Director found 'Twilight' didn't admit her into Hollywood boys club


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They don’t call it the boys club for nothing.

Even after casting Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner in “Twilight,” jettisoning a terrible early script with wacky action elements (jet skis, FBI agents) and directing the blockbuster, Catherine Hardwicke didn’t get her pick of projects.

The first movie based on Stephenie Meyer’s novel opened in North America with $69 million, more than twice expectations, and eventually earned nearly $393 million worldwide.

“Honestly, I thought my struggles are going to be over. Now I’m going to get to make the movies I want to,” Ms. Hardwicke said in a recent phone interview.

She knew that moviegoers loved her previous films, “Thirteen” with Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed and Holly Hunter and “Lords of Dogtown” starring Heath Ledger and Emile Hirsch, but they weren’t box office smashes.

“So I could imagine why I wasn’t in that boys club of boy directors who could make any movie they wanted, and I thought I would be after ‘Twilight.’ But no, I was still in the girls ghetto.”

In fact, she was paid less for directing her next project, “Red Riding Hood,” starring Amanda Seyfried, and had to squeeze out period sets, talking wolves and other special effects without a generous budget to match.

“I honestly did feel if any guy had directed ‘Twilight,’ he probably would have had a three-picture deal after that.”

Ms. Hardwicke, who recently directed two TV pilots that went to series and plans to film a movie in London this fall with Rachel Weisz and Toni Collette, is coming to Pittsburgh this weekend for the Women in Film and Television International Summit, which is open to the public.

She will be among 40 speakers who are part of the event showcasing 30 panel discussions, two screenings and the annual Opal Awards, all at the Westin Hotel & Convention Center, Downtown.

The Opals on Saturday night will honor Deborah Acklin, president and CEO of WQED Multimedia; Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office since October 1994; veteran broadcaster Eleanor Schano; and Ms. Hardwicke, who also will be part of a Women in the Director’s Chair panel.

This won’t be her first trip to Pittsburgh. She was the production designer for the 1992 comedy “Passed Away,” about the wake for the patriarch of an idiosyncratic Irish-American family, and spent six months here in 1991.

“It’s so beautiful, unexpectedly beautiful, with the bridges and the rivers and the great architecture,” she said, recalling how when “Passed Away” actor Bob Hoskins went out of town, he allowed the crew to use his “fabulous suite” at the William Penn Hotel for a Thanksgiving dinner.

And it was here that Ms. Hardwicke met Ms. Stewart, then filming “Adventureland” at Kennywood Park, as a possible Bella Swan. The filmmaker had seen an early version of “Into the Wild,” featuring Ms. Stewart, and flew here to meet her.

The director rented a hotel room on a Sunday, which was Ms. Stewart’s day off, and showed up with actor Jackson Rathbone, later known as vampire Jasper Hale in “Twilight.”

“We did all these scenes in there and acted them out, and I filmed them with my video camera,” she recalled, and the trio also went outside where the future lovesick teen-turned-vampire chased pigeons and romped through Point State Park.

Ms. Hardwicke launched the film franchise that eventually made $3.3 billion around the globe. She not only made Mr. Pattinson a sex symbol but also earlier directed “The Nativity Story,” which inspired “nun-crushes” when actor Oscar Isaac appeared at the Vatican for the world premiere in 2006.

Religious sisters spotted him and called out “Giuseppe!” in honor of his role as Joseph, Ms. Hardwicke recounts of the actor recently cast in “Star Wars: Episode VII.”

This spring, TheWrap.com released a widely quoted study showing that of 39 major summer releases, 37 are directed by white men and two by black men.

Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski co-directed “Jupiter Ascending” with brother Andy, and British director Amma Asante made “Belle,” which won’t be seen on as many screens as “Godzilla” or “Tammy.”

But Ms. Hardwicke has notched some victories. She directed the TV pilots of “Reckless” and “Eye Candy” and is 95 percent assured she will start shooting “Miss You Already” in London in early September.

Written by British comedian Morwenna Banks, it’s about two women’s friendship severely tested by a crisis. “But it’s really funny and fun and just a wild, beautiful ride. It’s not a big budget,” she adds.

Ms. Hardwicke also is pitching a TV series and hopes to make a film version of Karen Thompson Walker’s coming-of-age novel, “The Age of Miracles.” The Texas-born filmmaker, however, has no easy answers for women trying to break into directing.

“This is just an obvious thing, but as a woman, you’re going to have to work harder and do more homework than the men and have a bigger skill set,” said Ms. Hardwicke, a native of the South Texas border town of McAllen.

She studied art in Mexico and earned a five-year degree in architecture from the University of Texas at Austin and later enrolled in UCLA’s Graduate Film School.

“I’ll go into meetings to pitch a movie with drawings and visuals and ideas and budgets. I’ve always had the brain that could do budgets and schedules because I had to, as a production designer, manage money. So, I try to think on every level about the project and be prepared to answer any kind of question. …

“You just gotta make yourself bulletproof and test your ideas with people who aren’t your best friend or your sister or your mom who loves you.”

Before she moved into the director’s chair, she worked as a production designer with David O. Russell on “Three Kings” and Richard Linklater on “SubUrbia” and “The Newton Boys.“  When she told them she wanted to direct, they said: “If you think somebody’s going to just hand it to you, it’s just never going to happen.”

You just have to do it yourself, they advised, and she did with “Thirteen.” She won the dramatic directing award at the Sundance Film Festival that year, and Ms. Hunter was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting turn all before the vampires made movie history.

Tickets for the summit, covering film, TV and digital media and also featuring such guests as CNN anchor Martin Savidge, “Ghost Whisperer” executive producer Kim Moses and leadership development coach Christy Uffelman, are available online through midnight today.

You can also buy them at the Westin Hotel & Convention Center starting at noon Thursday. See WIFTISummit.org for details.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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