Thirteen (film)

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Not to be confused with 13 (film) or Thirteen (1974 film).
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Produced by Jeff Levy-Hinte
Michael London
Written by Catherine Hardwicke
Nikki Reed
Starring Holly Hunter
Evan Rachel Wood
Nikki Reed
Jeremy Sisto
Brady Corbet
D. W. Moffett
Vanessa Hudgens
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Elliot Davis
Edited by Nancy Richardson
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • August 21, 2003 (2003-08-21)
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million
Box office $10,128,960

Thirteen is a 2003 semi-autobiographical American drama film directed by Catherine Hardwicke, and written by Hardwicke and Nikki Reed based on events in Reed's life at age twelve and thirteen. It stars Holly Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood with Wood's character "Tracy" being loosely-based upon Reed (Nikki Reed herself co-stars in the role of Evie Zamora). The script was written in six days.[1]

The film caused controversy upon its release, because it dealt with topics such as drug and alcohol abuse, underage sexual behavior and self-harm. The film earned Holly Hunter an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Golden Globe nominations for Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, respectively.


Thirteen-year-old Tracy Freeland (Evan Rachel Wood) begins her school year as a smart, innocent, poetry writing honor student at Portola Middle School in Los Angeles. Her tastes were young for her age, and she had likeminded friends. Her divorced mother Melanie (Holly Hunter) is a recovering alcoholic and high school dropout, who struggles as a hairdresser to support Tracy and her older brother Mason (Brady Corbet). At school Tracy becomes enamored with the popular girls at school and jealous of how much the guys at school liked them. She gets teased by the popular girls about her "cabbage patch" clothes. Tracy tries to shed her 'little girl' image and pleads with her mother to purchase a trendier style of clothing. They track down a woman on Venice Beach who sells secondhand clothes out of a van. When Tracy wears her new clothes, she is complimented and invited by Evie Zamora (Nikki Reed), one of the most popular girls at school, to go shopping on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Although Evie gives her a disconnected telephone number, Tracy takes a city bus to Melrose Avenue anyway, where she finds Evie and her friend Astrid at an edgy shop. At the store, Tracy sees Evie and her friend shoplifting. Tracy begins to feel uncomfortable, and walks alone out of the store to sit on a bench outside.

She still wants to be part of the "in crowd". She steals a woman's wallet, which impresses Evie and Astrid. The three go on a shopping spree with the stolen money. Tracy and Evie become best friends, and Evie, having trouble at home, temporarily moves into the Freeland household. Tracy is angry about her loneliness, parents' divorce, and her mom's "loser" boyfriend, and cuts herself to cope with the stress. She complains frequently about Melanie's boyfriend, Brady (Jeremy Sisto), a jobless recovering addict. Although Melanie is concerned about Tracy's changes and Evie's influence, she cannot find a way to intervene. Melanie doesn't ask Evie to leave her household because of Evie's claims of an abusive uncle. As Tracy steadily shuts Melanie out, she and Evie become very close; sharing friends, clothes, sharing Tracy's bed, drinking, smoking, neglecting school, getting piercings, and developing their own language. Tracy also starts dating and having a sexual relationship with a popular boy from school named Javi.

Evie and Tracy try to seduce Tracy's neighbor Luke (Kip Pardue), a lifeguard in his early twenties and friend of her brother Mason. Drawn at first into their kisses and allowing them to partially strip him, Luke pushes them out of his house, then leaves the neighborhood. One night on the street in Hollywood, Mason and a friend make comments about a thong on a cute girl; he is shocked when she turns around and it is Tracy. Tracy and Evie had gone to a movie with Melanie and Brady, but left to see friends where Evie then left Tracy in LA. Later on, the girls take turns inhaling from a can of gas duster for computers and become so intoxicated that they laughingly hit each other, drawing blood. Melanie only notices that her daughter has changed as a result of being friends with Evie, and suspects bad behavior going on, but ultimately is unaware of how deeply the girls have fallen into petty crime, drug abuse, and sex with teenage boys.

Melanie eventually asks Tracy's father to have Tracy stay with him, but Tracy doesn't want to, and nor does the father. Tracy is informed she may fail seventh grade. After Mel and Tracy tell Evie she must move back in with Evie's aunt Brooke, Evie runs out crying. In school the next day, Evie and her gang, including Javi ditch Tracy. Tracy walks around aimlessly after buying a pint of booze, and to her surprise, is picked up by Brady who takes her home. Melanie, Evie, and Brooke are sitting quietly in the living room waiting for her. When the women confront Tracy about the her drug use and stealing, as if Evie had no part in it, Tracy blames Evie. Convinced by Evie, Brooke says Tracy was the bad influence and that she will move with Evie to Ojai to get away from her. Melanie stands up for her daughter. Brooke pulls Tracy's sleeve up to show Melanie the cuts and scars on Tracy's left arm. After a yelling fight with insults thrown around, Brooke and Evie leave, and Tracy weeps as Melanie kisses her daughter's arm. Tracy tearfully pleads with Melanie to let go with no success. The two fall asleep on Tracy's bed. The last scene shows her spinning alone and screaming on a park merry-go-round during the daytime.



Director Catherine Hardwicke has called Nikki Reed a "surrogate daughter", having known her since she was 5 years old. The two began the screenplay as a comedy project which would be shot to video at minimal cost. The screenplay was written in 6 days and quickly shifted into a tale of early teen angst and self-destruction in Los Angeles, with Tracy's character drawn from Reed's own recent experiences as a pre and early teen. Hardwicke didn't think it would be fitting for Reed to play Tracy and auditioned hundreds of girls for the part.

After becoming aware of Evan Rachel Wood, Hardwicke came to believe she could make the film only with Wood in the role of Tracy and only that year, with Wood at that age.

Hardwicke has said Holly Hunter's agreement to play the role of Tracy's mother Melanie was a key boost to bringing the production together. About $2,000,000 was then raised, almost all through independent equity financing, a very low budget for any American film meant for general cinematic release in the early 21st century. Most of the adult actors were widely known and all of them reportedly agreed to low pay because they liked the script along with other members of the cast and crew. Wood and Reed were both 14 during filming (Wood turned 15 during the shoot).[1] Most of the film was shot in 2002 in Los Angeles, California.

Their first audition together was at Hardwicke's house, which wound up as a slumber party that night. Auditions took place on a bed in Catherine Hardwicke's house, and when Hardwicke auditioned Wood, she had her get into her bed with Nikki Reed. The wardrobe worn by the girls was mostly their own. As filming progressed, the girls began dressing similarly without being asked to do so. The girls did not take any dangerous substances during the film. They are show smoking cigarettes, but these were filled mostly with catnip. The crushed pills they are shown snorting from the cover of a children's book were harmless dietary supplements.

All of the scenes in which Tracy cut herself were shot in a single day; Wood recalled running to her brother for emotional support between some takes. Wood later described the shooting of the two make out scenes with Javi and Luke as "awkward" because her family was watching behind the scenes. Wood's mom requested that in the scenes with Tracy's bra exposed, that the front of her not be seen on camera. The whole scene was rendered in a single, long and uncut take with Wood, Reed and Pardue, but was tightly choreographed with several crew members, social workers and parents also in the small room, carefully staying either hidden or behind the camera as it panned more than 200°, showing all four walls.[1]

The movie was shot on lower-cost super 16mm film. The camera was small, had a Panavision lens and was mostly hand-held by cinematographer Elliot Davis. This allowed shooting in very tight spots, such as in the bathroom. One tracking scene was shot with the camera mounted on a discarded shopping cart, which the crew happened to find nearby.

Most of the scenes were filmed on location, with some on Melrose Avenue, Hollywood Boulevard, Venice Beach. The Freeland home scenes were shot at a rented house on 5123 Babcock Avenue in the San Fernando Valley, which has since been completely remodeled. The many outdoor school scenes were shot at Portola Middle School in Tarzana, most of them on a single Saturday in searing heat. Many of the extras were students and a few were crew members.

Some scenes in the film were carefully and colorfully lit, while others were shot only with whatever daylight could be had. The shooting schedule was limited to less than a month. The underage actors could work only 5½ hours each day, closely watched by a paid social worker.

This made for a frenetic production atmosphere, which cast and crew later said matched the script and added to the film's fast and emotionally taut pace. The film stock was transferred to the digital domain wherein the colors and saturation were highly manipulated for some segments.[1] The beginning of the film was very slightly desaturated in the scenes before Tracy became friends with Evie. Once they became friends, the saturation was increased to a "glowy" effect, according to Hardwicke. After the scene where Evie and Tracy make out with Luke, the saturation slowly becomes less and less until the end of the film, especially after Evie is told that she can't live with Tracy anymore and Tracy is abandoned by the popular group.

Thirteen was picked up by a major distributor only after production was completed. Because of the film's R rating in North America, the underage stars had to be accompanied by adults to see it at public showings. Reed stated in 2012 that she regrets the way she portrayed her family in the autobiographical film, saying, "I wrote this movie about them and their flaws and imperfections and what it was like growing up. It was from one kid's perspective and not a well rounded one. You get older and it's like, how dare I portray my father as being a totally vacant careless schmuck?"[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Thirteen, debuting at the Sundance Film Festival in 2003, received critical acclaim,[3] and Wood, Hunter, and Reed were praised for their performances. The film has a rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 150 reviews with an average rating of 7.3 out of 10. The consensus states "An emotionally wrenching, not to mention terrifying, film about the perils of being a teenager."[4]

Holly Hunter was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Both Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood were nominated for Golden Globes the same year, respectively for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress in a Drama.

In January 2014, Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed created a Thirteen 10th Anniversary Live Q&A that can be seen on Reed's husband, Paul McDonald's YouTube channel.[5]


The score was written by Mark Mothersbaugh. The soundtrack includes songs by Kinnie Starr and Carmen Rizzo, Liz Phair, Clinic, Folk Implosion, Imperial Teen, Katy Rose, The Like, and MC 900 Ft. Jesus.


  1. ^ a b c d 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment DVD Video Release, Thirteen, UPC/EAN: 024543106586, 27 January 2004.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Thirteen". Sundance Institute website. 
  4. ^ Thirteen Movie Reviews, Pictures. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  5. ^

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