"Red Riding Hood" director Catherine Hardwicke: Werewolves create Homeland Security

This afternoon we had a chance to sit down with director Catherine Hardwicke at the South by Southwest conference. She was here to talk about her new film Red Riding Hood, and she spilled a few hints about science fiction projects she's working on next.

io9: One of the elements of Red Riding Hood that worked well was the way you connected the supernatural story of the Wolf with the Peyton Place-style family dysfunction of the town members. How did you see these two stories reflecting each other?

Catherine Hardwicke: There's the dysfunctional family, and then there's the whole village where everybody is turning on each other too. With Father Solomon [the church werewolf hunter], it turns into a Homeland Security thing where they can spy on everyone and invade their homes. At that point, you start discovering everybody's secrets, peeling them back like the layers of an onion. I like the way Gary [Oldman, who plays Solomon] casts suspicion on everyone. The family has all this buried shit that gets unburied.

io9: How does the werewolf story shed light on these more realistic stories?

Well I think it's clear - at the end, Valerie says she'd rather live with dangers in the wilderness than the dangers within the village. She makes her choice.

io9: Most of your films have dealt in one way or another with young women growing up, which is a story that's hard for Hollywood movies to do well. What do you do to create realistic young women in your films?

When I made Thirteen, I was very involved in [my daughter] Nikki and her friends' lives. They would come over and I would listen to them and try to figure out what was going on, what mattered to them, and what was really getting to them. I think you have to have somebody who is the right age to play the characters in the movie, too. No 24 year olds playing teenagers. So when I made Red Riding Hood, I had people who were the right age and I tried to listen to the actors and have rehearsals where we could get into it and talk about whether it feels real. Amanda [Seyfried] and Shiloh [Fernandez] would come over to my place in Vancouver and we'd try to work through the love scenes and see what felt right to them.

io9: Speaking of teenagers, that scene with Valerie in the public square with the dog mask on, with her friend taunting her, was so striking. It conveyed a lot about being a teenage girl. Tell me about what you were trying to do with that scene.

That's one of my favorite scenes. She's trapped, tied up, and this girl just comes up and says all these terrible things to her. It was in the original screenplay and I loved it and insisted on keeping it in. For the mask, I based it on a medieval torture mask. We found one almost exactly like it in a museum in Spain - it's kind of wolfy, but also like a pig or a dog. We designed it, and then we also designed another one to mount on a plexiglas panel over the camera so we could get the view of her looking out through the mask's eyeholes. I tried to have a lot of shots like that in the movie, where you're looking out at the scene through something like bars or shadows.

io9: There's also a lot of humor in this movie. How does that fit into the story?

I actually wanted to have more humor - I had a lot more wacky things in there that didn't make it into the final version. The thing is, you have to have humor, but you don't want to throw the audience out of a scene where they're terrified for [Valerie]. But I loved Gary Oldman, and the fanboy nature of Lukas Haas [who invites Solomon to the village]. Lukas is totally geeked out on Gary, knows all about him, and knew all the details of the sword that Gary had. And yes Gary is campy - he's come to the town to put on a show and he's like Barnum, a circus guy. He's a showman.

io9: This is a film about werewolves so I have to ask - are you Team Jacob?

[Laughing] I have to admit I'm Team Edward. I was Team Jacob when I read the books but then when I met Rob [Pattinson] I switched to Team Edward.

io9: Tell us about working on the CGI wolf in Red Riding Hood.

Our werewolf could kick Jacob's ass - sorry, but it's true. We looked at all the cool werewolf movies and art, and there were so many options. And finally we went with looking at real wolves - their predatory movements, how they really behave. We looked at a lot of footage of animals in rodeos who were tied up and trying to break free. We wanted our wolf to be unpredictable - he's been under control all these years and now the control is gone.

io9: I understand you're working on scifi movies based on the books from the Maximum Ride series and the book Maze Runner. How is that going?

Both are in script world. We've got the Iron Man writers doing Maxiumum Ride and their script is amazing. It's pretty scifi, about kids who are created at a scientific facility. They have two percent bird DNA so they have wings and can fly. It's pretty awesome. So that's at Universal right now, and we're waiting for the green light.

And Noah Oppenheimer just turned in a Maze Runner script - possibly even this weekend. That could be next, or Hamlet. We've got a badass script for Hamlet, basically turning it into a war movie. All of the battle scenes that take place off stage in the play - we have those in there. So we'll see which movie I do next! You never know what will get the green light first.

Photo via Pop Sugar/Wireimage