Twenty years ago, Catherine Hardwicke took the Sundance Film Festival by storm with the gritty adolescent drama Thirteen.
She followed it up with the Heath Ledger classic Lords of Dogtown, and then did something unexpected… she took charge of a vampire romance movie for teens.
At that time, it was essentially unheard of for a female director to be in charge of a big-budget movie. But it was also a time when teen stories were not taken seriously, which is why Hardwicke claims she was able to take the helm of Twilight at all. In an interview with The L.A. Times, Hardwicke explained:
'People love to say 'a woman directed it,' but that's because no one thought the book was that popular... I got to direct it because no one thought it would make money, and when it did, all the rest of them went to men — the rest of 'Twilight,' 'The Hunger Games,' 'Divergent,' all that model went to male directors.'
In spite of all of the endless jokes made about Twilight, Hardwicke's movie did much more than simply make money. In the past 20 years, the movie has earned much-belated respect for its moody atmosphere, ethereal soundtrack, and beautiful cinematography. None of the other films in the series come close.
After Twilight was such a massive success, Hardwicke bowed out of the rest of the series. Now that she had proven she could launch a franchise and make studios a mint, she believed Hollywood would be open to her ideas. Looking back, she admits:
'I was naive. I thought 'Hey man, I just made four or 500 million dollars; I'll be able to make what I want.' But that's not how it turned out.'
Hardwicke began putting years of work into passion projects that stalled. In spite of the proof that she could create serious money as well as serious quality (Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown were both critically acclaimed), studios had no interest in what she was bringing to the table.
Meanwhile, studios inspired by Twilight's success began churning out massive franchises based on beloved Young Adult novels. And now that they knew how much money was involved, female directors were once again left out in the cold.
Hardwicke doesn't seem to have any regrets about not directing the Twilight sequels – at least, not artistically speaking.
However, she clearly regrets the fact that after her exit, no other female director was invited into the space she left behind. Instead, the stories that meant so much to teenage girls were left in the hands of men.
Nowadays, that's starting to turn around. Over the last few years, the boys-club of Hollywood has started to give way in the face of undeniable talents like Hardwicke, Greta Gerwig (Ladybird) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman). Perhaps when an inevitable Twilight or Hunger Games reboot happens, the stories that inspired millions of girls will be left entirely in the hands of women.
Source: The L.A. Times.