Catherine Hardwicke has never faced such a beloved story before. I mean, the Bible is one thing for The Nativity Story. This is “>Twilight we’re talking about here. So she applied her affinity for youth from Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown to Stephenie Meyer’s teen vampire tale.
Dread Central: How did you turn an introspective book and translate it visually to the screen?
Catherine Hardwicke: That was one of the biggest challenges to me, is that every single scene, I had to figure out how can I make this alive? How can I shoot it? I was not about to shoot scenes that literally in the book are just two people talking in a car. For example, in the book, it works when you’re reading it. Like you’re into it and what are they going to say and you can visualize it, but it would never work on screen for her to reveal, “I know you’re a vampire” just in a car. Every single scene, that was a challenge for Melissa [Rosenberg] and I to figure out how do we make it come alive? How do we make it dynamic? How can I shoot it in a way that it’s visual and cinematic and that you want to be there and it’s not just books on tape.
DC: How do you direct young actors to convey with sparse dialogue?
CH: I think the more you can strip down the language, the more meaning you get. The more it’s overwritten, actually that’s what we kept doing. We kept paring it down, even on the set and in the editing room. Less, less, less. Make it more visual. It’s not one of those movies that really hinges on the witty banter. That’s not what it is. More like visual cinema and how do you keep that tension on the set with all the crazy things that are going on with the weather and stuff? I’m not the kind of person that’s at the monitor. I try to be as close as I possibly can to the actors. In other movies, I’ve been in the back of whatever motorcycles or whatever I had to be. In this case too, how can I be intimate so that I can feel what they’re feeling.
DC: Did you revisit Near Dark to see the last time a female director did a vampire movie?
CH: What a radical question, dude. Well, I did not go back. I think I saw that movie in the ’80s. I really don’t know if I ever saw the movie, I hate to admit it. But I did not go back and look at all the vampire movies to make this movie. I’ve seen them all, most all of them, but I didn’t go back because this movie wasn’t like that. I wasn’t trying to do an homage or copy this movie. It was its own thing. I really don’t try to do that in my movies, try to echo some other film. Maybe you might see echoes. That’s cool.
DC: Well, the dream sequence looks like a silent film.
CH: That’s the one thing that’s not in the book or anything. I just thought that would be so cool to have that one old school radical vampire shot. Yeah, I went for that one.
DC: It’s a different color pallet too.
CH: Almost the only red thing. I was looking at some of those old photographs and I thought how is she researching this? When you research online, a lot of times you hit vampire and just movie images come up. But I thought I’ll let it be old myth and from other cultures and then only at the very end of it go into how films have translated that myth in just that one image.
DC: How did you cast Kristen and Rob?
CH: Kristen definitely jumped off the screen for me in Into the Wild. Bella is serious and she’s got a lot of depth. It could not be like a cute TV actress. That just couldn’t work for Bella. We love the book because you can get into her head and you can feel her. It had to be somebody that had that kind of emotional presence. So I got on a plane and went to Pittsburgh with my video camera and with an actor and it was her day off on another film on Sunday. We went around and we filmed all these scenes and we acted out a lot of the movie. Then I went back and looked at it all, edited and looked at it and thought yeah, she’s gonna be Bella.
I saw a lot of other girls too of course, because she was out of town and I saw everybody that was interested and everyone that the fans suggested. I met them too and everything but I had her in my mind. I really wanted to get on that plane and go see her. I think she kicked ass.
So Rob was 10 times harder in a way because I had already seen that performance that pretty much nailed it for me in Into the Wild. I wouldn’t say that was the case at all with Cedric Diggory. I thought he did a great job. That was already what, three or four years before. I had never met him. I didn’t know what he looked like. I didn’t know where his head was that and those nine minutes or whatever, that wasn’t Edward to me. So when I was getting desperate, like who is going to be this magical person? A lot of good looking kids would come in but they looked like they were just like the boy in my high school. I could’ve believed that was my prom king or something. I didn’t feel like it was somebody that was 109 years old, that had all these kind of amazing, mysterious elements to them. So I was getting scared. The five best guys came over to my house and we did the scenes with Kristen, like three different scenes. With Rob and Kristen, you could start to feel it. You felt the magnetic pull. You felt that fascination, that sexual tension that was essential to the movie.
DC: Where do you get your ability to speak for and about young people?
CH: Well, I guess it’s like your spirit or whatever. When I did Thirteen, Holly Hunter was just as young in my mind. She seemed just like a teenager like the other two girls so I think it’s at any age if you stay open and creative and excited. But I think that I like that age for one thing, because so many changes are happening. It’s such a dramatic time in your life. I mean, you suddenly get boobs or whatever and you suddenly could have sex for the first time or drink for the first time or drive for the first time so everything’s changing and your hormones and your body, it’s a very dramatic time so it makes it really interesting I think for cinema.
DC: But the Cullens have been there and done all these things.
CH: Yeah, because he’s not a teenager. He’s 109 years old.
DC: How did you tell that part of the story?
CH: Well, I think that was a challenge that Rob was always thinking about. He might have said this to you guys but he looks like a teenager. He stays in the body and the mindset and he’s still in high school but he has lived for 109 years, or 108 years. So how do you play that? How do you feel that? Actually, I was talking to him many times because sometimes I see people that are like 60 years old, they start to fall in love again and they act like a teenager again. So when he’s had his feelings shut down for so long and suddenly he does fall in love, that awakens that side of him. He gets back in touch with that youth I guess.
DC: Is that why it’s not creepy that a 109-year-old is macking on a teenager, because he’s only just now opening up?
CH: I think that was what we wanted to feel too, is that he does come out of that funk, that depression, that almost manic depression that he didn’t connect with anybody for so long. Finally he feels this connection. He’s the outcast really, the one person in the family that has no love or no soul mate so yeah, I think that’s what we were trying to find and that was always a balance with Rob, because he probably told you guys this or you read it. He felt like playing it really manic depressive and I was sometimes saying, “Well, some moments, you do feel love. Let’s see the contrast where we see that hope or we see that joy too.”
DC: What was the soundtrack in your head before you got all the music?
CH: Well, definitely a lot of stuff goes to Stephenie and her credit because on the website, Stephenie writes that she listened to Muse and that is her inspiration for the books. That was the soundtrack as she played it so as soon as I read that, I started, you know, playing Muse 24-7 and trying to feel all the different colors. Obviously, there are fantastic textures and just so many interesting things. Supermassive Black Hole. We were so lucky. I put myself on tape, tried a zillion times to reach the Muse guys because I wanted them to be more involved too. I’d be like, “Please, we love you, write songs for us.” But they’re obviously pretty busy and so we were fortunate enough to get that one great song. I wish we had had more. I actually wanted them to collaborate but I think that as I started listening to those songs that Stephenie loved, I thought they did really work and it was kinda great.
Then we started finding other things that worked. When you’re doing a movie, Alex Wilson, the music supervisor will send you zillions of CDs with 15 songs on each. You try every one of them with the picture and a lot of times music does not work. Suddenly the lyrics will just cut through too much and you start listening to the lyrics and you don’t listen to the dialogue. This will have too much of a fast tempo, it doesn’t work. So we probably tried for every song in the movie, 50 to 60 different songs played to picture until you get one that you feel like yeah, that makes it work. Sometimes way more than that too.
DC: So the music came after?
CH: No, it’s really integrated. I mean, for example, in the rehearsals, we always play music too. The song, for example, the “Iron and Wine” song that’s at the prom, that song was suggested by Kristen. We tried other songs in the rehearsals but Kristen said, “Let’s try this one.” As soon as we put it on, Kristen and Rob started dancing. We started like yeah, this is a cool song. Now it’s very rare that it actually works out, the song you put in rehearsal actually works all the way through and works to picture. But in that case it did.
DC: Have you done the Blu Ray yet and what scenes look awesome?
CH: I’ve only seen one scene on Blu Ray so far and that’s only the sparkle scene. It looks really great and that’s the only scene I’ve seen on there because I was worried, how is that going to translate? We’re doing some little cool Blu Ray things I think.
DC: Can you push it even further on HD?
CH: Well, that’s what we’re looking at actually. We might be going back to ILM and pushing it even a little bit more.
DC: Any cool extras?
CH: Oh yeah, we do have probably a dozen deleted or extended scenes. I made a couple crazy montages of all the time that the vampires kiss or attack somebody. I made all the human hijinks because a lot of time the human kids would improvise and do very funny stuff. Have you heard the Jason Bentley remix of Bella’s Lullaby? It’s played on KTRW. That shows you have not bought advanced tickets on Fandango. If you buy advanced tickets, you get this really cool remix of Carter Burwell’s Lullaby. When I saw that remix, that made me want to remix the movie visually, and I did that. So you’re going to get that too. I made a whole really trippy version of outtakes and other cool stuff that’s very hypnotic, trance.
Thanks to Catherine for taking the time to chat with us! Twilight is in theaters everywhere November 21st, get your tickets here!