Catherine Hardwicke on her new ‘Red Riding Hood’ cut and ‘fighting the fight’ as a director

Catherine Hardwicke has become known first and foremost for launching the “Twilight” franchise, but it’s easy to forget her earlier films “Thirteen” and “Lords of Dogtown.” March’s “Red Riding Hood” was her first film post-“Twilight” and didn’t take her back to her indie roots.  Instead, she was brought on to bring some inspiration and style to a reinterpretation of the classic “Red Riding Hood” fable.  The film wasn’t the hit at the box office many thought it would be (although it did fare better overseas) and now it’s hitting DVD and Blu-Ray with an “alternate” director’s cut. 

Speaking to Hardwicke last month, she revealed the decision making between the two cuts and had some pretty blunt observations and reflections on what she’s looking for in the future. 

[Note:  A spoiler free distinction is the new cut is much “sexier” in Hardwicke’s view than the one released in theaters.  However, if you don’t want to have the new ending spoiled at all, stop reading now.]

HitFix: It’s so rare to have a chance to do a different cut on DVD so soon after the theatrical release.  Especially considering most DVD content is set before the film even hits theaters.

Hardwicke: Yes, now the second you finish the final cut for the film you have to do all the DVD extras the next day so they can wrap up the editing room.  And we had had the two different endings.  The ending I just talked to you about was kind of like a fun, crazy idea I had on the set, ‘Oh, let’s have her with a baby.’  And we grabbed our producer’s baby and I thought that might be neat that they really have sex and consummate it and that’s the surprise at the end.  So, I had that in the can and we tried it both ways and I think also Warner’s thought the one in the theater worked better.  But we liked them both so I was like, ‘Let’s put them both out.  People can choose.’

So to be clear, the decision was made to release the second cut even before the movie came out?

Oh yeah. We had tried it with both endings.  A lot of movies are like that.  You’ll try a little different thing on the ending for a test audience and people are always fooling around with the endings a little.  So, most movies do have two, three, four or a couple of different choices for endings.  But, we kind of liked them both so we thought, ‘Let’s put it on the DVD.’

You mentioned this cut is also a bit sexier than the first one while still maintaining the PG-13.  Was that a tonal choice or had you tested it and the reaction was the first one was better and people thought there was too much romance in the other cut?

One of them is a bit sexier and there is a consequence to the sex, it really was about the choice.  Which one is more fun? Which one is more provocative for the film?  And Warner Bros. ultimately seemed to like the one we put in the theater better and I liked that one too. This one just takes it to another level.  And some days I liked this one better and other days I liked the other one better.

Looking back at the whole experience what did you enjoy about making the movie? What do you look back at after the past year and a half with fondness?

I always love the casting process and I love working with actors and I love finding chemistry between two actors and making discoveries.  I was very honored to work with Gary Oldman who I have admired forever, so I loved talking through scenes [with him]. love rehearsals and shooting too.  We had a fast schedule. It’s still an adrenalin rush to be right there in that moment where we’ve got this much time to capture this moment on screen – that’s super fun. The design phase.  I had always wanted to design a film that was from the imagination, a fairy tale setting that we got to design all the sets and the costumes and they were definitely creating a whole world. I did a lot of drawings myself and just getting into that.  The music.  Every step of the way you wish you had more time or money to make it better, but then you try to do the best you can in each moment.  But you love it, so it’s a love/hate affair I think.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but have to tell you, I really thought the movie would do better at the box office than it did.  Whether it’s the film or marketing or the release date, do you look back and go, “This maybe wasn’t the right way to go”?  We made a strategic error here?

So far it’s made $90 million worldwide, so that’s not too bad.  But, I’m sure every studio looks back at every release and goes, ‘Why didn’t that one work?  Why didn’t that do as well as we thought?  Did we put it out on the right weekend? Did we give the filmmaker enough time or money to finish it?’  I’m sure they second guess themselves. They have to.  Monday morning quarterback meetings.  I’m sure that happens.  As a filmmaker I think you always think you always wish you had more time.  We shot it in 42 days. I had many cool ideas and things you don’t get to do if you only have 42 days. Horses and animals and CG wolves and everything.  And the release date was moved up and I would have loved to have had more time to try different ideas and things and have a little more time to work on stuff. I think that’s most films.  Some people get a year in post and I envy those directors.  They get to try different ideas.  My friend [Gavin O’Connor] who did ‘Warrior’ has had two years. He shot it two years before mine came out.  He gets to go play with it more.   Of course I am envious of that luxury to have time to think about things and time to shoot. That’s what we all wish for.

When you make your next project does that make additional time a priority?

Well you hope to find some way to protect that time that you need.  And that’s a challenge.  Directors that get 135 days or a year to shoot or a year to edit, those are jobs that are few and far between.  And only certain kind of movies get that.  [Or that the studio can justify] spending that amount of money.  It’s a challenge as a filmmaker. Every time you do the best you can with the resources you are given and to protect your integrity and your vision and you try your hardest to do the job.  We fight the fight every day. (Laughs).  I was talking to some filmmakers last night about this exact subject.  ‘How do you know?  How do you fight the fight? How do you get enough money to do it?’  If you get too much money then you have too many studios notes and too much expectation. So, it’s a struggle every day.  My next project I want to do an indie film and it looks like I’m going to do a really cool, raw, kind of indie film in Europe and that seems like it’s going to happen. It’s almost come together. More back to my roots like ‘Thirteen’ days.  That doesn’t really mean I’ll have a bigger budget, but a different kind of beast.  Different challenges to fight.

“Red Riding Hood” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, June 14.