Catherine Hardwicke Talks Red Riding Hood

The Big Bad Wolf comes home to Blu-ray and DVD June 14th, with an alternative cut and all-new special features

Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke reimagines the frightful scares of the classic Big Bad Wolf fairy tale with Red Riding Hood, which hits Blu-ray and DVD next Tuesday, June 14th.

Amanda Seyfried stars as the beautiful young Valerie, a girl on the verge of womanhood who has fallen into an intense love triangle just as her village begins to fear the return of a vicious werewolf.

We caught up with director Catherine Hardwicke to discuss the new alternate cut of the film, the creative collaboration process that went into giving Red Riding Hood its unique style, and the look of the mysterious werewolf that rests at the heart of this modernized fairy tale.

Here is our conversation.

How is this Alternate Cut different from what we saw in the theatrical release?

Catherine Hardwicke: Its only twenty seconds longer. We have an alternate ending. When we were cutting the film...Actually, while we were shooting it, I said, "Hey, why don't you let me try this?" I tried this new ending. I liked it. Its fun. It's a bit more provocative. It's got a little bit more of a twist. It's a little bit sexier. It's a different choice. I think both endings are fun, but this one gives you a little something extra to talk about. But its only twenty seconds longer.

A little bit sexier, huh? With a movie like Red Riding Hood, which is geared towards tween and teenage girls, are you still able to get away with a little bit more in terms of edginess when it hits the home audience as opposed to what the studio wants in the theater on opening weekend?

Catherine Hardwicke: What happened to me is that I locked picture for the theatrical release. And then I had three days to do all of the DVD stuff. So in this instance, we just went for it. We'd been thinking about the DVD all along. You have to jump on things fast. You have to collect your ideas for the DVD as you go. So you have a little bit more leeway, I guess. I think the people at Warner Bros. double-checked what we have done. (Laughs). I think someone oversaw it.

I love that Red Riding Hood includes a gag reel. This movie leans on the slightly more serious side, and we don't often get bloopers when it comes to a classic drama or period piece. Why did you feel that was important to include with this Blu-ray release?

Catherine Hardwicke: It's interesting. I didn't do one on Twilight simply for that reason. It was too serious. This one had a few goofy moments. I thought it was fun, and I knew people would laugh. You might as well have a laugh! Sometimes, you don't have anything. On Twilight, we didn't hardly have anything to go in a gag reel. This one has all of those period costumes, so people are always getting stuck on things. They are constantly crashing into stuff on set, and tripping. I thought, "Let's have a laugh!" You know?

In mentioning Twilight, as Red Riding Hood was hitting theaters, a lot of critics were quick to compare it to that popular vampire saga. But as any thirteen-year-old girl worth her weight in romance novels will tell you, these two worlds are ages apart. How did you feel about those constant comparisons? Was it ever bothersome to you?

Catherine Hardwicke: In terms of comparing the two, it's definitely an easy thing to do. People always want to compare things. They compare and contrast, and I don't blame them for that. I tried to do different things with this movie. I was intrigued by it, because I could create a fantasy world. I didn't have to stick to what a traditional high school is like. Kids didn't have to dress like they shop at the Gap. I could create a whole new world, and I could do a different type of story. To me, this is a murder mystery. The tension, the paranoia. The town is set with suspicion. Someone there is a shape shifter. Someone isn't what they seem. Is there evil inside a person I have known my whole life? Is my grandmother evil? I like those dark secrets, and those mysteries. I felt it was a new kind of fun world to explore. I can see that there are certain things in there that you could compare to Twilight, if you wanted to.

I love the way this movie looks, in terms of art direction and set design. How did you draw towards some of the visual ques we see in Red Riding Hood?

Catherine Hardwicke: From the start, I was intrigued by what David Johnson did as a screenwriter, and what Leonardo DiCaprio's company did. They went back to the original version of this story. Where the wolf was a werewolf. Back in the 1200s, people believed that idea. I liked that idea. It gave you this chance to reveal that the wolf is someone that lives in the village. There is a homegrown sense of paranoia. And the fact that the village had been tormented by this wolf, in this story, for over twenty years. That would mean that over twenty or thirty years, there would be a built-in paranoia when it came to the architecture of the village. That is what we tried to do. I started looking at Northern Russian architecture, where I found these big rustic log buildings that were built up on stilts, with ladders that were removable at night. They had these huge wooden shudders. Ad they had these scary totems that were carved into them, that would scare away the bad spirits. I thought it would be great if the whole town had embraced this spirit of paranoia. The psyche. It was in these pointed logs, and things. That was our inspiration for the town, for the design, and the woods. The primal fear of going into the dark woods alone. Our production designer enhanced that by having the twisted trees with the huge thorns on them. I thought it all added to the mythic quality, and the fear that you feel, in this fairy tale. Our cinematographer, Mandy Walker...A female cinematographer, yes! She did such a great job lighting it. She captured that mood, which you could see in the movie, of that fear and that paranoia.

What I think is cool about Red Riding Hood is that, even as it hits the home video market, we still don't know what this wolf looks like. You've managed to retain some of that mystery even this far out...

Catherine Hardwicke: Yeah. That is one of the big challenges on this type of movie. Where one of your main characters is created completely through CGI. In some ways, even as a filmmaker, you don't get to see the final product until it is completely finished. In some ways, it was kept hidden from me as we developed this story. Rhythm and Hues is a wonderful animation company. They did all of these studies. They went out into the real world, and they looked at all these real beasts. We were looking to base it on all kinds of vicious, unpredictable animals. We tried to create this wild wolf that had been kept under control for years. It has kept control of its emotions, but then suddenly, things get out of hand. There is this jealousy, and this rage. This thing starts making all of these mistakes. So we started looking at all of these bucking broncos, and these bulls that had been trapped. We looked at all kinds of things to get the sense of vicious unpredictability in this wolf. That was an evolving thing. As soon as Rhythm and Hues would take the wolf to one level, we'd all look at it in the room, and we'd go, "Can we make it even more fierce? Tougher and scarier?" That was a fun, interesting process for me. There are, of course, also these moments were the wolf is showing its intelligence as a sentient being. How do you create that emotion in a character like this? It was a great journey, and a great learning experience. Even for me, we were finalizing shots in those last few days before we locked picture. So, the wolf was basically a secret to everybody. I think Warner Bros. chose not to feature the wolf in the trailers. But to keep it as a mystery. It's the Jaws idea. The less you see something, the scarier it is.

Once you got David's screenplay, how did you go about tweaking it and molding it more towards your own sensibility as a writer/director?

Catherine Hardwicke: It's such an interesting process. And every filmmaker goes through this. I loved what the screenwriter did. You start going through it, and thinking, "Okay, how will I shoot this? How can an actor say these lines? Is it alive enough? How can I stage it so that it crackles with some kind of energy?" You go through that process, while you are also thinking about how to stage a fright. Going through those processes, I do start finding things. Or when I started researching what the architecture could be. That gave me a lot of ideas. The script that I got didn't have some of these details. It didn't have the walled city. It didn't have the guards. It did have certain elements that allowed me to go deeper, and I could call the writer, "We could try this!" Even when Lukas Haas came on, I didn't realize his character might be suspicious. He plays a young priest in the village. When he did one scene, I realized, "Oh, you are going to start suspecting him too." So I played that up more. Each new person that comes on board, from the actors, to the set designers, to the costume designers, everyone usually brings a contribution to the ideas seen in the film. Julie Christie even had some great notes for her character. You just incorporate those layers in. It's a great creative collaboration when it works.