Director Catherine Hardwicke loves Vancouver. And not just for its good looks.
In fact, she flew up here from L.A. only for a few hours on March 6 to present a special screening of her film Red Riding Hood (which opens Friday [March 11] ) for the Vancouver cast and crew.
“The Canadians, I gotta say, everyone in that room [indicating the screening theatre], they just busted their butts,” she tells the Georgia Straight at the Scotiabank Theatre. “Anytime we would ask them anything, you know, ”˜Can we do this?’ they were just like, ”˜Yeah, let’s make it happen.’”¦They really went for it. We had such a very tight shooting schedule. It was just like Death Race 2000 every day to get it done. But they were real troupers. So I wanted to come back and say hi to everybody.”
Hardwicke’s retelling of the traditional tale is a mashup of fantasy, horror, romance, thriller, adventure, and mystery. In the town of Daggerhorn, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is betrothed to a wealthy suitor (Max Irons), but her heart belongs to a poor woodcutter, Peter (Shiloh Fernandez). Complicating things, there’s a killer werewolf that could be any one of them. As paranoia grips the village, Valerie discovers she has an unexpected connection to the beast.
Watch the trailer for Red Riding Hood.
A few days earlier at a Los Angeles news conference attended by the Straight, the soft-spoken, cheerful Texas native, known for her youth-oriented features like Thirteen or Lords of Dogtown, said that fairy tales have a cathartic, almost therapeutic effect. “That’s the thing in fairy tales. You actually do confront your dark side or your impulses or your feelings of sibling rivalry in Cinderella or whatever. 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 the fairy tales keep having traction and meaning.”
But what thrilled her most about Red Riding Hood was that a secret Hollywood dream of hers was finally coming true. “One of the things I was excited about when I read David [Johnson]’s script,” she said in L.A., “[was] I thought, ”˜Oh, finally, I’m gonna be able to create a whole world, a special unique world.”
With her background in architecture, animation, and art, she was careful to craft a look different from other locally shot films. She explained that she avoided the mossy-forest look she got in Oregon, where she shot the first Twilight. She also didn’t want to use the local forests shot for the second and third Twilights. So instead, they built forests and an entire village (using beetle-infested lumber, “so it was ecologically sound,” she added) on a sound stage. Trees with large spikes and buildings and lookout towers with pointed edges helped reflect the climate of fear in the village.
But she also incorporated the B.C. landscape.
“Vancouver: it’s beautiful. Like, the landscape around there is gorgeous,” she said in L.A. “I mean, the shots at the beginning: we’re flying in a helicopter drinking in all that beautiful nature. And so we had to kind of expand on the set we built and had set extensions, and [you] really feel like you’re in this beautiful landscape.”
She also wove a fusion of ancient and contemporary elements throughout the film. A pagan-dance sequence, for example, was inspired by her experiences at Nevada’s annual Burning Man event. And Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), who is brought in to battle the werewolf, employs soldiers played by actors of African and Asian descent.
“In this case, I thought, ”˜Okay, the village is like this isolated village up in the mountains, like Eastern Europe, and they would all probably look the same in the village,’ ” she says in Vancouver. “But then Father Solomon, he would go out and he would be picking the best bad-ass warriors he could find.”
She said that including visible-minority actors is always a struggle. “Believe me, every single movie I’ve done, I try to find a way to, like”¦if it doesn’t have to be a white guy, how can we change it up?”¦.You do have to kind of sneak it under the radar.”
For instance, when she tried to make the characters multiracial in Twilight, she says that author Stephenie Meyer “was like, ”˜Nooooo.’ She went into shock. She just couldn’t see it that way.”
But she's also very conscious of female inclusion, both in front of and behind the camera. “I would like to be proud to say [that] on this movie, it’s shot by a woman, the cinematographer is a woman, Mandy Walker”¦and the two editors are female: Nancy Richardson and Julia Wong”¦and we have a female colour timer from Canada, and two female producers. So we did pretty good. We got some chicks in there.”