Catherine Hardwicke's great ambition was to make the sort of "scrappy movies" she'd worked on with filmmaker friends like Lisa Cholodenko, Cameron Crowe, and Richard Linklater. "And then I finally got to make my own," she says of 2003's Thirteen, which she co-wrote and directed, and for which Holly Hunter received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Hardwicke enrolled in film school after realizing her creative talents were being stifled in her original career path. (Her degree is in architecture.) Throughout the '90s, she cut her teeth as a production designer on films like Tank Girl, SubUrbia, and 2 Days in the Valley. With Thirteen, she became a filmmaker in her own right.
Her second feature, the verité skateboarding drama Lords of Dogtown, cemented Hardwicke as an auteur of teen angst, and upon the release of Twilight, she became a household name. Over the years, she's also helmed a Biblical epic (The Nativity Story), an erotic thriller (Plush), and most recently, a mob comedy (Mafia Mamma). The films may have changed, but Hardwicke hasn't.
"I didn't really grow up in a film community. I grew up in a South Texas farming community on the Mexican border," she say. "We barely had one theater, and you saw Clint Eastwood movies."
Below, she shares with A.frame five films that shaped her cinematic sensibilities.
Directed by: Dennis Hopper | Written by: Leonard Yakir and Brenda Nielson
Dennis Hopper directed it, and he stars in it. He's an ex-con that's come back home to find his daughter, [played by] Linda Manz. It was 1980, and I had never seen a movie like that. It was super raw. It was so gritty. I didn't know that a film could be like this! I'm just like, 'Oh my God, what?' Like, my eyes popped out of my head. I loved the grit of it. I loved the authenticity of it. It felt like real life, so that was very inspiring.
Written and Directed by: Robert Duvall
In 1983, I saw Angelo My Love. Robert Duvall directed it in New York with the Romani gypsies and everything. Again, my mind was blown by that one, because he used real people. He saw a kid on the street that he loved. And he saw that little kid, Angelo, and made the whole story. And you really were immersed in this family. It's so much like Thirteen in a way, now that I'm thinking about. Nikki [Reed] had never acted. It was her real story. And Lords of Dogtown, because I used a lot of real people in both of those movies. Real skaters are all over Lords of Dogtown, mixed in with three actors. So that movie just blew my mind in a beautiful way.
Written and Directed by: Rob Nilsson
I saw Heat and Sunlight at Sundance. It's very strange. It's directed by Rob Nilsson. He's a San Francisco indie filmmaker who wrote it, directed it, and starred in it. It's the story of a breakup, but what was so radical to me is afterward I heard him talk. The film felt so real. Like, immersive. You were there in the fight. You didn't know what was going to happen. It was unpredictable and very intimate. And it turns out he had never rehearsed any of the movie until the exact moment the cameras were shooting. But he had built the relationship. He and the actress lived through X, Y, and Z experiences for a few months before filming it, and now were going to break up. And now they would have two cameras filming what really happened. So, it was very alive. I was just like, 'F**k! This is raw and just radical.'
I really love that movie. I remember I saw it by myself. Tim Robbins and some other people were supposed to go to it and they didn't. And I was so mad that Tim didn't see it, because I just wanted to go make a movie like that in five minutes. Those were some very intimate personal things that really had a direct affect on Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown.
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann | Written by: Craig Pearce and Baz Luhrmann
It's just so innovative and so creative and out-of-the-box — even from the opening credits on the TV. It's like, 'F**k yeah!' And the style, and John Leguizamo's boots with the cats on it. Everything about it had so much heart, soul, love, creativity that was mind-blowing. And the shots were so great. I mean, the gas station scene, just come on! So creative. Loved it. Bow down to that one, for sure.
Directed by: Paul Feig | Written by: Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo
Of course, I love Bridesmaids! Who doesn't? Kristen Wiig wrote it and she's in it. And you feel for her — it's got a lot of heart — but it's hysterical. It's pushed and pushed and pushed, and I think that was an inspiration for making Mafia Mamma. And then, Paul came to a screening in London and he and his wife laughed! He came up and talked to me about it and told me they enjoyed it, and I was like, 'Okay, you made my day! You made my year!'