In the supernatural thriller Red Riding Hood, the people in the small village of Daggerhorn have maintained a decades long truce with the werewolf who prowls at every full moon, by offering the beast a monthly animal sacrifice, hoping that it will leave the people of the village alone. When the wolf takes the life of one of their own, the village goes into a panic and turns to famed werewolf hunter Father Solomon (Gary Oldman) to kill the beast, once and for all. As the death toll rises and no one is above suspicion, everyone’s lives are quickly turned upside down and the population of the once close-knit village begins to turn on itself.
While at the press day for the film, director Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) did this exclusive interview with Collider, where she talked about being a fan of this particular fairy tale since she was a little kid and would dress up like the character, the changes and tweaks that she made to the script once she signed on to be at the helm, how important it was to get the look of the red cape just right, and why she identifies so well with coming of age stories. She also talked about the development of Hamlet, Maximum Ride and Maze Runner, all of which she’s looking to make, at some point. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
CATHERINE HARDWICKE: Since I was a little kid, I did like this fairy tale. I did dress up like Little Red Riding Hood. My mom had to make me a cape. When I read David Leslie Johnson’s script, I found what he had done quite interesting. He twisted it all around and had these reveals. I didn’t figure out who the Wolf was, when I read it. I liked the un-peeling of the secrets and the lies in the town. I thought it would be quite a challenge to direct a mystery thriller. I hadn’t really done something like that. If I could really keep that mystery of who the Wolf was until the end, and create that feeling that you are suspicious of your friends and family, and have that growing paranoia, I thought that would be a fun challenge, and also relevant to current day. We read about secret lives that people have on the Internet, or alternate lives of a serial killer where the whole family didn’t know that their dad or their brother or their child was that. There are all the things in our heart that no one really knows, and I thought that that was interesting territory to explore.
Once you signed on as the director, were there any significant changes you made to the script?
HARDWICKE: Oh, yes, I did a lot of work with David. I got his first draft, and then he and I just holed up for days in my office and talked through every single thing. The things I didn’t really respond to in the script, we got them out. He had the grandmother like the ‘50’s, crotchety grandmother, nagging and scolding the kids and teaching them how to sew. I was like, “No, this is a lady that lives out in the woods. She’s a bad-ass. She’s got to be tough enough to live out there. She’s got to be cool enough to be bohemian and collect the herbs and live in her own world. The people in the village probably think she’s a witch because she’s different. She’s got dreads and amulets.” I wanted her to be a lot more interesting than a finger-wagging grandmother, so we did a revamp on that. We did a revamp on a lot of stuff, like what was the nature of the village? I had the idea that they would have the sacrifices, they would have rituals, they would have walls around the village, and they would have that paranoia. David was very cool, and we just started getting all these ideas and weaving them into the script. The blood moon wasn’t there, at the time. There were many things that weren’t there, but there were many awesome things that were there.
HARDWICKE: Yeah. From the beginning, we take the viewers over with the helicopter shot and I wanted to add the castle and the town, so that you feel like you’re really in a different kind of world. It was important to control the sunlight and the clouds, and just the feeling and the mood, to surround you in that world.
Since this seems to be kicking of the trend in updated, edgy re-tellings of fairy tales, what do you think it is that makes these stories so appealing to people?
HARDWICKE: In 1975, a child psychologist wrote a book about why fairy tales have lasted so long and why we care about them 700 years later. They’ve put a scary or symbolic face on a fear or desire that you would have. If you’re a little kid and you don’t want to go in the bedroom because something scared you, you’ve got that symbol of a little girl going into the dark woods and facing the Wolf. When you’re five years old, you can relate to it and go, “Oh, that’s scary.” And then, maybe when you’re 13 or 14, you go, “Wait a minute, she invited the Wolf and she told the Wolf where she was going. There’s another level to this with a sexual undertone.” Every time this tale has been retold, people at that age, time and economic level put their own spin on it and have their own way to relate to it. They’re these classic, symbolic stories that you can keep molding and reshaping in different ways. You can take it really dark, or you can go with the happy, more sanitized version. It’s neat that they’re that malleable.
How important was the look of the red cape itself?
HARDWICKE: If you Google images of the cape, you’ll see thousands of images from back in the late 1800s, you’ll see paintings inspired by the red cape, you’ll see fashion layouts and commercials that are inspired by the red cape, and you’ll see anime artists in Japan who have a bad-ass chick wearing a super-long cape and holding a bloody axe. It’s always been that powerful symbol. People interpret the blood, the coming of age, getting your period, or just heightened sexuality and sexual power. It means so many different things. It was a big deal to myself and the costume designer. We were like, “How are we going to portray this iconic element that’s the title?” The title of the movie is a piece of clothing. We did mock-ups of it. Doing research back into that time period, any piece of fabric was valuable because it took so much effort to make, so we thought maybe it was made from old bits of curtains and other things, so the whole lining of the cape is made from different patterns. And then, there was all this embroidery. We thought that the grandmother made it lovingly for her granddaughter , and she’s this creative soul. So, we actually had 14 women in Vancouver who did a sewing circle and stitched everything into the cape. There was a lot of heart and love and actual hours that went into it to make it have that quality. It was a pretty big deal.
You’re so good at telling these really relatable coming of age stories, and getting such great performances out of young actors. Is there something about you that keeps you young at heart and allows you to be able to relate to that age group?
HARDWICKE: Probably. I’m immature. For me, it’s so fun to discover the heart of the material or the scene, or how to bring it alive. I get bored easily, so I try to find a way to make the scene as interesting and as alive as it can be, and find that moment. I guess I like that time period because people are brave and they take risks. You’re fearless when you’re a kid. You’re like, “I’m madly in love with this guy, and I’m just going to jump in and do it, and I’m not going to worry about the consequences.” She’s not thinking about anything. She’s ready to go and just jump on the horses and leave, right then. Of course, a murder happens that turns the world upside down, but that impulsiveness comes at a time when you’re a teenager or young adult, and everything’s possible. You can do your own thing and you’re discovering yourself. It’s a pretty fun time.
Do you have any idea what you’re going to do next?
HARDWICKE: I’ve got a couple projects, some of which I thought could have even gone before this one, but this one got the green light first. One of them is this interpretation of Hamlet that Emile Hirsch and I have been working on. There’s one called Maximum Ride that we’re working on at Universal. And then, there’s one at Fox called Maze Runner. Those are both from books. They’re all from literary sources. I just don’t know what the green light gods will shine a light on. I don’t know which one will be next, but I love each one of them on their own. I’m actively doing drawings and meeting with the writers and giving notes, and doing everything I can to try to get one of them to happen. Any of those could go, or there could just be something that you don’t even expect that comes out of the blue, and you could just do another cool project. So, I don’t know.