PORTLAND, Oregon — With all the hype surrounding November's "Twilight" movie, and all the press about Robert Pattinson, Stephenie Meyer, "Breaking Dawn" and so much else, it's easy to forget that the flick is being overseen by a great Hollywood auteur. With this week's "Twilight" Tuesday, we aim to shift the focus back to former film-festival darling Catherine Hardwicke.
Following on the heels of her acclaimed indie hit "Thirteen," her underrated follow-up "Lords of Dogtown" and the under-siege-before-it-was-even-released "Nativity Story," Hardwicke raised eyebrows in Hollywood by taking on a vampire novel that was little-known in the boardrooms and back lots at the time. Now, with "Twilight" poised to become her first commercial smash, the 52-year-old filmmaker is getting the last laugh. (Read all about Catherine Hardwicke's dangerous devotion to her craft in the MTV Movies blog.)
A down-to-earth woman who truly immerses herself in the filmmaking process, Hardwicke has made intense human interaction, a love of her soundtracks and movies that seem drunk with their own possibilities her trademarks. When we caught up with the infectiously fun filmmaker on set, she was eager to discuss her vampire sketches, the character she had to cut and why every "Twilight" fan deserves a little tongue action.
MTV: Forget about "Twilight" for a moment — what were your thoughts the first time you heard the story of Stephenie Meyer?
Catherine Hardwicke: It's incredible! She was a mom, she has three sons, and one day, she had this dream about a vampire boy meeting a human girl. And she just thought, "I've gotta write that down!" In three months she wrote the whole novel, and her friends and her sister encouraged her to [publish] it. There are 2,000 young-adult novels published a year, and hardly any of them ever break out. ... This one just started catching on. I think people were just swept away by that voice, by that passion.
MTV: Has it been tricky getting the weather here in Portland to cooperate?
Hardwicke: We just had a take where it was sunny, it hailed, and it rained — in one take! The weather has been mercurial. It's been changing, like, every minute. It's sunny, rainy, hail, snow — all in the same day! It's exciting, but you're always changing the camera and stopping three times during the take.
MTV: There must be a thousand vampire movies and TV shows that have been made over the years. In your mind, what sets "Twilight" apart?
Hardwicke: Well, when I started reading the book "Twilight," I just got swept away into the feeling of this whole, almost obsessive love. A really cool teenager, just falling madly in love, so in love with this guy that she would actually turn into a vampire to be with him. And I thought: "That's kinda great." Stephenie really caught the spirit of being a teenager and of your first love. And I thought, "How visual!" These vampires live in the forest. We've never seen anything like that. We've never seen vampires playing baseball — superhuman-vampire-speed baseball. There were so many challenges, you know?
MTV: Some fans have expressed fears that you'd be cutting out the novel's Port Angeles scene. But just to set the record straight: It's in the movie, correct?
Hardwicke: Oh, yeah. We've definitely got the scene in Port Angeles where [Edward] comes up and rescues [Bella] in the parking lot — he drives his car up, and rescues her from all these bad, yahoo guys.
MTV: You've always had your own distinctive voice. Have you enjoyed taking opportunities to say, "The book's awesome, but let's take it one step further"?
Hardwicke: Yeah. What we can do in one frame of film, where you see Kristen's face, you see Rob's face and the setting — it takes [Meyer] maybe 25 pages to write that.
MTV: How did you prepare once you knew you were going to take on "Twilight"? Are you one of these directors who sketch out your own storyboards?
Hardwicke: Actually, yeah, I am an artist. I draw. I used to be a production designer, so I have done quite a few sketches in my little journal book, and some of the storyboards. And I looked at all kinds of beautiful photos; we've gone scouting all over the Pacific Northwest, and some of the things we've seen, we wrote into the screenplay. And it's all a process, working with the actors. ... [At one point] we were walking along and saw a bed of leaves that were all crunchy. At the end of the scene I said, "Rob, why don't you trip Kristen, to fall into that bed of leaves?" It turned out to be cool; it was so romantic.
MTV: When you were first visualizing the movie, what was the first scene you were dying to sink your teeth into?
Hardwicke: Well, I was thinking, at its heart, it really is a romance. I tried to let myself imagine the most romantic, surreal fantasy moments that we would all love to experience. So I drew [sketches] of hair floating in water, and just cool stuff. ... For the action stuff, we had two great storyboard artists who had worked on "The Matrix" and stuff like that, so they helped us visualize a lot of cool action sequences. We've got Andy Cheng, he's our kick-ass action director. He was Jackie Chan's stunt double for years, and he's got all these great ideas. He gets to do all the wirework, and he's just awesome.
MTV: We see less of the Cullens in the next few books. If you make the sequels, will you try to beef up their presence?
Hardwicke: Well, we take what Stephenie wrote and [go from there]. ... In this case, we shaped it into a three-act structure for a film, a 90-to-95-minute film. Sometimes you want to set things up so you can see them later, but I'm sure we'll change [the sequels] a little bit. ... So yeah, we might see a little more of the Cullens — because we might miss them!
MTV: We've had a lot of fans asking whether "Twilight" will have a British premiere.
Hardwicke: Oh, I'm sure there will be. Rob — it's his country!
MTV: I noticed while on the set that you call many of the actors by their characters' names, which is unusual for a director. Is that on purpose?
Hardwicke: Well, when I'm in the mode, I'm really trying to be [in that world]. So yeah, I do it.
MTV: Does it keep the actors in character?
Hardwicke: I do want them to be in their character mode, not in their own personal mode. This [film] is not what Rob would do or Kristen would do; it's what Edward would feel or Bella would feel. It isn't the same as the actor. Even though there are a lot of similarities and overlaps, and they bring so much of their personalities to the movie, Edward and Bella are different than they are. So, I think it helps, and it helps me too.
MTV: Have you cut out the character of Bella's classmate Lauren Mallory?
Hardwicke: We have some girls that we don't call by name. But we have some girls that when you see their group of friends, you could imagine to be Lauren. We encourage the fans to pick who Lauren is. She doesn't have a major part in this book.
MTV: The last question is a big one: When Edward and Bella kiss, is it a French kiss? Many of the fans feel that there needs to be tongue action.
Hardwicke: I agree! Everybody needs tongue action, believe me. And we put no restrictions on the actors; I did not have a camera inside their mouth, but I would believe there was a little tongue action from the passionate way they've kissed. But maybe we should put a little camera, a little lipstick camera, into their mouths. That would be a good idea.
Every Tuesday is "Twilight" Tuesday here at MTV News! Check back here each and every week for the hottest scoop on the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's beloved vampire series, and we'll still bring you breaking "Twilight" news throughout the rest of the week. And make sure you check out the MTV Movies Blog for our ongoing "Twilight" discussions each and every day.
Check out everything we've got on "Twilight."
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.