January 31, 2019
Catherine Hardwicke estimates that she crossed illegally into Mexico a minimum of 40 times when she was growing up in the border town of Cameron, Texas.
“I grew up swimming in the Rio Grande and crossing illegally into Mexico. I was a wild child and I really love Mexico,” Hardwicke says. “I have travelled almost every inch of Mexico. I love that culture. I especially love the border towns where you have that rich mix of two cultures. Sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen.”
‘Strong is the new pretty’ for Miss Bala director Catherine Hardwicke
Her familiarity of what it’s like to grow up in that area was a chief reason Hardwicke agreed to direct Miss Bala, a remake of the 2011 film of the same name from director Gerardo Naranjo. Hardwicke’s take on the story of a woman who goes from beauty pageant to drug cartel opens nationwide Friday.
The only way Hardwicke would film Miss Bala was on location in Tijuana. That gave her the authentic look she wanted to tell the story of Gloria (Gina Rodriguez), a makeup artist who travels from the United States to Mexico to help her friend, who has entered a local beauty contest. Life goes into a spiral for Gloria when she witnesses a crime by a local drug cartel. The only way she can be sure her friend is safe is to become part of the illegal dealings.
Shooting the film in Tijuana also gave Hardwicke the opportunity to turn her cameras on locations from dangerous streets to swank hillside hotels that have not been used in a lot of films made for the American market.
Hardwicke, whose past directing jobs have included Thirteen, Twilight, The Nativity Story and Miss You Already, was not familiar with Naranjo’s film when she was approached to helm the remake. Once she was on board, Hardwicke looked at the 2011 production once. She had faith that writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer knew the story and country well enough to take the original story and update it.
One of the changes was to have Gloria come from the United States rather than be a local to give the movie what Hardwicke calls “more global appeal.” An even bigger change was Gloria has a far more active role in the new version.
“When I (watched) the 2011 movie, I was yelling at the screen. ‘Fight back! Don’t let him do that! Do something!’ It is 2019 now and women are more empowered,” Hardwicke says. “I think that is one thing people are hungry for now. Strong is the new pretty.”
Hardwicke had to find just the right actress to take on the role because she not only needed someone who could go from being scared for her life to fighting for survival, but also someone who would not look out of place with the beauty pageant part of the story.
She found that in Rodriguez.
“Gina has an amazing quality where in a project like Jane the Virgin, she looks like your best friend from next door and not all glammed up like she was going to a beauty pageant,” Hardwicke says. “Yet, you look at Gina at the Oscars or at the Golden Globes and she does clean up well. She really looks stunning when she goes for the full glam.”
Hardwicke knew from seeing Rodriguez in movies like Annihilation and Deepwater Horizon that she could handle the physical and emotional demands of someone put in a life-or-death situation. The more Hardwicke ratcheted up the action, the more Rodriguez responded.
A bonus Hardwicke hadn’t expected with Rodriguez came when the director would be running out of energy after a difficult day of shooting. She could always depend on Rodriguez to raise the energy in her and on the set.
Miss Bala is the latest film project for Hardwicke, but she’s a director who is just as comfortable guiding an episode of a TV series. Her recent work for the small screen includes directing an episode of NBC’s biggest hit, This Is Us. She says everything is just a new experience for her.
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