For the last 10 years, people have been coming up to director Catherine Hardwicke to make sure she knows they're not the typical Twilight fan. And for a decade, she's found it hilarious.
“I've had thousands of people come up to me. ‘I know I'm not in the demographic, but I really loved it.’ Men, women, whatever. That is so funny. Is there a demographic for Shakespeare? Romeo and Juliet were young teenagers. Do you have to be a young teenager to like Shakespeare or Romeo and Juliet?"
Twilight was, of course, an international phenomenon, the book and film series that kicked off a young adult boom that still reverberates through entertainment today. And thousands of people have still felt compelled to explain to the first movie's director why it's not for them, even though they love it.
"I think it's funny when people say, ‘Well, I can't really relate to being a teenager or the pivotal moment in your life.’ You went through it, too. I mean, holy shit, that's the fun of these books,” Hardwicke says. “There's thousands of beautiful stories of people of all ages.” She laments the idea that YA is just for the "Y," when it's universal. “That’s fine if people like categories…But let's start to stay out of categories and break out of the box. I think that's a bit more interesting."
Hardwicke's career launched in 2003 with her directorial debut, Thirteen, starring Evan Rachel Wood and co-writer (and later Twilight star) Nikki Reed. Five years later, she was tapped to direct Twilight, then a popular book series but one that hadn't yet captured the universal zeitgeist it would soon after.
"We were more under the radar. We got to make it more like an indie film. That's pretty much probably why I got to direct it, 'cause nobody thought it would make any money, so they hired a woman to direct it," she says with a laugh. "It had been rejected by every studio. And only Summit was brave enough to take the plunge and make it. They believed in that. "
Of course, that little under-the-radar sparkly vampire love story was a massive success. After that, it had people's interest. But, by her own choice, it no longer had Hardwicke.
"I wasn't as inspired, honestly," she says. "I thought the first book had a lot of fun stuff. This first love, how intoxicating it is to fall madly in love with somebody against all odds, even if they're bad for you. But the second book didn't really do it for me as much." Apart from that, the time constraints of what was now a box-office-smashing franchise was a challenge. "If I was gonna do the next one, I wanted more time to actually be inspired and come up with cool ideas like I did on this first one, where I ended up doing a lot of scenes that were not actually in the book," she explains. "And I didn't want to just like rush into something. And especially the second book had a lot of issues for me because she was very depressed all that time, Edward wasn't there for a long time. So I wanted to figure out a way to make it great, and there really wasn't gonna be time if we wanted to keep the same release schedule."
Due to this kind of matter-of-fact honesty, recent headlines circulated focusing on Hardwicke's issues with the series, notably her comments about the subsequent films being helmed by male directors, as well as purported clashes between Hardwicke and the book series' author Stephanie Meyer. But according to Hardwicke, rumors of strife between the two have been greatly exaggerated.
“I didn't have clashes with her actually, because it was her dream. I mean, an actual dream, that she had at night. And she dreamed these characters. And so, it's really her child. Obviously, when I'm bringing to life somebody else's baby, of course, I can offer up ideas and things, but it was really from her. She originated this whole thing,” Hardwicke says. “And we all wanted her to feel comfortable as much as we could expand her vision from the written page to the screen, but she still had to be comfortable with it.”
Of course, the totally standard creative discussions between two colleagues don’t make headlines — implied drama between two women does. “Some of those clashes were a little bit taken out of context. They didn't print my whole sentence, everything that I said. But that's OK,” she says. “No strong words were ever said between Stephanie and I. It was all very positive.”
Women being pitted against each other is but one element of being female in the entertainment industry, not to mention in general day-to-day life. With the focus on inclusion, gender parity, and MeToo, progress is in the works. But it’s slow, and that remains a point of frustration for Hardwicke on her sets.
“I did a TV show, a pilot of a show about a year and a half ago or whatever, and I was like, ‘Dude, I need a woman behind the camera, too,’” she says. “It was definitely a struggle and a fighting argument. In fact, one of the people, the department head that I fought for her to be on the show, the second I left, they fired her off the rest of the series for no basis, no reason at all.”
While she continues to fight for equality on her sets, she’s also working one-on-one with female directors, doing workshops to focus on confidence and planning, and imparting lessons she’s learned along the way. One of her favorites came from Love and Basketball director Gina Prince-Bythewood: It’s all about overcoming the no. “I put that quote up on my wall to inspire me. 'Cause people were always saying, ‘No, we don't wanna make this movie. No, we don't wanna do this. No, you can't do that." And you just have to find another way around it, you know?”
“We saw a rise in TV shows, a lot more were directed by women. But…diversity was not on the rise this year. And also, even though more TV shows are directed by women, still, like, what was it? [Twenty-five] percent? For 50% of the population?” she says. “We want parity — not ‘getting better.’”
That’s why, for Hardwicke, her experience making the upcoming Miss Bala, a remake of the 2011 Mexican action-thriller that will star Gina Rodriguez, was a breath of fresh air in terms of representation.
“They hired a woman to direct it, and we filmed it all in Mexico. It's 95% Latinx cast and 95% Latinx crew. That's very cool. Yes, we're moving in the right direction. Most places are moving in the right direction.”
But she’s quick to point out the obvious: we’re not there yet.
“You still walk on some sets — it just happened to me. I still saw a sea of guys. I'm like, ‘How about some women in the camera department?’ ‘No, well, I don't know very many.’ Well, let's reach out. Let's help bring people up into here. There's not one woman in camera, grip or electric, or sound. We've gotta do better. We've gotta make pathways for people in every area.”