Director Catherine Hardwicke flags Oscar gender issue

Director Catherine Hardwicke. Photo / Splash
Director Catherine Hardwicke. Photo / Splash

Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke says the movie industry is going backwards in terms of gender diversity with not one female director nominated for an Oscar this year.

Hardwicke has been a champion of women in film since her career started, directing actresses Evan Rachel Wood and Holly Hunter in the movie Thirteen in 2003.

Since then, many of her films have featured a strong female lead: Twilight (2008) with Kristen Stewart and Red Riding Hood (2011) with Amanda Seyfried.

Amanda Seyfried as Valerie in the romantic fantasy thriller Red Riding Hood.
Amanda Seyfried as Valerie in the romantic fantasy thriller Red Riding Hood.

Last year, Hardwicke released Miss You Already featuring Australian actress Toni Collette as a woman with breast cancer, with her best friend played by Drew Barrymore.

The comedy/drama, written by another woman Morwenna Banks, took an honest look at the disease and brought a lot of comedy to a sad situation.

"My Dad, when he had cancer he was hilarious and just joking the whole time so I loved that the script had so many funny things. My Dad was speaking to me through this movie," Hardwicke told AAP.

The director is fighting for more women to work in film. Her desire is to find interesting stories about women and people of diversity on screen, which isn't easy in a white male-dominated industry.

"It is a daily battle," she said.

Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette star in a scene from Miss You Already.
Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette star in a scene from Miss You Already.

But, adding another argument to the Academy Awards diversity issue, she points out that no women are nominated for directing at the upcoming awards.

"None of the nominated Best Picture Films, none of the directors are women, which means nobody had the support of a nice Oscar campaign or a nice studio. So that's kind of sad," she said.

"We're kind of going backwards in some ways."

The list of Oscar-nominated directors this year is 100 per cent male. They are Tom McCarthy (Spotlight); Lenny Abrahamson (Room); Adam McKay (The Big Short); George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road); and Alejandro G Inarritu (The Revenant).

"It's not really just the Oscars, it's the whole industry," she said.

"If there were a lot more movies directed by women, and a lot more movies with persons of colour and with diversity, I think the Oscars would reflect that," she said.

It's a sentiment echoed by many, with evidence of it everywhere.

At Sydney's recent short film festival, Tropfest, there was just one female director, Angela McCormack, among 16 finalists.

The former film student said that despite the festival's evidence, there was no shortage of women studying film alongside her at university.

"I would say there were probably more women in my class than men, if not 50/50," she told AAP at the festival.

The Dressmaker director Jocelyn Moorhouse attended the festival as a judge and said things need to change.

Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth in The Dressmaker.
Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth in The Dressmaker.

"More and more women need to be encouraged to make the films, enter the films (into Tropfest) and hopefully we'll see more," Moorhouse told AAP.

In Australia, the major film funding bodies have recently addressed the gender diversity issue.

Screen NSW launched an initiative last November to reach a 50/50 gender balance in films they fund by 2020. The following month, Screen Australia released its Gender Matters plan to target all funding towards creative teams that are at least 50 per cent female by 2018.

As far as Hardwicke is concerned, in Hollywood a spark was lit when last year's Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette called for equal rights and pay for women in her acceptance speech.

"I think people are finally getting the courage to speak out. It starts like a rolling wave with one person," Hardwicke said.

"I think that more people are being proactive and getting on the right side of history.

"It's exciting when people get inspired."

- AAP

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