Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the original “Twilight” film now tackles “Red Riding Hood,” bringing to the screen a cautionary tale of danger and deception.
Hardwicke notes it’s the fairytale’s more sinister roots that lend themselves perfectly to a fantasy thriller. “Most of us grew up with a sanitized version of Red Riding Hood, but the original fairy tale has darker elements that make it much more intriguing. The idea of a girl going into the woods by herself and having a wolf stalking her and then speaking to her… That holds so much mystery and captures your imagination on so many levels. When you were a child, the story might have meant one thing to you, but looking back on it as a teenager or adult, you respond to it in a completely different way.”
In the film, Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is caught between two handsome suitors: Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), her heart’s desire since childhood, and Henry (Max Irons), the man her parents have chosen for her to marry. Unwilling to be parted, Valerie and Peter were planning to run away together, but, in a horrifying instant, the wolf changes everything.
The implicit message of the Red Riding Hood fable is: don’t talk to strangers. But what if the wolf turns out to be someone you know…someone you trust…someone you love? Producer Jennifer Davisson Killoran observes, “The story plays into our fears that someone close is not really who they appear to be. To me, the big, bad wolf represents the anxiety of not knowing who you’re really dealing with.”
Putting a twist on the classic tale, the predator in the film is a werewolf, giving it the guise of a human until a full moon illuminates its true nature. Building on that premise, screenwriter David Leslie Johnson crafted a murder mystery in which everyone is a possible suspect and the resulting terror and paranoia permeates an entire community.
Killoran confirms, “Virtually every single character has that moment where you lose faith in them. We very consciously designed it so that anyone could be the wolf.”
“I think David did a beautiful job,” states Hardwicke. “He dove into the genesis of the legend to get at the essence of it. And then he added his own fertile imagination to the mix and really enriched the story.”
Johnson says, “I did a lot of research into how the fable had changed as it was passed down, depending on the time and place. Long before it was tied up in a nice little bow and presented as a fairy tale, it contained some graphic and rather disturbing details and the ending wasn’t quite so pat. I liked the idea of expanding on the story’s origins to generate more danger, suspense and adventure.”
The combination of young love, suspense and ancient legend immediately appealed to Hardwicke, who recalls, “As I read the script, I got very excited because it took place in a fantasy world but had a dark side. It was a thriller with unexpected turns as well as a compelling love story, which also held some surprises for me. I was really pulled in as the stakes kept getting higher, and more and more secrets and lies were unraveled.”
For the producers, the choice of Catherine Hardwicke to direct “Red Riding Hood” was an easy one. Killoran attests, “Catherine has demonstrated an ability to tap into the soul of younger audiences in a way that few others can. It’s evident in all her films; they are never condescending or stereotypical. There is something very honest in the way she conveys how teenagers communicate, how they think and how they look at the world.”
Seyfried agrees. “You want a director who brings that much enthusiasm and excitement to the table. She just loves making movies and has so much imagination. When we were in pre-production, she showed me drawings and photos and videos she had put together, which really helped me understand the different facets of my character. She truly is the most creative director I’ve ever worked with.”
Opening across the Philippines on March 11, “Red Riding Hood” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.