Even those who remember their teen years fondly know
that adolescence brings a world of angst to most normal teenagers.
It includes, but is not limited to, friends, school and pimples.
If you’re Nikki Reed, though, (the 15-year old star and co-screenwriter
of Thirteen, co-written and directed by Catherine Hardwicke),
a couple of worries you might want to add to that list are “critical
response” and “box office grosses.”

Based on Reed’s own experiences in her native
LA (though she’s not the ‘bad girl’ she plays in the film), the
film takes a hard, honest look at the real issues teenagers deal
with, and how their decisions affect not just themselves, but
their families. In other words, it’s about as far from American Pie as
you can get—though Reed admits that she and Hardwicke had originally
envisioned the piece as a possible comedy.

The way in which Reed’s creative collaboration with Hardwicke
came about was actually through her dad, art director Seth Reed
(Minority Report, Auto-Focus). “My father and Catherine
dated,” she admits—joking that she wished it were a more “exciting” story.
Though their romance has ended, Hardwicke has remained a close
friend to the family, and someone Reed has gone to for advice throughout
the years.

It didn’t take much convincing when Hardwicke
suggested that maybe Reed could express her emotions artistically.
She’d always loved to write, and jumped at the chance to spend
her winter vacation brainstorming ideas and acting out the scenes
that they had written together. Amazingly, one week was all it
took to craft the script—and
gain some Hollywood interest. Premiering at Sundance, the film
was picked up by Fox Searchlight, and won a directing award for
Hardwicke, a first-time director but well-known production designer
(Laurel Canyon, Vanilla Sky).

So on the eve of her debut film’s theatrical
release, what is it that’s worrying Reed most? “Honestly? Homework! Come on, I’m
15,” she says with a laugh. MM