Red Riding Hood Director Catherine Hardwicke & Author Sarah Blakley-Cartwright in Conversation

By Maryann Yin Comment

The new film adaptation of Red Riding Hood opens today.

We caught up with director Catherine Hardwicke and author Sarah Blakley-Cartwright to find out a little more about the novel, the movie, and what’s next for both of them.

S = Sarah Blakley-Cartwright
C = Catherine Hardwicke

Q: How did you sign onto this project? Did you go through an agent? Did you get picked up by an editor?
S: You know, I didn’t. I actually have a very different ‘getting-started’ story. I have known Catherine since I was eleven. She’s been a total mentor to me. She’s been an amazing friend who has seen me throughout the ages. I’ve actually been in every one of her movies; I have little appearances.

I’m kind of her little good luck charm in all of her movies … I was at Barnard College, which was my undergrad. It was the last week of school and her sister was having an art show so Catherine was in town … We ran into each other. She went home that night and she and her assistants talked and they were like, ‘Why don’t we have Sarah try to write the novel?’ because I had won the creative writing prize at Columbia [University.] They just thought, ‘Why not give it a shot?’ They read a lot of my writing and they love it. That was kind of how I signed on. I then had to go to Little, Brown and convince them.

Q: Why were you interested in re-doing Red Riding Hood?
C: Well, I’ve always loved fairy tales; things with lets your imagination go kind of wild. I’ve always created little worlds of my own like drawings, making little films and things. I’ve played Red Riding Hood; I used Red Riding Hood costumes growing up. For Halloween, I have all these pictures of me dressed up. But, that’s not really why.

The screenplay came to me as a rough draft and I thought it was so interesting what David Leslie Johnson had done. He added all these layers creating all these secrets and lies within families, within a community and a village, and how Red Riding Hood actually kind of came of age. She had to learn really what the truth was and find out more about herself. I thought that combined with my love of creating a whole new world would be an amazing opportunity so I dove right in.

Q: Describe your writing process for this project.
S: Catherine called and said, ‘Can you hop on the plane and come out to Vancouver.’ I said, ‘Great.’ She said, ‘Okay, we booked you for tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Wow, okay great.’ So, I flew out the next day and I ended up being on set pretty much for the length of filming. I woke up every morning, I didn’t have a car, so I drove to set with Catherine and her two assistants every morning. They’d come and get us at 7:30 or whatever; we’d be there for thirteen hours and we’d get home by 11, some nights 10. Go to bed, start the whole thing over the next day.

It’s really the only way to write a novel I think if you’re under strict deadline. People would say, ‘Oh, the novel the novel! How am I going to get to the novel? I’ve been planning the novel for a few years now.’ But, if you have a production schedule that you have to be on to write it, you can get it done.

Catherine would read the pages every morning on the way to the set and read them in the car on the way home. So, I had to have new pages; I had to have new material…[About being on set,] I’d never work that way before where I had a script in front of me and was able to watch the performances and let them control my writing of the characters. I was working between a script and the performances of that script and all of the beautiful sets that the set decorators had created. And drawing on all of these sources to create my own work, it was a really beautiful collaborative process that most writers I guess don’t get to have ever in their careers.

Q: Did you encounter any particular difficulties in translating what is a very beloved and widely-read Grimm’s Fairy Tale into a film?
C: As you know, Red Riding Hood has been re-interpreted in many different countries all around the world. The Grimm Brothers weren’t the first to record this story or the last. It’s had all these different incarnations so by nature of being a fairy tale, they are constantly reinterpreted and revised.

There’s that great book by Catherine Orenstein called Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked and it shows how each society has put their own morality, their own gender-based politics, and transformed it and retold it in each different era. Even up to the current day where you’ll see interpretations of it in lipstick ads and fashion layouts. Two years ago there was this great fashion layout in Vogue just all based on Red Riding Hood. It’s constantly being interpreted by anime artists, you see Little Red holding an axe dripping in blood and there’s even adult fantasy costumes you can get. You often see sexy Red Riding Hood around on Halloween. It’s this enduring image, that red cloak is so beautiful and primal and striking. I think it’s just captured people’s imagination for 700 years which is convenient. I think it’s great; I was happy to do a new version of it.

Q: What’s next for you?
S: I’m thinking about doing another young-adult book. Red Riding Hood is obviously an amazing start; it debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list which is pretty tough to beat, right? I can’t say yet exactly what my next project will be, but I’d really love the process of being able to create a world. I hope to be able to do that again.

C: I hope to make Hamlet. I’m very excited about that project; it’s got beautiful songs and poetry and it’s an amazing radical work. We’re going to stay true to it when we do Hamlet. It’s much shorter. We’re taking a four-hour play; it’s a ninety-minute movie we’re going to make. We use the dialogue spoken in Shakespeare’s words. It’s kind of pared down to its beautiful essence and I love that.

Every night, every minute I get two seconds, I’m constantly reading. There’s so many books that are inspiring to me. Right now, you might know I’m attached to two other books that we’re developing into screenplays to see if we can make them into good movies. One is the The Maze Runner, actually three books, one is The Maze Runner [by James Dashner], The Monkey Wrench Game by Edward Abbey, and Maximum Ride [by James Patterson].