A prolific art director and production designer in the 1980s and 1990s, Catherine Hardwicke made an impressive leap to the director's chair with 2003's harrowing "Thirteen." Inspired by the turbulent life of an ex-boyfriend's teenage daughter, the indie drama about a young girl's descent into a dangerous lifestyle was widely praised by critics and audiences alike for its gritty honesty. Hardwicke followed this with "Lords of Dogtown" (2005), an unsentimental look at teen skateboarders in the early eighties. In 2008, she tackled the biggest project of her directorial career with "Twilight," a Gothic romance about a schoolgirl's budding relationship with a young, brooding vampire. Despite the fantastical nature of the subject matter, Hardwicke brought her trademark realism to the project; a combination that was the key to her status as one of Hollywood's most challenging and independent-minded directors.
Born in the border town of McAllen, TX on Oct. 21, 1955, Hardwicke studied art in Mexico and received her degree in architecture from the University of Texas at Austin. Among her post-graduation projects was a 20-acre solar townhouse complex built around a manmade lake, complete with waterfalls and swimming pools. Despite her success in her chosen field, she saw her true calling in film, so she relocated to Los Angeles to study at UCLA. While there, she directed her first film - a short called "Puppy Does the Gumbo" - which combined live action and animation. The project won her a Nissan Focus Award and led to a lengthy career as an art director. She eventually became a production designer, lending her talents to a wealth of low-budget and independent features, including the cult favorites "Tapeheads" (1988), "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka" (1988), "Freaked" (1993) and "Tank Girl" (1996). She also served as second unit director on fellow Lone Star filmmaker Richard Linklater's feature, "Suburbia" (1996).
By the late 1990s, Hardwicke had moved up to Hollywood features like "2 Days in the Valley" (1996), "Three Kings" (1999), "Vanilla Sky" (2001) and "Laurel Canyon" (2002). Collaborating with such successful independent directors as David O. Russell, Cameron Crowe and Lisa Cholodenko would later have a significant impact on Hardwicke's own directorial efforts, with Russell's work on "Three Kings" cited by Hardwicke for its emotional intensity. In 2002, she began formulating an idea for a script that would eventually become her first project as a director.
The impetus for the project was Nikki Reed, the 14-year-old daughter of Hardwicke's former boyfriend, set designer Seth Reed. Hardwicke remained friendly with the girl after her relationship with her father had dissipated, and grew concerned when she saw how Reed had grown uncommunicative and rebellious as she approached her teenage years. She invited Reed to bring her experience and feelings to her script, which was initially envisioned as a comedy, but soon developed into a drama once the girl began recounting her own experiences with drugs, alcohol and sex while still an adolescent. The pair penned the script for "Thirteen" over the course of a frenzied six-day writing session, and Hardwicke set out to find funding for a feature with Reed in the lead role. She encountered conflict over the casting of a relative unknown, but eventually struck pay dirt when acclaimed teen actress Evan Rachel Wood signed on to play the lead. Oscar winner Holly Hunter late joined the cast, and Reed was brought on board to play the troubled best friend of Wood's character. The resulting film was a disturbing look at childhood gone spectacularly awry in the absence of parental support, with all three leads delivering career-high performances. Hardwicke was widely praised for her debut, and reaped numerous awards, including the Director's Award at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and numerous laurels from other festivals.
Hardwicke's fascination with teen culture brought her to her sophomore project, "Lords of Dogtown" (2005). A dramatic recount of the rough-hewn prodigies that formed the Zephyr Skateboarding Team in Venice, CA in the early 1980s, Hardwicke inherited the project from David Fincher, who in turn had adopted the film after attempts by video directors Fred Durst and Jonas Akkerlund had failed to bring it to the screen. Hardwicke's approach softened the edges of the story with some sentimental content, but for the most part, remained remarkably unromantic about the teen skaters' difficult childhoods and struggles in the face of corporate temptations. Though not a hit on the scale of "Thirteen," "Dogtown" earned respect from critical circles.
In 2006, Hardwicke approached her subject matter of choice from an entirely unexpected angle - the story of Mary, teenaged mother of Jesus Christ, in "The Nativity Story" (2006). The historical drama, which explored the New Testament story without the highly sentimentalized tone of previous Biblical elements, was a modest hit during its holiday season release, though a controversy surrounding the pregnancy of its Mary - teenaged actress Keisha Castle-Hughes - attracted some negative publicity.
Hardwicke returned to modern times with "Twilight," an adaptation of the first in a series of horror-romance novels by Stephenie Meyers. In development for three years prior to her attainment of the project, Hardwicke collaborated closely with writer Melissa Rosenfield to preserve the tone of the source material, which had a rabid fanbase among teenage girls. She also conducted auditions within her own home to find the correct combination of actors who could bring life to the unique family structure of the story's vampire clan, as well as the tender romance between benevolent bloodsucker, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), and lovestruck human, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart). Among the film's large cast of young actors was "Thirteen" star and inspiration, Nikki Reed as the most beautiful of the undead family.
Released in a hailstorm of publicity in November of 2008, "Twilight" had a phenomenally strong opening weekend that paralleled the record-breaking ticket sales of such effects-driven blockbusters as "Iron Man" (2008) and "The Dark Knight" (2008). Its success sent producers Summit Entertainment into overdrive on a follow-up based on the second book in the series, New Moon.
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Worked as art director on "Mr. Destiny," a movie about a former baseball player who gets a second chance
Was a production designer for "Vanilla Sky" starring Tom Cruise
Made directorial debut with "Thirteen"; co-written with Nikki Reed, who also starred in the film; earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Screenplay
Directed the fictionalized version of "Lords of Dogtown," based on skate legends Jay Adams, Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta and inspired by the popular documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys"; penned by Stacy Peralta
Directed the biblical film "The Nativity Story" with Keisha Castle-Hughes as the Virgin Mary
Directed the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling book, "Twilight"
Directed the blockbuster fantasy film "Red Riding Hood"
Wrote and directed the low budget thriller "Plush"
Directed the romantic comedy "Miss You Already"