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Evan Rachel Wood

Thirteen

Evan Rachel Wood blazes a trail of ferocious adolescent energy in Catherine Hardwicke’s bracing coming-of-age drama “Thirteen.”

Now 16, the “Once and Again” TV star has already graduated to Hollywood with her portrayal of the kidnapped daughter in Ron Howard’s “The Missing.” “It doesn’t feel real,” she says, “it hasn’t hit me.”

But Wood’s portrayal of “Thirteen’s” Tracy, a young girl suddenly involved with sex, drugs and shoplifting, has struck audiences ever since the film’s Sundance film fest premiere.

Hardwicke says the burgeoning actress surprised her every day on the set. “She’s this sweet, quiet little girl and you cannot believe what comes out of her,” says the writer-director. “She has an uncanny way of bringing the inside out, and finding these depths of emotion that you don’t even think could be there for a 14-year-old.”

Because she was similar in age to Tracy, Wood says she was able to put a lot of herself into the role. “You can’t fake those kinds of emotions,” she says. Wood is also a veteran performer, having acted in front of cameras since she was 7.

But “Thirteen” proved challenging even for Wood. “With long takes and two handheld cameras going at once, you never knew when it was your close-up, so everyone had to be on 100% of the time,” she says. Most demanding, however, were the scenes in which Tracy self-destructively takes scissors to her skin.

“Just getting to that place in my head was really difficult,” she admits. “And having to do this really private scene in front a bunch of people where you’re at your weakest point, that was uncomfortable.”

Since “The Missing,” Wood has acted in Mike Binder’s dark comedy “The Upside of Anger,” alongside Joan Allen and Kevin Costner, and she plans to be picky about what she takes on next.

“I just want to do something different,” she says, “something that’s going to stick with people, something that will get people talking. Something that won’t fade away.”

Coming attractions: “The Upside of Anger”

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