Not Your Grandma's 'Red Riding Hood'
Setoodeh, Ramin, Newsweek
Byline: Ramin Setoodeh
How Amanda Seyfried and the director of 'Twilight' vamped up a fusty old fairy tale.
On a gloomy and wet California day, director Catherine Hardwicke curls up in her office on the Warner Bros. lot with a book in her hand. This isn't your average bedtime story. It's called Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale. She only recently discovered it, and she flips through the pages like a schoolgirl hyped on caffeine. "Maybe you like 'Red Riding Hood' when you're 5," Hardwicke says. "When you're 10, you start latching on to it for another reason--why did she get in bed with the wolf?" Hardwicke even compares the beast to a love interest. "It represents a dark animal nature which is close to sexuality. In the traditional story, the wolf cross-dresses and lures her into bed. That's pretty kinky right there! The wolf is the original tranny. What a kinky wolf!" Her entire face lights up. "A granny tranny!"
The kinky wolf is no match for Hardwicke herself, who wears sexy leather boots and once gave a member of her crew a dominatrix costume as a present. Not to worry, Mom and Dad. Hardwicke's kinkiness is decidedly PG-13. "It was a tasteful dominatrix," she says. Hardwicke has a knack for taking the traditional girl-in-peril tale and teasing out sexual tension without crossing the line. She became the most commercially successful female director in Hollywood with Twilight, a film that radiates heat even though Edward and Bella never even get to second base. Now she's heading to Grandmother's house with Red Riding Hood, an adaptation of the fairy tale with a bodiced Amanda Seyfried. Julie Christie plays her bohemian grandmother.
Like the late John Hughes, who discovered the teenage actors who became the Brat Pack, Hardwicke has created many of this generation's tween idols. Evan Rachel Wood (Thirteen), Emile Hirsch (Lords of Dogtown), Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner (Twilight) all got their big breaks in a Hardwicke film. She dishes about them like an older sister; how Hirsch was too lazy to do sit-ups and drew abs on his stomach with mascara or why Pattinson had to pluck his eyebrows. "They were a bit bushy," she says. "We needed to see some eyes!" Seyfried says Hardwicke, 55, is "a child herself. She's so connected to that youthful essence. She still walks around with a backpack and sneakers." But unlike Hughes's films, her movies are very dark.
Hardwicke's childhood sounds like a chapter from Roald Dahl's memoirs. She grew up in McAllen, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border, where her family lived on a giant farm off the Rio Grande. She frequently saw illegal immigrants paddling across or drug dealers creeping in the shadows. "It was a wild life," she says. In high school, her principal was stabbed three times. A friend's father was shot in the back, and another friend was murdered. And yet life could be wonderful at the same time. "It was a Huck Finn life, too," she says. "We had rope swings and mud fights and we'd make rafts." She graduated from college with an architecture degree, and after her father bought a 20-acre real-estate complex, she designed the property's 120 townhouses. Above each front door, she molded a mask of each owner's face, a way to make each of her creations stand apart. She still has the pictures.
But the work she was offered began to feel too cookie-cutter, so she fled to Hollywood, where she landed a job as a production designer. She did 20 films with directors such as David O. Russell, Cameron Crowe, Lisa Cholodenko, and Richard Linklater. …