'Twilight' at 10: Director Catherine Hardwicke on Film's Surprising Success, Breaking Down Gender Walls

Courtesy of Summit Entertainment; Getty Images
Catherine Hardwicke on the set of 2008's 'Twilight' (left) and now

Catherine Hardwicke talks future plans, female stereotypes in Hollywood and the challenges of developing 'Twilight' on the 10th anniversary of the film.

Nov. 21 marks the 10th anniversary of the debut of the film Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke based on the popular young-adult novels by Stephenie Meyer. The captivating love story starring Bella, a normal teenage girl (played by Kristen Stewart), and Edward, a vampire (played by Robert Pattinson), is still adored by fans around the world. Since the release of the first Twilight film a decade ago, it has grossed more than $393 million worldwide with a production budget of $37 million, according to Box Office Mojo. Four sequels, based on the subsequent three novels in the series, followed.

In honor of the anniversary of the release of Twilight, director Catherine Hardwicke spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, reflecting on her and the other castmembers' careers since the release of the film in 2008. As one of the most successful female directors at the box office with the first Twilight film, Hardwicke has since gone on to direct many movies, including 2011's Red Riding Hood, starring Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman, and 2015's Miss You Already, starring Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore. Her next film, the action-thriller Miss Bala, starring Gina Rodriguez, hits theaters in 2019.

During the interview, Hardwicke opened up about her experience working on the script of Twilight as well as a few challenges that she experienced during the development of the film. She also addresses female stereotypes in Hollywood and her experiences as a successful female director. (To see what the cast has been up to in the 10 years since the movie's release, click here.)

Take us back to what made you want to get involved with Twilight and what drew you to wanting to create this film?

When I read the book, I thought Meyers had really captured the moments of first love. And I thought how fun it was that she did it and drew millions of people to the book. It seemed like a big, cool challenge for me to create those feelings on film. Two challenges I had were the visuals and the gorgeous environment that I got to work in, the Pacific Northwest where we filmed, and these feelings of ecstasy that Meyers created.

Did you anticipate the success of the film?

The truth is is that I hadn’t heard of the book when I got the script, so I looked online and found some fan websites — but you never really know how successful a film is going to be. And it got turned away from every studio. Paramount turned it down, the producers shopped around and went to Fox, it got turned down again. No one thought it was going to be successful. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was a successful girls' book turned into a movie, and it made $29 million, and I was told that Twilight would make about the same amount of money, making our budget really tight. But it was a perfect storm, because Meyers kept releasing books as we were making the first movie. So that fan base really started building. We made $69 million opening weekend, and $400 million overall. People were not expecting it.

Twilight worked with its actors when they were very young. What is it like to see these actors in their careers now?

Kristen and Rob were indie kids when we started, and they were like me: They didn’t realize how big the film was going to be. And I remember one day where Kristen turned to me and said, “I think this is going to change my life.” I could see this 18-year-old looking at a whole new world. Within a year, they were both making $30 million. But they still are indie kids, they’re still doing individual projects, and I think Twilight gave them the means to now be a part of any project they want to do.

Twilight was an indie film meets blockbuster: It was an indie film in terms of visuals, but it had the blockbuster of a big budget.

Nobody knew what it was going to be, what it was. I didn’t have committees giving me notes; I wasn’t watched by big-time producers. I didn’t have the pressure of hitting blockbuster marks. We didn’t even have a test screening so it was really made like an indie film. After the first movie, more people got involved and the other films were managed to a greater extent.

There were a few aspects in which you were not able to have complete creative freedom. If you could go back and change anything, would you?

I wanted to shoot in Forks, Wash., the setting of the book, because I liked that authenticity, which was prohibitive. We were able to get creative and re-create elements of Forks. We did everything we could to make it seem like Forks, and Portland isn’t that far away. I wanted to shoot on the real La Push beach in Oregon, which is gorgeous, but we shot on another beautiful beach in Oregon. I also had this really cool underwater dream sequence that we weren’t able to do. Other than that I really got to do everything I wanted to do.

How does it feel now that it’s been 10 years since Twilight hit theaters?

It feels great that people still know and love Twilight. As a director, there are tons of little details that go into every movie, including the decorations on set and costumes. These details add to the texture of the movie, but no one usually picks up on them specifically. That is not the case with Twilight fans. They have seen the movie so many times that they know all these details and pick up on them. That’s something fun and rewarding about this film as the director. Something else that is great about this film is that it inspired a lot of creativity. People would make fan art and films that get creative with the content. I’ve also had people see me introducing the deleted scenes on the DVD and tell me that they saw a woman director and thought that they could be a director, too.

You were one of the first female directors to have this big success. Now seeing the current climate in Hollywood, what are your thoughts on this big reckoning that we're seeing?

It was great. I was in the Guinness Book of World Records for the biggest opening weekend for a female director at that time, which was mind-boggling. This also made people realize that movies with a female lead would be viable, for example, Divergent and The Hunger Games. All of those movies wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t broken the mold and beat The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants at $29 million and proved that movies like this could be successful. Unfortunately, all of the movies I just mentioned — including the next Twilight films, the two Divergent films and all of The Hunger Games films — were directed by men. They carried the female protagonist but they didn’t continue with a female director. Why didn’t they seek out other women? It wasn’t until Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman — that took nine years for another woman to do that. We love that Patty did an amazing job and knocked down the prejudice that a woman can’t direct a superhero or action movie. It’s crazy that people think women can’t direct action; I love action and one of my first jobs was in visual effects. Because of this, we need to break down these stereotypes for the future.