Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hardwicke Off 'Twilight'

Nikki Finke is reporting that Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke has been fired from the film franchise. This should come as a shock to anyone who has been watching the film’s grosses creep higher and higher. Often, a successful movie outing helps to guarantee the creatives and actors their spots in sequels in hopes of replicating the success of the original, though of course there are always exceptions.

This comes as a blow to everyone who was excited to see a female-helmed film do so well. In fact, Twilight was the highest grossing film helmed by a solo female director. And I certainly feel like Hardwicke did an admirable job of excising the dopier parts of the book and delivering a solid movie adaptation. But what bothers me here is not that a female director, and a good director, is being fired. No, what bothers me is the language being thrown around to describe the situation. From Nikki:

The word from inside Summit is that Hardwicke, the acclaimed Thirteen director, "was 'difficult' and 'irrational' during the making of Twilight," one insider explains to me.

.. and Summit thought Hardwicke's [CAA] agent Beth Swofford was alternately ineffectual and hysterical."

Emphasis mine. It makes my skin crawl to see certain words applied to women…it’s the same old quandary women in the workplace have always faced: if we’re too aggressive we’re labeled bitches, whereas our male counterparts are simply aggressive. go-getters, and other positively-couched traits. I just can’t see anyone calling a male agent “hysterical” and I certainly haven’t heard of many male directors getting fired for being “difficult” when the final product is solid (and solidly profitable).

Of course, a lot of it probably comes down to money as it so often does. Hardwicke has made no effort to keep quiet her gripes about the stingy budget for the first movie. From the upcoming Entertainment Weekly cover story (the third of the year, by the way):

As of press time, Hardwicke — who now holds the record for best opening-weekend box office for a female director — hadn't signed on. But she spent much of the weekend sequestered in meetings with lawyers, agents, and studio executives. She felt hamstrung by her modest budget through much of the Twilight shoot. ''I had more elaborate stunt sequences designed and very crazy, cool stuff that I wanted to do,'' she says. ''We had locations taken away. We had five days cut before we started to shoot. But, you know, I kind of got past that, I just had to let it go.''

After the grueling production, Hardwicke now wants to make sure the studio shows her the money to properly tackle New Moon's tricky plotline — which includes location shooting in Rome and several characters who must realistically morph from teenage boys into werewolves. Summit's Feig has nothing but praise for Hardwicke, but he maintains that the sequel doesn't necessarily demand a bigger budget. ''I don't think there was anything excessively lavish about Twilight, and yet the world was fully realized,'' he says. ''We'll do exactly the same thing with New Moon.'' Still, the studio might want to throw more money at the universally trashed special effect that was supposed to make Pattinson sparkle magically in the sunlight but left him looking merely sweaty. ''People make realistic CGI dragons, so you wouldn't think making people sparkle would be that hard,'' says Meyer.

Keep in mind New Moon requires sets that look like Italy and werewolf transformations and, yes, it would be nice to see vampires that sparkle instead of glisten. And the effects for Twilight were reviled by even the hardcore fans, so throwing some extra money at the sequel should have been a no-brainer.

So maybe Hardwicke and Summit just couldn’t see eye to eye on the budget and that’s fine, I have no problems with someone being fired because they’re not the right fit for the job, but if this was a male director, would the words “irrational” and “hysterical” really be bandied about? And, of course, as the Republican party learned from the Sarah Palin debacle, one vagina doesn’t necessarily replace another and Twilight fans won’t necessarily be placated by the hiring of another female director in Hardwicke's place, but I would hope that there will be some disgruntled rumblings if Hardwicke is replaced with a guy with the assumption he’ll be able to keep his icky emotions in check.

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