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Writer/Director Catherine Hardwicke Talks About "Thirteen"


Writer/Director Catherine Hardwicke Talks About

Director of Photography Elliot Davis and Director Catherine Hardwicke on the set of "Thirteen."

Fox Searchlight
When production designer Catherine Hardwicke decided to transition to writing and directing, she chose as her first project a subject matter very close to her heart. Her friendship with 13-year-old Nikki Reed spawned the collaborative effort, "Thirteen," an intense, raw, and frighteningly realistic glimpse into the lives of contemporary teens.

Hardwicke's directorial debut is getting rave reviews and Hardwicke was the deserving recipient of the Directing Award at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival. In this interview, Catherine Hardwicke discusses creating the project, the casting process, and sparking dialogue between mothers and daughters.

Was Nikki Reed’s real life change as dramatic as Tracy’s?
It was faster, but everybody seems to not be able to believe that people could change that fast. She really changed in about a weekend.

In one weekend? How did you react to that?
I was in Canada at the time doing the movie “Anti-Trust” so I came after some of this had already passed. I got some of this from her. That’s how she and her mom felt like it happened – that quickly.

It’s funny because I’ve talked to a lot of people who [said], “Oh, I can’t believe somebody would change that fast,” but a lot of people have told me stories that are even more rapid. One mother who was a very fabulous, educated, wonderful lady and of a different economic level than Nikki’s family was, said that when she picked up her son at a theater in Pasadena, the movie let out 20 minutes early that day and so he was waiting at an arcade, and in those 20 minutes he was jumped into a gang, and a month later he was arrested for a serious crime. When I was speaking to this Juvenile Hall judge after one of the screenings, she said the same thing. She said, “You cannot believe what these parents and kids, how quickly their lives change.” It can be very drastic.

You picked an extremely tough subject for your writing/directing debut. Was it tough to get backing on this project?
Yes. No studio wanted to give us any money, that’s for sure. Basically everybody said no except finally we found independent financing for the first $1 million. Our producer Jeffrey Levy-Hinte found that, and then for the next half million, three weeks before shooting [Working Title] kicked in a half a million dollars. We had $1.5 million and it was great.

Everybody was just like, “No way. You’ll never make this movie.” Of course some of those same people who said that are some of the same ones who bid on it when they saw it finished at Sundance. That’s cool (laughing).

How did the storyline compare to your own teen years?
I tried, but my biggest change. I couldn’t make that leap. I wasn’t gorgeous like Nikki. I would be more like the kid who was wearing the little Chihuahua T-shirt trying to get in with the popular kids, but I never made it in. My biggest change was one day in seventh grade I was told by the popular girls that I didn’t shave my legs. I didn’t even know about it! I had to run home that night and shave (laughing).

Was Nikki Reed's character, Evie, a combination of people that Nikki knew in her own life?
Evie was the combination of about three or four girls that Nikki knew, and actually two girls that I knew that I met a little bit later in my life. They had that kind of super alluring and intoxicating personality that’s actually very toxic. These girls that I knew just kind of moved in with me like that and you knew that if you hung out with them that night you were going to have a really fun time, but you might end up in jail or God knows where. So we combined those and then Nikki, of course, used her own fabulous imagination and powers to enliven that character.

Catherine Hardwicke on Casting Holly Hunter and the Evolution of the Adult Characters

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