Interview: Catherine Hardwicke talks MISS YOU ALREADY
Catherine Hardwicke has managed to make quite the name for herself over her career in film. From production design to screenwriting to directing, she now stands as one of the most celebrated women in film. Back in September we got a chance to speak with Hardwicke about Miss You Already, her latest film starring Toni Collette and Drew Berrymore, and her first time at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Scene Creek: How are you enjoying everything in Toronto so far?
Catherine Hardwicke: It’s pretty neat so far, I’ve gotta admit. Last night at our premiere we got a standing ovation, so that was pretty fun. That’s not bad, but I love Canada. I’ve done a few movies in Canada and it’s super fun. The people are always nice and positive.
SC: Is this your first time at the festival?
CH: Yeah, it is! I’ve done Sundance and others all around the world, but never this one.
SC: And what do you feel makes TIFF stand out amongst the other festivals?
CH: I feel like the city seems to embrace it more than other cities. It seems like the people that actually live here love to go to movies. Isn’t that right?
SC: Without a doubt!
CH: I mean, I was shocked. At 8:30 this morning, there were people lined up outside with umbrellas to go and see our movie. 8:30 AM – when it’s pouring rain. I’m like, “YES!”
SC: Let’s dive right into Miss You Already. First off, in a film that is woman centric you still managed to give the men such a strong emotional presence, which really fills out the experience. How important was that aspect of the film for you as a director?
CH: That was a big deal. We didn’t want to fetishize female friendship. I mean, the friendship is a really strong part of their lives, but their husbands, their children, their mothers, everybody was a very strong part of their lives too. And I’ve always loved Dominic Cooper – like, he’s a badass actor. I just thought about how cool it would be fore him to do this role. I’ve never seen him be a dad. You’d think he’d just be some badass rock and roller and just fuck off. No. He’s solid. He loves the kids. He’s loving to her. He’s doing the best he can. He can’t control the situation though, and you feel for the guy. He thought he had this pretty cool life and then a bomb just drops in his life, and you’re just helpless as a man. You want to be able to control it and take charge, but you really can’t.
SC: Well, in regards to the men in the script, apparently you were involved in a heavy rewrite of the script, was this aspect one of your points of focus in this process?
CH: Yeah. The men weren’t that strong as characters when I first saw the script. They were just bland. Let’s give them strong personalities – make them real people. When I started thinking about Dominic and Paddy we wanted to make it an interesting enough role so they’d want to play the part.
SC: In many of your films before Miss You Already you needed to work with predominantly younger casts. How was it working with a more seasoned cast in this film?
CH: It was really fun because I love working with kids and newcomers, but these people – you plant a little seed and that thing will grow into a beautiful tree. They’re all super smart. Drew, she’s directed, and she’s just like a little genius. Then Toni, she’s done so many movies, and inhabited, like a chameleon, so many characters that we love. So, it was really rich for me. It gives you a lot of cool tools to work with. If they can raise it to one level, I can stand back and raise it to another, and then they’ll do the same again. That’s what it was like with Heath Ledger in Lords of Dogtown. He would do something and I would be watching him and be like, “Ah! Maybe you can try this Heath”, and he’d do it and add a little more. We’d go back and forth and the scene would just get better.
SC: Was there anything you’ve pulled from your own life to help connect with others on the topic of cancer?
CH: Yes. Like, five or six years my father passed away from cancer and he just had this wicked sense of humor. He would just keep us laughing and laughing all the way through, which is something I appreciated when I read the script. These characters were witty and funny and had a twisted view of life, and we just kept enhancing that. You get through the toughest parts of life if you can find a way to flip it and make a joke – make somebody laugh and get out of that dark place.
SC: The special effects in the film were extremely well done and hold up medically. What was your process for handling the VFX in this film?
CH: So, we had a lot of research from the doctors and medical consultants who helped us to know what it could look like. They would also be on set to see it in real time. Then we had two cool companies in London where we shot that would handle the effects. We’d just go back and forth over the shot adjusting lighting and minor aspects until it felt real.
SC: Last question, and we’re diverting away from the film for this one! What’s your favourite experience from your Production Design days?
CH: Well, one of my movies that I really loved was Three Kings. That was just wild because David O.Russell was just radical. To try to find out some way to create Iraq in Arizona. Build a mosque in Arizona?! That was intense. But I’ve had like ten other great experiences as a Production Designer, so I’ve been pretty lucky!