Twilight Director Catherine Hardwicke Was Paid a Shocking Amount of Money For Her Directorial Debut

Catherine Hardwick was paid just $3 to make 2003's Thirteen.

Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke says she was paid just $3 dollars to direct her directorial debut, 2003's Thirteen. Hardwicke told Yahoo! (via The Wrap) that she and Nikki Reed — then just 14 years old, who also starred in and co-wrote the film — tried shopping the script to studios but no one would touch it, leading them to have to make the film "by hook or crook". The film was ultimately produced with a budget of around just $2 million raised through independent equity financing and shot in Los Angeles over just 24 days.

"I mean, every studio and every financier said, 'No, we can't make it. How could we make a movie that's gonna be R-rated with an unknown 13-year-old girl in the lead?' Everybody said no," Hardwicke said.

"We made it by hook or crook, you know? And for no money. I got paid three bucks the whole time," she continued. "But when we finally made it, people were like, 'Oh, it's powerful. It's moving. It's relevant in a way to what people are going through.'"

What is Thirteen About?

Released in 2003, Thirteen follows Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood), a seventh grader in LA who dabbles in substance abuse, sex, and crime when she befriends a troubled classmate, Evie (Reed). The film, which celebrates its 20th anniversary on Sunday, is loosely based on Reed's life and also stars Holly Hunter, Jeremy Sisto, and Vanessa Hudgens. Thirteen debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2003 and won Hardwick the Sundance Directing (Drama) award. The film was eventually picked up by Fox Searchlight went on to be a critical success, earning Hunter an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The film remains popular, particularly on TikTok.

"Even now on TikTok, there's like 1.6 billion interactions with Thirteen," Hardwicke said. "People are seeing clips and they're writing in the comments, 'That happened to me last week with my mom.' So, because it was quite honest and had real emotions, it's still relevant to a lot of people."

Twilight Was Also a Similarly Surprising Film For Hardwicke

While the scale of Twilight was ultimately much larger than that of Thirteen, that film also ended up being a bit of a surprise success. Back in 2019, Hardwicke spoke about making Twilight with, reflecting on how that film was rejected by every studio as well and that it ended up being "the perfect storm."

"Since I was involved in it from the very beginning when it was rejected by every studio, and it was put in turnaround from Paramount, and nobody wanted to make the movie because they thought it wouldn't make any money. I was given the example Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was a very popular book, but it topped out at, I think it was like $29 to $30 million. So, is there an audience for this? There probably isn't. That was the wisdom of every smart studio executive in town that turned it down," Hardwicke said.

Summit Entertainment ultimately picked up the project, with Melissa Rosenberg writing a new adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer novel to be closer to the book's storyline.

"And the perfect storm happened, I think, because I was watching it all happen. Stephenie Meyer, the writer, kept writing another book, and she was very engaged with her fan base, still is, with sharing her music playlist, and everything she was doing, and really active," Hardwicke said. "Then publishing another book, and at the same time that we announced that we're doing Twilight. We put the cast out there, and the photos. That got people more excited. So, everything that we did, everything she did, just started fueling this fire. And the genius marketing campaign by Nancy Kirkpatrick, and it just grew, and grew, and grew into shocking, worldwide phenomenon."

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