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Thirteen - Catherine Hardwicke Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. As a father of daughters, I thought this was one of the scariest movies I had ever seen in my life. Can you start telling us about your emotional journey, once you started to work with Nikki [Reed] on the script and discovered just exactly what she had been through?
CH.
I've known Nikki since she was five-years-old and I used to go out with her dad, and I knew her as a cute little fun kid, with the Barbies, and then I went out of town on a movie to Canada, and I came back, one day, and suddenly I'm sitting over at her mum's house and I see this new person walk in. And she is like 12-years-old and she certainly looked like a supermodel, and fabulous, and I was just kind of shocked, because there was a new Nikki there, and her world has shrunk to about this big. It only mattered what maybe about three kids at school thought of her. She wasn't really reading, or doing anything else... She was waking up every morning at 4.30, before Middle School, to do two and a half hours of hair and make-up.
And she did it great, absolutely perfect, and she did it better than J-Lo's team could have done, you know. But she already looked great, so it was like, 'wow, why did she need to do that'?
She was very angry with her mother, her father, herself, everyone, and I started thinking, as a friend, that I loved this kid, and I loved her brother, and I wanted to somehow help if I could. I tried to help her get excited about creative stuff, instead of destructive stuff, or just being bored all the time, so I taught her to surf, and took her to museums, and to art galleries, and let's do drawings, and read Jane Austin, she hated it... after ten pages of Pride and Prejudice, that went in the trash.
So I thought I had to find something else to get her excited about life and so she said she was interested in acting, and I thought, 'oh my gosh', that could make her more vain. Not that Holly would fit in that category, but I was a little bit worried, but then we took it real seriously, by listening to professional acting workshops and, you know, make something relative to the idea that she was excited about.
And then I said, well wait a minute, there's really no great parts for 13-year-olds, so we're going to have to write out own. I thought this might get her excited about writing and literature, and maybe get her back into Jane Austin, or something.
We started to write a teen comedy, or something, but, as you can tell, we didn't quite get the funny bits in there, because when we started watching all the things that were going on in her life, and her friends' lives, and her mum's, and all these kids that were around now, who were all at my house all of a sudden, I started seeing all these pressures, and Nikki started opening up to me and we just decided to start writing about the real stuff, instead of anything we could make up. We just thought the real stuff was more compelling and I did have a hope that maybe it could help her see her mum's point of view, or just have some other point of view about her life, so that's kind of how we started it.

Q. Did you ever feel that you might be opening up a different sort of Pandora's Box for Nikki, by encouraging her to go centre stage? Was she thick-skinned enough for any criticism she might get?
CH:
Most people, I think, have appreciated her performance. As a first-time performance, I think she did a pretty credible job; she hasn't got too much criticism that I know of. I think it gave her some kind of confidence, on one level, that she could actually first see that somebody listened to her, and cared about her, and that she could accomplish something. And I think that helped her have some self-esteem that she was maybe missing. I think it helped her in some ways.

Q. Has she blossomed in a different kind of way than expected?
A.
She's 15 now, she's in the second year of High School, she's trying to get her driver's licence, she's trying to get into college, she's got a steady boyfriend...
At 13, 14 or 15, your life changes every month, every minute, so she keeps saying.
But also, one of the things that happened during the shoot was that Nikki was actually forced to see her mother in this whole other light. She was compelled to, because the parents came to the set every day, because they were obliged to be there, as she was a minor. And Nikki's mum is a great woman, really great; she's very alive, very free, very funny, sharp, and Nikki was around her mother, with all these people who Nikki admired, and respected, and was working with, and her mother was a figure of admiration on the set. People really started hanging out with her, and it was a fairly unusual perspective for Nikki to see her mum in. We talked about that a little bit when we were shooting, but I think that made a profound difference in an immediate sense, because the shoot was so fast and so intense.

Q. Do you recall any major moments of teenage rebellion in your life?
CH:
We were little angels, Holly and I! Well, I was a little bit more like the girl in the movie who had the Chiwawa on the T-shirt... trying to get in, trying to be cool, but not cutting it [laughs]. I hate to say that was more me.

Q. So did you have the night-time embargo where you weren't allowed out in the evening's at that age?
CH:
Well we had three teenagers in my family - my brother and sister and I - and a big thing in south Texas was to wrap houses in toilet paper... I don't know if that's a big thing over here?
You run out and you get rolls of toilet paper and you, like, throw them over the trees, and then the house is wrapped, okay. So that was the big deal, and you'd steal the toilet paper first; that's part of the excitement.
So we had, it seemed like for about a month, every single Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday night, our house was wrapped, and finally my dad got so mad, he got out there and chopped down the tree cos it was just no leaves anymore; it was just toilet paper bits. And he said that we all had to stay home, every weekend night, just watching and guarding the tree and the house. Of course, that lasted about an hour, and then you'd sneak out the window, so everybody has your things that you do.

Q. So if you were a good schoolgirl, when did your rebel years happen?
CH:
Well, here's the thing, my dad's a farmer, and we're from a little, tiny hick town in south Texas, but my dad is kind of wild. When we would get Time magazine and he would see a picture of a punk, or something, my dad would try to dress up like a punk, and so he encouraged us to do stuff [laughs]

Q. This is primarily a story about women, and I believe you used a lot of women behind the camera as well. Was there a creative, or political decision, and also would you carry on directing, and would you carry on encouraging on women?
CH:
Yes, yes, no and yes [laughs]. I think, naturally, a lot of women were probably drawn to this material, because we all went through something like this, or are going through it, or some people are going through it with their daughters, but in each category I tried to find the best, most enthusiastic, qualified person.
Or a long-time friend of mine was the editor, Nancy Richardson, and people that really had a feel for the material, and just really wanted to do it, because they weren't getting paid too much [laughs].
I think it was probably great on the set, because sometimes I remember hearing someone say to Nikki, 'I did the same kind of thing; I did that too', and 'I hate it when my brother did that; I'd get upset too', so that's kind of supportive and cool...
As for question number two, oh yeah, yeah, I've been trying to get my chance to direct for a long time, in between every movie as designer. I've been writing my own scripts, and taking acting classes and everything. Now I hope I got my chance and I'm working on several other things, and they all have something with meat on the bones, in a way. They are about some kind of difficult or interesting subject.

Q. Do they tend to be stories about women?
CH:
Well, several of them are, and then some of them have men in them too [laughs].

Q. Does this, in any way, equate to the business that you're in now? Is there peer pressure? And do you have to conform to what other people think?
A:
Rejection, for example, with this script, you were rejected every single place, when we tried to get financing. Of course, on a daily basis, but I do shave my legs now!
HH: I don't know. I guess I get used to it. I tend to think much less about it than I used to. Now, it's kind of over. If I call in and do a script and someone doesn't want me in their movie, I just don't sweat it out like maybe I used to. I probably don't take it as squarely as I did at one point, because I've been doing it for so long that this has definitely changed.

 

Q. It's both ironic and quite sad that the film, in this country, won't be seen by the kids of that age, 13, because it'll have a certificate that bans them from seeing the movie. I wonder what you think of that?
CH:
I'm kind of surprised that it's more restricted here than in the United States. Who do you guys have in control?
HH:
In the US, you can see it if you're 13 or 11, if you go with an adult.
CH: With our rating system, if you say the F-word twice, you're rated R, which means you have to be restricted with a guardian. But if you kill any number of people, it's ok, you know, everyone can go and see it, so I don't think we all quite understand the rating system, but maybe, on DVD, parents can watch it with their kids, because it has been used as a teaching tool a lot in the United States already, as a way of opening up lines of communication and start talking about it. So it's definitely a shame that it's so restricted here.

Q. Do you share the same view, Miss Hunter?
HH:
Oh yeah, I mean I was unaware that kids actually couldn't see it here. I think some kids should definitely see it, with a parent, but that would be something for the parent, or guardian, in the US, to decide.

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