ReelzChannel sat down recently with Catherine Hardwicke to talk about the soon-to-release Twilight, her highly anticipated movie version of Stephenie Meyer's best-selling novel. The movie stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.
ReelzChannel: Twilight, as you know, has sold more than 17 million copies. It's been on the New York Times Best Sellers List for several weeks. There are 350+ fan sites. As a director, how much pressure is that for you?
Hardwicke: Are you trying to scare me? My job is already done. I can't be any more scared! You know, it was exciting [to be] working on a project where people actually care about it -- they've been reading, and they get involved, and they're into it, and there's a board about it. The fact is, you'd be out there in the middle of the night -- just freezing and shivering or in crazy rain -- and then you'd see fans over there that had driven from two states away, and they just want to be around it. So that made you have to gather your courage and keep going at times.
RC: Right. We actually visited you on set in Oregon. Very rainy, cold, cloudy conditions. As a director, how difficult was that for you? Or was it a good challenge?
Hardwicke: The day that you guys came to the beach was our worst day. It was extreme weather conditions and most of the crew were trying to rebel and say we cannot film any more. The cameras got soaked through the layers of plastic. We ruined two monitors on the steady cam. People were just miserable -- freezing and in tears. So I went to the producers and I said, "Well, I think we shouldn't shoot any more today. Let's finish this another time. Maybe we can do it in L.A." And they said, "Nope, you can't. You have to keep filming."
And I'm like, OK what am I going to do? And so the second-half of the day is supposed to be down on the beach. The tide had come in and it was raining. And I thought, no, people are going to murder me if I go down there and I say let's do it. So I started seeing all these surfer vans. And we did the second part of the scene in these vans, where there was just a little bit more shelter. Then at the end of the day, the producers say, "Man, congratulations. No other director would of kept going." I said, "I didn't know it was an option. You told me I had to."
RC: Is that the scene where they're eating licorice and they're in the van? That scene was actually supposed to be on the beach?
Hardwicke: That was going to be on the beach and it was going to be a cool bonfire. The Native Americans were going to come down through the woods and make this really cool entrance. But I like the scene now, too.
RC: So that's what a director has to do, roll with the punches?
Hardwicke: Sometimes you just have to say, "OK, this isn't working well. Do this." You saw me, I was just standing out there in the rain, and no one was around me. And I'm [wondering], is anybody going to come back and film? And finally, if you stand there long enough, everybody comes back and we go ahead and film.
RC: Another thing that was very impressive was that you made the decision not to use CGI. So a lot of the stunts were done with wire work and choreography. Why that decision?
Hardwicke: Well, I think that when we see movies that have really big sets, or all kinds of fake or created environments, in a way they feel kind of fake, too.... But when somebody's really doing it -- really coming through the trees or dive-bombing into the floorboards -- there is an impact. There is a difference. So first of all, we didn't have the budget to do it the other way. But I actually prefer it -- it feels more real.
RC: I want to know, how did you get them on the treetops?
Hardwicke: Yes, everybody loves that scene. It's cool.
RC: It is cool. It's kind of, I hate to name another movie, but it reminds me of that Titanic scene where Leo and Kate are in the open water. But here they're up on a treetop.
Hardwicke: Right. Well, in a way we were going for something like that exhilarating feeling, that ecstasy of feeling -- like you're just madly in love with somebody. You can talk about it but you want to find a visual way to feel that. So we were on the edge of a cliff on the Columbia River Gorge and that treetop was right on the edge. It was kind of scary, like "Rob, Kristen, please hold on! Don't get carried away!" But the most dangerous part, we did have stunt doubles for that last shot.... They're really up there on this superhigh tree. And then the helicopter goes by and almost blew them off with the wind. The doubles told me they were terrified. But it looks good.
RC: What about that vampire superspeed -- like when Edward is climbing up the trees. Is it just you fast-forwarding the scene?
Hardwicke: Well, sometimes you shoot at different camera speeds. And then sometimes the wire helps pull people up faster. And we had another little thing called the "magic carpet" that we pulled behind an ATV -- we pulled sheets of Plexiglas across the ground and the nomadic vampires would walk, like, double-speed. So there was maybe four or five different ways that create that kind of magic.
RC: Reports were that you had to reshoot some scenes. What scenes where those, and why did you have to reshoot them?
Hardwicke: Well, we did additional photography. And then we did one scene over -- that was the piano scene -- because when we did it the first time our composer had not composed "Bella's Lullaby." He wasn't even on the show. [Before] we just had Rob doing the cool improv. But when we did have "Bella's Lullaby" done -- Rob is such a great pianist, I didn't want to do just shots [of his] face, hands, disconnected -- I wanted to see him really playing the real theme. So they let me reshoot that...and you can see that he's playing the theme in the movie.
Then we shot other scenes that we never got to shoot before. For example, Jacob coming to the prom. We didn't do that the first time and we all missed Jacob really bad -- like where is he? We need him there. So we did that one. And we did some of the flashbacks -- the Cullens when they're hunting with Jacob's tribe. And then, we never got to shoot the end of the kiss -- you know, when Robert comes in, Edward comes in to the bedroom. We didn't get to shoot the stunt. And we didn't get to shoot how he stays over night with her, because we did that when Kristen was still a minor, and we had only a few hours to shoot it. So I said, let's just do the kiss over so we can do the whole scene and do it properly.
RC: I also heard that you auditioned Robert in your bedroom. With Kristen, of course?
Hardwicke: Yes, of course. My house is kind of cozy. It's like a funky beach house, in Venice. So instead of it being in a sterile casting office, I usually do a lot of rehearsals and some of the auditions over there. And we're really trying to feel, what's the chemistry between these two actors? So we had like four different finalists come over, and then Robert come over. Each of them tried different scenes -- three different scenes with Kristen. And so for the bedroom scenes, yeah, we went into the bedroom. I'm just there with the camera and kind of feeling the magic sort of come alive. And that chemistry, it was pretty exciting.
RC: And how did you condense hundreds of pages? I'm not sure exactly how many.
Hardwicke: It's like 497 pages.
RC: How do you condense 497 pages into two hours and one minute?
Hardwicke: That is the challenge. One thing that's pretty cool in the novel is that Stephenie writes a lot of description -- she does spend a lot of time talking about how amazing Edwards' cheekbones are. When you're doing a film, one shot you get it, you feel it. That kind of helps condense some it. Then you also [decide] what scenes are the most crucial. How can I bring them into this film and make them visual? So I think we pretty much got all the feelings and the emotions from the novel into the movie.