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'Twilight's' Director Takes Another Shot At A Woman-Led Movie Franchise In 'Miss Bala'

Gina Rodriguez and director Catherine Hardwicke on the set of Miss Bala. (Gregory Smith)
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Catherine Hardwicke knows something about making action-packed movies with a female lead. She did it with Kristen Stewart in Twilight, and she's done it again with Gina Rodriguez in Miss Bala.

The Jane The Virgin star plays a character who gets kidnapped by an enigmatic drug cartel leader while visiting a friend in Tijuana. For the rest of the film, she's trying to find her friend while also using her smarts and strength to survive.

"Gina and I both wanted to be sure that this character was basically starting as an ordinary woman," Hardwicke told the Frame. "She was a makeup artist. She was not trained by the Navy SEALs or anything like that. She did not have any superpowers or special skills. So whatever action or stunt or whatever she had to do, Gina and I wanted to make sure that we could do it too, that a real person could do it too."

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Figuring out how to survive is something that Hardwicke has had to do as a Hollywood director. In 2003, she made the leap from production designer (Laurel Canyon, Vanilla Sky) to director with her movie Thirteen. It premiered and sold at the Sundance Film Festival. A few years later, now known for making movies about teens, she was tapped to direct a movie about a vampire-mortal teen romance.

Twilight had been owned by Paramount, but the studio had shelved the idea after deciding that a movie about a teen girl couldn't make any money.

"The producers took it to every studio in town and nobody thought it would be profitable because, at that time, there hadn't been a big movie that was with a young female character like that," Hardwicke said.

Finally, upstart studio Summit picked it up. Since it wasn't considered a blockbuster, Hardwicke said, she got to make it like an indie film and cast actors who weren't household names. Enter: Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.

That first Twilight movie went on to gross almost $400 million worldwide, proving the Hollywood studio logic to be wrong.

But Hardwicke wasn't asked to direct the sequel. In fact, all of the other Twilight movies were directed by men.

Hardwicke said that her Twilight success proved to Hollywood it could make movie franchises based on YA novel series written by women about female leads. But what her success didn't do is prove the value of hiring women directors.

She noted that all of the Divergent and Hunger Games movies were directed by men.

The Divergent Trilogy, written by Veronica Roth, and the The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins, became movie franchises and catapulted the careers of their lead actors, Shailene Woodley and Jennifer Lawrence.

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Meanwhile, Hardwicke's story on Twilight has become a rallying cry for what's been historically wrong with the system when it comes to opportunities for women directors.

They "didn't offer me other blockbuster possibilities" either, Hardwicke said. No women directors were hired to direct big budget action films that could become franchise material until Patty Jenkins made Wonder Woman, and Jenkins faced her own opposition in parts of making that film.

Catherine Hardwicke directs Gina Rodriguez in Miss Bala.

The question now: if Miss Bala leads to a sequel, will Catherine Hardwicke be asked to direct it? Or if not her, would another woman be offered the job?

"If there was the fun thing of getting to make a sequel, I would be very be excited to be part of it, or at the minimum, you're right, let's have another kickass woman direct it!" Hardwicke said.

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