Catherine Hardwicke and Amanda Seyfried – Tricia Olszewski interviews

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In Catherine Hardwicke’s “Red Riding Hood,” the titular character of the classic fairy tale is no longer referred to as an item of clothing: Her name is Valerie. And she’s all grown up, torn between the man she loves and the man she’s been arranged to marry, her emotions further taxed as her town battles a werewolf. Amanda Seyfried, blessed with a fairy-tale face, plays Valerie and here talks with her director about the look of the film, its modern touches, and why Valerie is far from a damsel in distress.

OLSZEWSKI: What drew you to the project?

SEYFRIED: I actually didn’t read the script before I met with Catherine. She just had crazy visuals to show me.

HARDWICKE: When I read David [Johnson’s] script, I thought, Finally, I’m going to get to create a whole world. We started by going back to the heart of the story. It’s about woods. We looked for big, rustic logs. We were looking for an architecture that added to the paranoia of the village. We put a wall around the buildings, and lookout towers, and sharp points so you felt that fear was baked into the DNA of the buildings themselves.

SEYFRIED: The set couldn’t have been better. I definitely felt like I was transferred back to some other time and it really helped in the moment, especially with all these supernatural elements — like when I had to stare at a piece of wood, pretending that it was a wolf that was going to eat me.

OLSZEWSKI: Catherine, why did you choose Amanda?

HARDWICKE: Amanda’s the only person I thought of for this part. One time she spoke at an autism benefit and she just drew me in. It was quite amazing. So I’ve been watching her in all these other parts and I saw she could be funny and charming and sexy, and I’m like, “Man, that chick can do anything!” And I also thought, “What big eyes you have!” [laughs]

SEYFRIED: “Who’s got the biggest eyes in the business right now, between 17 and 25?”

OLSZEWSKI: How did you prepare for your role?

SEYFRIED: I separated from the usual damsel-in-distress that’s in most fairy tales. She’s not in distress at all. She’s a young, strong female that’s realizing her sexuality and trying to navigate through her young adult life in this medieval village. She’s the heroine in the movie, and that was really attractive. Because I like playing women who just have no fear.

OLSZEWSKI: Valerie seems like a 21st-century woman transplanted into a different era.

SEYFRIED: Yeah. We added majorly contemporary elements to it, like a love triangle and the coming-of-age aspect. It’s very contemporary, how she was dealing with her parents and the man she loves and the man she was betrothed to. And [Hardwicke] knows how to work a good coming-of-age story. [She] obviously is connected to that youthful kind of essence.

OLSZEWSKI: Why did you drop “Little” from the title?

SEYFRIED: Because my breasts are too large. [laughs] It also can’t be that coming-of-age story if it’s a child. It’s this girl who has all this tension and turmoil and questioning and [is] developing into this young adult. Also, it makes for a more exciting story because you add that sexuality and romance to it.

OLSZEWSKI: Yet the gist of the story remains.

HARDWICKE: That’s the thing with fairy tales. You actually do confront your dark side, or your impulses, or your sibling rivalry. You admit that they exist and then you work through them and conquer them and come out living happily ever after, having learned something. That’s one reason why fairy tales keep having traction and meaning.

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Tricia Olszewski

Movie critic and international gadabout Tricia Olszewski can often be spotted running out of screenings in the Washington, D.C., area muttering her favorite critique, courtesy of Bart Simpson: "I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows." She published her first film-related article while working in a Buffalo, N.Y., multiplex, inspired by lunatic Jurassic Park crowds clamoring to get into the showings "where the seats shook." They were talking, of course, about the new DTS sound technology, but the intense rumor-mongering that audio innovations tend to inspire had them believing they were seeing the sequel to MANT! So she wrote an (allegedly humorous) essay about it, in the process discovering a flair for pointing out the idiotic. Naturally, a gig at the Washington City Paper followed. More than a decade later, she's the last film critic standing. Tricia also contributes reviews to the Colorado Springs Independent and PopMatters and has written about music and theater for the Washington Post, prompting her to nurture hobbies such as filing and data entry. She's a member of the Washington, D.C., Area Film Critics Association and counts Michael Mann, Christopher Nolan, and Quentin Tarantino among her favorite directors. Technically, she's neither "international" nor a "gadabout."