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The Five Best Films Catherine Hardwicke Never Made

To celebrate her new film, ‘Miss Bala,’ we look back at some of the biggest (and smallest) projects director Catherine Hardwicke couldn’t quite get off the ground.
Catherine Hardwicke Miss Bala
Sony Pictures (via EPK.TV)
By  · Published on February 1st, 2019

Over the past decade, director Catherine Hardwicke has become the poster child for Hollywood’s uneven playing field when it comes to blockbuster filmmaking. Despite turning the first Twilight movie into the beginning of one of Hollywood’s most lucrative franchises, Hardwicke’s career was not fast-tracked the way it might’ve been if she were any number of male indie directors from the past decade. When you have Academy Award nominations and box office success to your name, shortlists seem inevitable. Not so here.

For her part, Hardwicke has been open about the experience; in a recent interview with The Daily Beast, for example, she spoke honestly about the lack of appreciation she received for the movie’s success and the frustrating double standards she encountered when she tried to stick to her vision for the movies. That has made the conversations with Hardwicke about this weekend’s new release, Miss Bala, somewhat bittersweet. In many interviews, she’s asked as much about the career she didn’t have as the one she does.

So keep that in mind as we go through this list of potential films. While every director has a laundry list of projects they might’ve gotten made under different circumstances, Hardwicke’s career comes with a bit of an asterisk. There’s a different timeline where at least one more of these probably should’ve gone her way.

The Monkey Wrench Gang (2005)

Several years before Twilight made Hardwicke one of the highest-grossing female directors on the planet, her debut picture Thirteen made her a critical darling. The 2003 coming-of-age film earned her directing awards at that year’s Sundance Film Festival and Locarno International Film Festival and even garnered an Academy Award nomination (albeit for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role category). So in 2005, on the heels of her second feature (Lords of Dogtown), Variety announced Hardwicke as the director of another counterculture film, this time a big-screen adaptation of Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang.

Abbey’s novel has been praised for its comedic handling of a serious subject matter; in a 2007 interview with the Deseret Morning News, Hardwicke herself described the novel as a“wild rumpus, an anarchist’s romp.” In that same interview, she claimed that she was only days away from finalizing some of the film’s stars and even hinted that Robert Redford, who once tried to adapt Abbey’s novel, had talked to her about a small part in the film. Unfortunately, this version of the film never came to be, and The Monkey Wrench Gang lingers on in production limbo to this day.

If I Stay (2008)

When Hardwicke was not asked to return for the Twilight sequel, it seemed to mark the end of her relationship with production company Summit Entertainment. It was a divorce that would not last long. In 2008, just a few months after the reported falling out between director and studio, Variety announced that Hardwicke would be returning to helm yet-another YA adaptation for the production company. This time the book would be Gayle Forman’s upcoming novel If I Stay, which tells the story of a young musician trapped somewhere between life and death.

Summit president Erik Feig was quick to name Hardwicke as their only serious contender for the director’s chair, noting in the Variety interview that only she among directors would be able to “capture the emotion, grace, and passion of this beautiful book.” Of course, much was made in contemporary interviews of Hardwicke’s crowded plate, and it wasn’t long before she stepped back from the project altogether. If I Stay would finally be adapted in 2014 and snag a Teen Choice Award for its young lead, Chloë Grace Moretz.

Hamlet (2009)

One of the aforementioned projects on Hardwicke’s plate was a contemporary remake of Hamlet with her Lords of Dogtown star Emile Hirsch. According to a piece in Entertainment Weekly (via The Playlist), Hirsch had originally proposed the idea of setting the Shakespeare in an “East Coast liberal arts college” with his Hamlet returning home to discover his father’s murder. “At first, I thought it was scary and crazy,” Hardwicke said of the project at the time, “and then we read it aloud and I knew how to do it.”

Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Ron Nyswaner was tasked with taking the play and giving it an unexpected twist: in an interview with Collider, Hirsch claimed that this Hamlet adaptation would err on the side of the horror genre, describing the project as “a suspense-horror” with a dash of The Shining. And while there is probably room in Hollywood for a Hamlet adaptation that veers heavily into the horror genre, both Hirsch and Hardwicke would later admit that, despite two years of trying, the project was never able to secure the financial backing needed to make it a reality.

The Maze Runner (2010)

Given the success of Thirteen and Twilight, it shouldn’t be surprising that Hardwicke’s name would often come up early and often for literary adaptations aimed at teenagers. In 2010, Deadline announced that 20th Century Fox was close to naming Hardwicke the director of The Maze Runner, the popular YA book series by James Dashner. Months after her involvement became official, it was announced in the Los Angeles Times that Noah Oppenheim — who had gained some notoriety in Hollywood for his then-unproduced Jackie screenplay — would join the product as the screenwriter.

Given that the Maze Runner movies would eventually go to visual effects dynamo Wes Ball, it’s interesting to imagine what a collaboration between Oppenheim and Hardwicke may have looked like, but that remains a what-if for a very specific fanbase. The Maze Runner would become just another in a long line of projects that would not retain Hardwicke’s services through to the actual production, even if one cannot exactly argue with the quality of the results.

Tomb Raider (2015)

Given that the project was ultimately directed by a man, it’s funny to think that Warner Bros. once made a show of looking at female directors for its latest big screen Tomb Raider adaptation. In 2015, it was announced by The Tracking Board that Warner Bros. had its eye on three particular female directors: Kathryn Bigelow, Mimi Leder, and Hardwicke. Bigelow had just become the first woman to ever win an Academy Award for Best Director with 2012’s The Hurt Locker; meanwhile, Leder, who had worked mostly in television for the previous decade-plus, had several big-budget titles (The Peacemaker, Deep Impact) already to her name.

Then The Hollywood Reporter announced that the studio had decided to go in a different direction, bringing on Norwegian director Roar Uthaug to helm the Tomb Raider reboot. Between this and The Maze Runner, perhaps it’s fair to say that Miss Bala is the Hardwicke-directed action movie Hollywood’s been hinting at for the past several years.

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Matthew Monagle is an Austin-based film and culture critic. His work has appeared in a true hodgepodge of regional and national film publications. He is also the editor and co-founder of Certified Forgotten, an independent horror publication. Follow him on Twitter at @labsplice. (He/Him)