“Next scene, ski patrol!” These were the not-so-encouraging words that exited Twilight director Catherine Hardwick’s mouth as she entered the lift line for her very first run at the Park City Mountain Resort during the recent Sundance film festival. To counter her “not too good” snowboarding abilities, she was coping as best she knew how: By imagining the movie she would direct of the ski-slope adventure she happened to be on at that very moment with this reporter, Hardwicke’s friend Marcus, and Burton pro snowboarder/Martin Starr doppelgänger Mark Sollors. (For a video of Sollors being amazing, check this out.)
Humility aside, Hardwicke isn’t a bad snowboarder, just rusty. She surfs regularly in California and skateboarded up until the time she got an injury falling over the lip of an empty swimming pool while filming 2005’s Lords of Dogtown. “Ten-foot fall. Cracked my head. Everyone thought I was dead. There’s video of it where people are screaming, crying,” she said, cheerily lacing up borrowed Burton snowboarding boots, which she would soon take on the slopes without a helmet. That fall in the pool got her hospitalized and shut down shooting for ten days. She hasn’t quite gotten back in the game with board sports. “Well, I was never that good” at snowboarding, she said, “but I would just fearlessly try anything.”
And she was willing to try anything. As we rode the lift, Hardwicke pointed to powder fields and cried out, “Can we try that? I like falling in the trees and struggling along like a turtle.” She’d brought emergency provisions. “If we get stuck I have some chocolate and an orange. We could make a chocolate soufflé!”
While skiing the slopes, we got to talking about Sundance, the festival not only responsible for her big breakthrough, when she won the 2003 directing prize for her debut, thirteen, but also for her landing the Twilight gig. At a Sundance dinner, she’d been seated next to the heads of Summit Entertainment, who handed her five scripts and asked her to read them. “Every one of those scripts sucked,” she says. “Oh, Lord, did they suck.” There was something about Twilight, though. “I thought the script was horrible, but then I looked it up on the Internet and I thought, Okay, it’s based on a book and people tend to like it. There’s gotta be something there. So I read the book and I thought it captured that feeling of being madly in love. And I thought, That’s kind of a good challenge, to see if, as a filmmaker, I could make you feel that giddy, crazy … ” She went to Summit with images of how she thought the movie should look and said she’d only sign on if she could do a complete rewrite. They agreed. (Hardwicke does still feel a little sad about the hearts Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart broke while becoming the greatest twentysomething couple in Hollywood. When they started the movie, Pattinson was with thirteen star Nikki Reed and Stewart was with Michael Angarano. “He’s a wonderful actor. He was in Dogtown, one of my favorites, so I felt pretty bad because I love him and they were such a great couple,” she says.)
Hardwicke was back at this year’s Sundance as a member of the alumni board, biding time waiting for some projects to come together. “I have a bunch of movies that are, like, two minutes from being green-lit, or that they’ve maybe even told me are green-lit. But I never believe it until I see the money,” she explained. Knockout, a romance between a Swedish boxer and a cabaret singer (played by the original girl with the dragon tattoo, Noomi Rapace), seems to be on hold, but one project that Hardwicke says is racing ahead is, as she likes to call it, her “hick” project. “It’s a very lean, bare drama about a girl and she lives in a small town in Vermont, and she gets basically harassed by a guy and nobody will help her,” she says. “He kills her cat, all kinds of stuff, and she meets a bunch of wacky old dudes and one guy goes, ‘Okay, I’ll help you.’ But he takes a young dude who’s pretty dumb but strong and they go after the baddest guy in the county that nobody else, the law, no one will touch. So it’s pretty intense.” Though maybe not as intense as the most likely project to go, “a pretty wild, sexy, intense, erotic thriller” written by Hardwicke with Evan Rachel Wood (her thirteen star), who’s rumored to be attached to play a female musician struggling to find her voice and deal with her male muses.
In the meantime, the irrepressible Hardwicke was up for anything. As we passed a racecourse, she got the idea that the four of us should try a slalom contest, which we did, though only after Hardwicke insisted Sollors have a handicap. She was also bubbling over with a new scheme, inspired by a video in which several Burton riders eat sandwiches while going off of jumps. “Gourmet snowboarding!” she yelled at Sollors. “Gourmet cooking while snowboarding! You take a burner and some food. You’re going to cook and eat. Wouldn’t that be awesome?” She turned to impart the scheme to someone else: “I just came up with the most amazing idea!”