, it is going out there…It is the ripple thing. And then I found out like a lot of guys are getting hip to it. Like, ‘Why is this guy so attracted to the girls?’ They want to understand what’s the deal with Edward and I’ve heard some people are getting their hair done like him.”

Murray: Which Edward cut though? The one from the movie or the one that Robert Pattinson’s sporting now?

Hardwicke: “I know, I know! [Glancing down at the cover of Entertainment Weekly] Oh but look at him. He’s just ridiculously good-looking.”

Murray: I have to say when you first cast him, I was probably like everybody else saying, “Oh, really? Okay…” But then the first still pictures were released with him in character and I got it.

Hardwicke: “Could you even imagine there would be another Edward?”

Murray: No, I actually can’t now.

Hardwicke: “I can’t either. I’m still just going, ‘How could we have even thought of it?'”

Murray: Was there anyone else close to getting the role?

Hardwicke: “There were like five guys. I mean there was a semifinalist list and as I go over each of them, four other guys – no f–king way. They could not. It would have sucked, to be honest. As sweet as each of them were in their own way, they were not Edward.”

Murray: Just look at these magazine covers…

Hardwicke: “I know. Nobody has seen Rob’s face more than me, okay? I’m in the editing room every minute. When I saw this cover, I sort of went, ‘Oh sh-t!’ I mean nobody could be more immune to him than me but I’m not immune. [Laughing] It’s ridiculous.”

“But he’s got heart, too. He’s got talent. He has an artistic talent, a musical talent. He’s got the depth. He reads. He thinks, you know?”

Murray: But he almost thought too much though, didn’t he? He even said that during my interview with him. So how do you handle an actor that’s just so into it like that?

Hardwicke: “I didn’t want to stop this process because that’s not necessarily bad. I mean maybe that’s good. And in a way, it is good. Look at his performance – the fact that he got that deep. But this was really the case that whenever we tried to rehearse a scene or shoot a scene, he would get one line out and then just stop and second-guess himself, and like hate the line, hate everything he’s doing. And I’d be like, ‘You know, I actually thought you were doing pretty well. Why don’t we just go through the whole scene and then look at it in the big picture, okay?'”

Murray: And he would do that?

Hardwicke: “He would do two lines and stop, and I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, I have five seconds to get this right. I have five minutes to get things right.’ I don’t want to say that but, ‘Rob, okay, that was great, we got two lines. Let’s do the whole scene this time and don’t second-guess yourself. Don’t stop.’ [Laughing] I mean, ‘Please god, do the whole scene.’ And then finally when he would do it, I’d go, ‘Hey that was actually pretty damn good, Rob. It’s good. Here’s a little note. Here’s a little note…’ And finally, if I could just get him to do it, it would work.”

Murray: Have you ever worked with an actor like him before?

Hardwicke: “I’ve never had an actor like Rob or Kristen. They are remarkable, but they are definitely challenging in a way. Or, because they’re challenging everything in themselves, too, not just me. They were trying to find it and they were trying to make it really great.”

Murray: I think that’s so strange because they are so young.

Hardwicke: “I know, but maybe that’s why they do it because they haven’t… I mean neither of them had a role like this before where they’d dominated a whole film. And they knew that people cared a lot about it. This was a bit scary.”

Murray: Were Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart feeling that weight, do you think, as they were doing this?

Hardwicke: “Well instantly, as soon as they’re cast the internet people started getting nasty against Rob. You remember people were just, ‘He’s disgusting. He’s repulsive,’ you know? I’d be like, ‘Hey Rob, I really wouldn’t read that stuff if I were you.’ He goes, ‘Yes, but my mother sent it to me.’ It’d be like, ‘Oh could you please not read it?’ Because I had talked to like Thomas Haden Church and he told me when he got cast as the Sandman in Spidey 3, he was like, ‘Oh man, people just flailed me. They were so mean. Why’s that fat dude going to be…’ You know what I mean? And then he said, ‘You know, we just had to not pay attention to it and do our best.’ And as soon as we put photos out, people flipped. Now it’s fine.”

Murray: And that’s the thing… Because of the internet everything you do and everything these guys do is so analyzed during the process and after the process. Are you used to having your life examined like this?

Hardwicke: “No, and I’m not used to having imitators imitating me on the internet with a blonde wig and doing my gestures. But I think that’s kind of fun. That’s kind of cool. And also like if there’s something great out there that somebody has a great idea or a great comment, that’s cool.”

Murray: What do you think about so many of the opening weekend screenings already being sold out?

Hardwicke: “That’s pretty neat. I heard like a hundred or so that are, yes. That’s pretty good. I was sitting there going, ‘Wait, I want to go and see it that night with the crowd.'”

Murray: You probably can’t get a ticket.

Hardwicke: “I want to go with real people and just like hear how it sounds with real people. And you’re right – I’ve got to buy my tickets. It’s very exciting. You know, usually you’re an indie filmmaker and you are just praying, ‘Would anybody please go see my movie? Please, five people? And now we’ve got people that want to see it…that’s awesome.”

Murray: Did you ever think making Thirteen you’d be directing a vampire movie, a teen romance that everybody’s in love with?

Hardwicke: “No, I didn’t because that one was made for like pennies. Also, I love that experience. I love doing an indie film. I love going to film festivals. I love not having any boss telling me what to do…no studio or anything. That’s how it was so wrong. I mean if I had a studio, ‘Well Tracy’s not very likable…’ It wouldn’t have even been the same movie. It would have been so watered-down because every comment when I sent the script around was like that. So, I thought – I hoped – I could keep making really raw movies like that and stuff. But then you try so hard. I mean that’s one thing that weird. Like even when this one was, you know, we were trying to get the script together and get the budget together, I had projects at four other studios that some of them had major stars attached that I was trying to get any of these five projects made. And you never know. You’re watching the horse race. ‘Okay, that one at Fox Searchlight looks like it’s about to go and Twilight’s maybe not doing so good. Oh wait, this one.’ So, I didn’t know if this one was even going to go. And magic has to happen to get a movie green-lit anyway.”

Murray: And now it’s going to be easier for you?

Hardwicke: “Truthfully, it’s weird. I, for the first time, have actually been feeling the sexism thing. I’ve got to tell you that it’s…”

Murray: We’re not over that yet?

Hardwicke: “No, because it’s weird. I’ve looked at some movies that are very imaginative. You know, with my background in animation, architecture and everything so I’ve wanted to do some like cool worlds. My first job was working with Tim Burton, so I love that. And I’ve looked at some projects and then I’ve gone to the studios or my agent’s gone, ‘Oh Catherine’s really interested in that,’ or gone to a meeting. They’re like, ‘Well, you’ve never done this big a budget or this many effects,’ or ‘We don’t think you can do it.’ And I said, ‘Wait a minute. Look at a lot of amazing people that have made that leap from Christopher Nolan going all the way to there. He did indie movies first. You know, Sam Raimi did… Bryan Singer… Why do you believe that a guy can do that, take that leap, and I can’t? I’m as prepared if not more in visual effects. I’m an architect. I did not fall behind at all. Look what I did for 44 days and for $37 million.’ ‘Oh, well we just don’t think you can make that leap.’ Now I feel it more than I ever felt. Isn’t that weird?”

Murray: That’s so weird.

Hardwicke: “I feel like it’s the main reason because they’ve sought out more indie directors for these movies. Oh, Jon Favreau for Iron Man, I mean all kinds of people have been given this leap. Those people are all guys. What woman has done that? The one woman that they gave a shot was Karyn Kusama doing… What was the one with Charlize Theron? The superhero?”

Murray: Aeon Flux

Hardwicke: “And that didn’t work so…”

Murray: But look at how many men make sucky movies.

Hardwicke: “Oh no, I mean to me that’s nothing but that’s one out of a zillion, you know? And there could be a million reasons for it. But I don’t know. I feel that a little bit and I feel like that just gives me and I’ve got to take it like Rob did. ‘Okay, that’s just another challenge. I’ve got to prove myself again.’ But I think you never stop proving yourself, don’t you think?”

Murray: Exactly. They have to consider you did this movie with such a small budget.

Hardwicke: “And trust me a little bit.”

Murray: Are they going to give you New Moon to direct?

Hardwicke: “Well, it’s contractually if the movie makes X times what it cost to make, then I have to be offered it first.”

Murray: And you want it?

Hardwicke: “Well that’s the thing. I don’t really know everything yet because New Moon’s going to cost like twice as much because look at all of the effects and all that crazy sh-t, so that’s one thing. And then if you take and round it up to $40 million on this, round up marketing is usually about $40 million, and then if it’s another $40 million for New Moon, so you’ve got $120 million right there. This movie has to make more than that to warrant making New Moon.”

Murray: And that’s not guaranteed.

Hardwicke: “Not really. If you look at it historically, you can see some of the biggest movies, the biggest names, and you think, ‘Man, that was a big success,’ and they didn’t make $120 million. You know, you can go to like, okay, we all thought this is a silly one, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, that was a big success. That’s under 80, I think. You know, Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, that was like $70 million. Even Adam Sandler’s last movie, I don’t think it even made $100 million. It’s hell to make $100 million dollars. It’s not easy, it’s not easy.”

“I don’t think it’s a slam dunk or anything like that. I mean we’ve seen the tracking reports and everything. You know, it could be. It could be. Thinking positively.”

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Rebecca Murray

Rebecca Murray is Editor in Chief at Showbiz Junkies.com, an online site covering films, TV, music and other entertainment-related news, reviews and recaps. Murray founded the comprehensive and well trafficked entertainment site after 13 years helming the Hollywood Movies channel for About.com, consistently one of that network's top-rated sites. Murray is also an obsessed Corgi mom.