Just A Minute With: Catherine Hardwicke after "Twilight"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - With last year’s surprise box office smash hit “Twilight,” Catherine Hardwicke had the biggest U.S. opening weekend ever, $69.6 million, for a female director of a Hollywood movie.

Director Catherine Hardwicke poses at the Women in Film 2009 Crystal and Lucy Awards in Century City, California June 12, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Among her follow-up projects, she has been picked to reteam with her “Lords of Dogtown” star Emile Hirsch on what has been called a supernatural version of “Hamlet” at a liberal arts college. It is being developed by Overture Films.

Hardwicke, whose other films includes teen coming of age tale “Thirteen” and biblical drama “The Nativity Story” spoke to Reuters about connecting with teenagers and life after “Twilight.”

Q: Your previous films centered on vampires, skateboarders, biblical figures and students. The common denominator is the main characters are all teenagers. Why is that?

A: “It’s definitely a time in everybody’s life that’s extremely memorable, painful and exiting. It’s one of our most dramatic times where we suddenly grow breasts or hair on our chest. We are able to kiss a boy or a girl and drive a car, drink and figure out who we are as a person and where we fit in the world. Great dramatic material happens in a coming of age story and there are so many possibilities. Plus teenagers are also the people who will actually get up off their couches and go to a movie theater.”

Q: You obviously have a knack for dealing with teens.

A: “I respect all the teenagers I work with and feel that everything they have to say is just as valuable as anything I have to say. My first movie was written with a 13-year-old girl (Nikki Reed on “Thirteen”). It was about her life so she knew more about that than I did. We can learn from everybody.”

Q: You must become like a surrogate mother to them, no?

A: “Well Nikki is kind of like my fake adopted daughter and so is Sarah Blakely-Cartwright, who is in all my movies in smaller parts. When they were teenagers, they’d hang out with me, we’d do slumber parties and surf camps. One of my nephews lives with me in one of my back (apartment) units right now and my nieces lived there too. I always say, “Whoever needs a place can come stay with me.’ I like the open door policy.

Q: Are you like a big kid yourself?

A: “I hope I haven’t grown up. The cliche for all artists is that you don’t want to lose that child inside. I think when you get sedentary and set in your ways you can lose a lot of that spontaneity and creativity. I hope I’m holding on to that. I live in (Los Angeles beachside community) Venice, I surf on the weekends, I ride my bike and try to be in an active world where people around me are of all ages and all economic levels.”

Q: “Twilight” cost $37 million and made nearly $382 million worldwide. Do you feel pressure to top yourself?

A: “I don’t think that’s possible, and I don’t think that’s a healthy way to think. “Twilight” was a phenomenon -- the stars just aligned on that film. Thank God (director) Ridley Scott didn’t stop after “Blade Runner.” He made “Thelma and Louise” and “Gladiator” and a million other interesting movies. I still want to make other good films that won’t lose money.”

Q: Do you have a process you go by when it comes to developing projects?

A: “I’ll literally pay three Hollywood readers who don’t know me to read my scripts under the radar and give cold comments. And at the early screenings of my movies, I’ll hand out questionnaires that can be filled out anonymously so people can be brutally honest because to your face they won’t be. I’ll take the papers home, read them by myself, cry and go ‘My God, that was the coolest scene and everybody hates it!’ But that’s fine because my goal is to always make it better.”

Q: How have things changed for you since “Twilight”?

A: “Right now I can say in a meeting: ‘Well on ‘Twilight’ this is how we did it and this is how we made it work.’ And people go, ‘Oh wow, that movie made money.’ They listen to me a little bit more than before.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney