Evan Rachel Wood for “Thirteen”

We’ll be seeing a lot of teenage star Evan Rachel Wood in the months to come. Apart from her brazenly honest portrayal of a troubled teen in the disarmingly honest Thirteen, Wood will be seen in Ron Howard’s The Missing, as Cate Blanchett’s daughter in the Western thriller, and is currently in London shooting The Upside of Anger, alongside Kevin Costner and recently wrapped Heart of Summer.

At a mere 16, Wood is virtually a veteran with some 17 films to her credit, but she doesn’t seem to take potential fame all that seriously. “I see it but, I just kind of laugh at it. It’s just kind of funny because I think I’m just this normal girl that’s kind of a dork,” she says smilingly. As to the possibility of fame, the teenager, who still lives at home with her divorced mother, Wood is circumspect. “It’s a little frightening, but still really exciting. I’m getting all these great opportunities to work with amazing people and do amazing projects, so good things come along with it.”

One of which is Thirteen, a huge hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and a film that is bound to give the talented teenager plenty of exposure. In it, she plays a thirteen-year-old girl whose relationship with her mother (Holly Hunter) is put to the test as she discovers drugs, sex, and petty crime in the company of her cool but troubled best friend (Nikki Reed). While talking to this quiet, contemplative teenager, one has the impression of talking to a conventional teen, Wood surprisingly admits that it wasn’t all that difficult to tap into this latest character, a girl who starts out naively innocent but is so desperate to fit in, that she becomes enveloped in a dark world of sex and drugs at the expense of the relationship with her mother.

The actress says she wasn’t at all shocked at the utter frankness of the script. “It didn’t shock me how real it was and that finally somebody had written something like that.” Part of that reality, was the film’s often frank exploration of teen sexuality, not in an overtly graphic sense, but realistic nonetheless. Wood, who had never shot scenes like this, said that she had “to zone out and really separate myself from the character and remember that it was just acting. She says the sexual moments ended up being the least difficult.

There is a moment where her character cuts herself “and those cutting scenes were really, really difficult because when somebody does that, it’s something that’s really private which you do by yourself, and you’re also at your most vulnerable point. So to do that in front of a lot of people is really difficult.” Wood admits that shooting Thirteen was a draining experience but it wasn’t difficult leaving this character behind “because I really, really, really, really wanted to shake it off, so by the end of the film I was just completely ready.”

Though Wood says she couldn’t identify “With the sex and drugs, a lot of my friends are into all that, so I was kind of surrounded by it all the time,” she says. The actress shyly admits that was drawn into the cool clique of friends at school. “We all just kinda did everything we thought we were supposed to do and girls dated the guys they were supposed to and did things with the guys they were supposed to.” Though she says she eventually “Woke up”, Wood happily concedes that at the time, she and her group were nothing but a lot of “Dumb asses”, further conceding that from the outside you’ve probably look and think we were the cool kids, but inside we were all just completely screwed up.”

She adds that teenagers such as her Thirteen character might think they belong but they really don’t. Using her own experiences as a yardstick, Wood adds that “I just know that I was really lonely, and I didn’t really have anybody else to relate to/” She says that acting eventually helped her deal with many of these adolescent insecurities. “At 13, I was just kind of similar to the character at the time, and the whole movie just made me look at my flaws and myself, and see what I needed to do to change.”

Evan says that her biggest flaw at the ripe old age of 16 is that she worries too much. “Oh God, I worry about everything, such as I’m gonna say something stupid. I’m not good at communicating what’s going on in my head,” she says laughingly.

In comparing teenagers today to those that grew up when her mother was her age, Wood admits that today’s teenagers definitely live a darker existence and Thirteen reflects that all too honestly. Wood says she is saddened by the trend that is an extension of the false imagery today’s teenagers are exposed to in today’s popular culture. “Just look at the messages today’s media are sending everybody, from TV and commercials to actors and singers. Kids are just drowning in that 24-7 and it’s getting really bad. I mean, some of these things were going on when my mom was a teenager, but actually I had this conversation with a friend of mine and we were trying to figure out what’s different about it, and it’s just so much darker now. It comes from such a darker place, and it’s so deeper to the point where being dark and screwed up is becoming a trend. for instance, blood has become cool and it’s just really getting out of control.”

The actress hopes that despite its R-rating, teenage girls will flock to see Thirteen, “so that it should scare them if they can relate to the character because you really see at the beginning how she’s having fun but you also see her hit rock bottom and you see everything blow up in her face. It should just be a kind of warning.”

Wood just completed The Missing for director Ron Howard, and realizes how lucky she is to have so many formidable women playing her mother, from Holly Hunter to Cate Blanchett, “but I can’t say enough good things about Cate who’s really just the most incredible person you could ever meet. Not only is she just this wonderful actress, but she’s just so fun to be around, and she seems very put together.” The Missing is another dark piece, but Evan hopes her next film, Upside of Anger, will show off a slightly lighter side. “It’s still a dark comedy but much lighter and very funny. It’s got Kevin Costner and Joan Allen, so once again another incredible mother.”

No wonder that Wood, as her career takes off in leaps and bounds, she has no urgent desire to go to college. She says that she loves acting far too much “because of the amazing people you get to meet and the amazing places you get to go and being involved in something that can change people or affect them in some way. What’s nice about acting is that you’re not just left with yourself all the time but you get to see the world through so many different people’s eyes.”