Before this year, Catherine Hardwicke had directed two films—Thirteen, an intense depiction of a seventh-grade girl rebelling against her single mom and getting into all sorts of trouble, and Lords of Dogtown, an edgy drama about skateboarders in the 1970s. Both films featured sex, drugs, and plenty of profanity.

So, when veteran producer Wyck Godfrey went looking for a director to bring the story of the Virgin Mary and the birth of Christ to the big screen, guess who topped his list?


"Catherine has had great success capturing the lives of young people in particular, and the conflict and crisis and pain of being that age and growing up," Godfrey says. "The idea of her bringing that point of view to biblical times is very interesting."

Hardwicke thought so too, and signed on to direct The Nativity Story, which opens worldwide on Friday, Dec. 1. The film covers a little over a year leading up to the birth of Jesus, focusing primarily on Mary (played by Keisha Castle-Hughes) and Joseph (Oscar Isaac), and with concurrent subplots inside Herod's palace and following the journey of the magi.

When CT Movies visited the set in Italy in May, Hardwicke, 51, joked that The Nativity Story sort of completed her "teen trilogy" of movies. When we caught up with her again recently on a media day in Los Angeles, we wanted to explore, among other things, how the making of Thirteen—which she directed and co-wrote—prepared her for directing this assignment.

Thirteen was a very personal film for Hardwicke, based primarily on her friendship with a neighbor's daughter who almost literally changed overnight from a sweet, innocent preteen to an angry, rebellious seventh grader obsessed with beauty and boys. Hardwicke remained ...

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