'Twilight' director Catherine Hardwicke says she wanted a more diverse cast

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Raechal Shewfelt
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
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Director Catherine Hardwicke. (Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
Director Catherine Hardwicke. (Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Nearly a decade since the first Twilight movie was released in theaters, director Catherine Hardwicke revealed that, if she’d had it her way, the cast of the blockbuster movie would have looked much different.

Hardwicke, who directed the first installment of the franchise, told the Daily Beast in an interview published Monday that she “wanted a lot more of the cast to be diverse.”

The cast that was hired featured relative newcomers Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as the central characters, Bella Swan and Edward Cullen; Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black; Ashley Greene as Alice Cullen; and a host of other up-and-coming celebs as Bella and Edward’s family, friends, and foes.

Hardwicke, then five years out from directing the well-received drama Thirteen, said Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight books, saw things differently.

Meyer “had not really written it that way. So she probably just didn’t see the world that way,” Hardwicke said. “And I was like, oh my God, I want the vampires, I want them all — Alice, I wanted her to be Japanese! I had all these ideas. And she just could not accept the Cullens to be more diverse, because she had really seen them in her mind, she knew who each character was representing in a way, a personal friend or a relative or something.”

Hardwicke said Meyer, who was raised a Mormon in Phoenix, cited the pages of her books.

“She said, ‘I wrote that they had this pale glistening skin!’” Hardwicke said.

Hardwicke did succeed in casting Edi Gathegi, a Kenyan-American actor, to play Laurent, who she called “one of the scary, antagonistic vampires.”

“The only reason that came through was he was described as having olive skin,” Hardwicke said. “And I said, there are black olives out there! Then she was open to the students in [Bella’s] peer group being other ethnicities, so we got [Mexican- and Italian-American actress] Christian Serratos and [Korean-American] Justin Chon, so we were able to open it up a little bit.”

Hardwicke noted that Meyer was deep into writing a sequel to the Twilight book during the making of the movie.

“She saw our casting choices, she was involved a bit, but she was mostly busy as a bee at the time on her own stuff, and then she also came out to the set maybe two times,” Hardwicke said. “So I didn’t have that much interaction with her.”

Meyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the same interview, Hardwicke also talked about the fact there was little interest in the film at the beginning.

“Nobody thought this is a big blockbuster franchise,” Hardwicke said. “There were very low expectations for Twilight, because every other studio had turned it down. They said, ‘OK, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was a very popular book for girls, and it made $39 million. That’s it. We don’t know if this could ever make us any more than that, so we don’t really want to spend more than that. The expectations were low, literally up to opening weekend.”

She added with a laugh, “Why do you think I got the job? Why do you think they hired a female director? If they thought it was going to be a big blockbuster, they wouldn’t have ever even hired me, because no woman had ever been hired to do something in the blockbuster category.”

Twilight surprised everyone by eventually earning $192.8 million at the box office and setting a record for the highest-ever opening weekend gross for a female-helmed, live-action film when it opened on Nov. 21, 2008. It became a phenomenon.

Catherine Hardwicke with the <em>Twilight</em> cast
Hardwicke and the Twilight cast at the 18th annual MTV Movie Awards in 2009. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Hardwicke was understandably excited when she visited the studio to do “some online chat room stuff” the following Monday.

“When I went in I saw that there were massive bouquets and balloons and bottles of wine, and crazy gifts sent to them by all the distributors around the world or whoever, all their friends. So I actually had it in my mind, Wow, this is a pretty unprecedented success,” Hardwicke said. “I had heard these rumors that when a director does something like this they give them a car, they give them a two-picture deal or something like that. They give them an office and ask them what they want to do after this.”

That wasn’t Hardwicke’s experience.

“I got a mini cupcake that day,” she said. “I was like oh, OK, cool — coming in here, I’m sort of working for free, doing this online stuff, and that was what I was offered: a mini cupcake.”

She didn’t direct the Twilight sequel, because she and the studio had different ideas about how to develop the story on screen.

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