In 2003, Fox Searchlight released Thirteen, a dark coming-of-age story about 13-year-old Tracy who begins experimenting with substances, self-harm, and more.
The movie was written by first-time director Catherine Hardwicke and the film's co-star, Nikki Reed, who was just 14 when production began. It's based on Reed's experiences, with Evan Rachel Wood starring as Tracy, the character inspired by Reed.
The rest of the cast of Thirteen includes Holly Hunter as Tracy's mother Melanie, whose performance earned her an Oscar nomination. All in all, the movie was a critical success, even if some producers were afraid to get involved with the controversial project. As can be expected, the creation of a project this contentious involved plenty of interesting behind the scenes moments, and some of the lesser-known bits of Thirteen trivia make the production even more captivating.
In a 2012 interview, Nikki Reed expressed some regrets about the movie, including the character Travis Freeland, who's based on her real-life father. In particular, she said she realized writing a script at age 13 didn't allow her to take a mature perspective on what he was going through.
"It was from one kid’s perspective and not a well rounded one," she said in 2012. "You get older and it’s like, how dare I portray my father as being a totally vacant careless schmuck?" She claims the situation was made worse by her 2003 claims about how the movie was totally autobiographical. "Parts were autobiographical, but everything was exaggerated. That’s not my Dad. My Dad is a man that for as long as I can remember has kept a book of favorite things his kids say."
Before writing Thirteen with Nikki Reed, Catherine Hardwicke was a successful production designer with the connections to pitch the movie to various Hollywood producers. However, when making the rounds, she found many were too scared of the film's subject matter.
"[Producers] were terrified to make the movie," Hardwicke explained in 2003. She eventually found a couple producers who were willing to take a chance, Michael London (Milk) and Jeffrey Levy-Hinte (Laurel Canyon).
Even people who haven't seen Thirteen probably recognize the poster where Tracy and Evie display their tongue piercings. For the actresses who played the parts, Evan Rachel Wood used a fake piercing, but Nikki Reed's was completely real.
Reed said she got the piercing at age 11 by playing her divorced parents against each other, convincing each of them the other one had already consented to it. "She knew how to work it," said Hardwicke.
Catherine Hardwicke met Nikki Reed when she was five years old, as she was dating Reed's father at the time. They developed a close relationship, with Hardwicke even considering Reed a surrogate daughter.
When Hardwicke and Reed's dad broke up, she didn't want to lose touch. "Even as a 5-year-old, Nikki was so open and funny, totally willing to take risks," Hardwicke said in August 2003. Around then, she also told the LA Times, "I still planned to be in the kids' lives... so I started going to their mom to get my hair cut."