Director Catherine Hardwicke has not shied from challenging projects. She collaborated with an actual 13-year-old writer when making the 2003 film, "Thirteen." The short, "Til It Happens to You," addresses sexual assault on college campuses. And let's not forget the first "Twilight" movie: a high-stakes adaptation looking to please die-hard lovers of the book.
Fans should be up to their own challenge, though, when they watch Hardwicke's new movie, "Miss You Already" — it's an emotional ride.
Morwenna Banks' screenplay tells the story of two women, Milly and Jess, played by Toni Collette and Drew Barrymore, respectively. Lifelong friends, their relationship takes a new turn when Milly is diagnosed with cancer.
"Miss You Already" doesn't try to sugarcoat the experience: there are scenes that delve into the details of cancer treatment, and Milly undergoes a double mastectomy, causing her husband to lose sexual interest in her. Moreover, Milly is, in Hardwicke's description, "wild, and does a lot of selfish stuff." But through it all she hopes that Banks' screenplay keeps things "light and funny."
Catherine Hardwicke shared these thoughts and more when she spoke with The Frame's John Horn.
This is a movie that stars two women, directed by a woman. Did you try to make sure there was a finger on the scale to make sure there were opportunities for women to work behind the scenes on this film?
Oh yeah. We’ve got a great costume designer, Claire [Finlay]. Our production designer, our sound department. We tried to fill it out and have a beautiful, diverse crew behind the camera.
We couldn’t find too many in the old English system that were in the grip and electric department, but hopefully that’ll change. (Editor's note: the film was shot in England.)
Kind of like the U.S. that way.
Exactly. But worse.
It’s very easy for people in the States at least to label this a chick flick, which I know is completely unfair, but how do we talk about movies like this without putting labels on them?
I’ve seen the movie with quite a few audiences in four different countries now. I’ve seen men really getting into the movie. One critic told me he didn’t want anyone to see him crying. I looked over at the guy next to me and he was really emotional. I looked over at the guys beside me, and even the cheese nacho guy was into it. Tears were dripping into his cheese nachos. Real men cry too. Real men have feelings. There could be a cathartic experience.
And it’s a comedy, too. Morwenna and the actors keep it light and funny. That’s kind of what you hope for in life. When your best friend is having a down moment, you’ve gotta get in there and make them laugh.
This one guy said to me, “I called my best friend and told him, ‘We’ve gotta bury the hatchet.’” People have decided to go on crazy road trips after the movie. So those are some beautiful, human experiences. The movie’s for everybody – family and friends and lovers and husbands. And there are some hot guys in here too that are very dimensional.
There's a scene where you can see a wall on which someone has written: “Before I die…” Does that exist?
We were going to work one day and I looked out of the window and I saw that wall. At lunch I said, “Hey Toni, you want to skip lunch today and shoot a special scene by the wall?" ... I found out that wall is made by this cool artist called Candy Chang. Now people all over the world in 80 different countries have put up that wall.
Toni Colette’s character writes, “I want to fear nothing.” Do you identify with that sentiment as well?
I do. In some ways, even when I read this script, I was kind of scared. Making a movie like this on this subject is a little terrifying and daunting. I thought about what people would say. But then, I like to be scared, in a way. I like to embrace a challenge. My first movie, “Thirteen,” I wrote with a 13-year-old girl. I don’t know if that had ever been done. She was in the story too. Then I tackled beloved books like the Bible [in "The Nativity Story"] and “Twilight.”
I think people probably feel stronger about “Twilight” than the Bible.
More people have quotes from “Twilight” on their butts than the Bible.
That’s sad in so many different ways. The last time we talked, you were very outspoken about gender and pay inequality in Hollywood. I’m curious: as somebody who’s been outspoken, what have people said to you about your stance on this issue?
With this film, I’ve been all around the world. It seems like all these awesome journalists are getting supportive and excited about this issue. There’s just a tidal change that people care. The millennial generation, they care about values. Unconscious gender bias is a term people are talking about now. So I think it’s an exciting time for this. I’m feeling a lot of positivity in the last months. So much has been happening — Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep talking about Rotten Tomatoes and how skewed the critics are. So many are being really supportive. I feel like Hollywood can change.
But will it change?
I think it will change because I’ve been now at these conferences where men in very high-level positions – all the studios and networks – want to change. People realize, Okay, I have had this crazy unconscious gender bias where I labeled men one way and women the other for the same thing. Companies like Google that are doing UGB training sessions and changing the culture of the country, to its advantage, where profits are increasing. It’s easy to change once you make the decision. Where you say, “I’m going to hire an equal amount of women as men.”
I think it’s easy to embrace this new idea. It’s not even new. It’s getting ahead of the curve. Yes we’ve got the ACLU situation and speaking in front of the [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], which I’m doing. We have that stick that might beat people into line. But we also have people getting inspired and wanting to be early adaptors, and not be the last people on the right side of history. So I think there’s a change going on that’s really exciting.