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Tribeca: Nikki Reed on going funny for a change in 'Intramural'

"Intramural" star Nikki Reed talks about being the straight person in a broad comedy, spending time in Austin and how "Thirteen" was a "miracle."

"Thirteen" and "Twilight" actress Nikki Reed does comedy in the sports comedy "Intramural." Credit: Getty Images "Thirteen" and "Twilight" actress Nikki Reed does comedy in the sports comedy "Intramural."
Credit: Getty Images

Nikki Reed first came to prominence as the 14-year-old who wrote “Thirteen,” a semi-autobiographical tell-all that became a hit indie starring Evan Rachel Wood and Holly Hunter. (Reed also made her screen acting debut as Wood’s friend.) Since then she’s been primarily an actor, and one who's aged out of rebellious teen roles. She played Rosalie Hale in all five “Twilight” films. And she has three pictures in the Tribeca Film Festival: “Murder of a Cat,” “In Your Eyes” and “Intramural,” a send-up of inspirational sports movies in which she plays love interest Meredith.

“Intramural” is a rare comedy for you, though you’re playing one of the few relatively normal characters.

Meredith kind of grounds [“Intramural”]. She’s the basis of reality. When you have a comedy there has to be one or two characters that balance it out so that you can appreciate the humor. I think out of the three films that I have here [at Tribeca], Meredith is probably the most serious, even though this is a broad comedy. But this whole year I’ve been focusing on making [comedy] a priority — finding roles that feel lighter and funnier for me.

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Was comedy something you were nervous about doing?

I’m all about learning and challenging myself. What was appealing about [Intramural] was that I had never had a part like this. I knew that it would scare me; I knew that I would feel like I’m in an improv acting class everyday for six weeks. I’ve never had a director go, “OK, guys, just do whatever you want on this take.” And I’m like “What? OK!” It was a totally different experience and I appreciated it and I learned from it.

This film sends up cliches of the inspirational sports movie. What cliches did you want to avoid with Meredith?

A lot of times you’re the leading lady who is “the girl.” My biggest concern, initially, was I didn’t want her to just be “the girl.” I wanted her to be quirky and interesting and smart. I tried to bring some of myself to Meredith, because I’m used to reading scripts where the girl is just a pretty girl and there’s not much else there. Meredith wasn’t just “the girl,” but I wanted to make here even more offbeat and fit into that world more.

This was shot in Austin, during the summer. How was it?

Austin’s great. It feels very forward, progressive. I’m a vegan, so it feels cool when you shoot in a city that embraces food and different cultures. I was there by myself for a lot of it, so I went everyday and saw some movies and volunteered at the dog shelter and I did powerboarding on Lady Bird Lake by myself. I had a really nice time being independent and exploring Austin.

You seem to be expanding your range from your teen days, when you tended to play edgy characters who used their sexuality to get what they wanted.

I hope so. There’s a fine line between being an actress and being out of work. When a certain amount of time goes by and you don’t have a job, you say, “Oh my God, what am I going to do?” I want to work I want to feel creative I want to feel productive and busy. So you start reaching out. I’m the person who calls their team and says, “Why don’t I have a job, what’s going on?” In an ideal world you can read a million scripts and do one every two or three years that really appeals to you. But sometimes you say, “I’ll do this movie because it has this to offer me.”

You broke through at 14 by writing and acting in “Thirteen.”

When you finish something like “Thirteen,” people want to know why you don’t make “Fourteen,” “Fifteen” and “Sixteen.” The truth is sometimes the stars align and something magical happens. “Thirteen” was a magical experience. [Director] Catherine Hardwicke and I wrote that film, we walked into our first or second meeting with the producer, they gave us $1 million and six months later we were shooting and six months after that we were at Sundance. That stuff just doesn’t happen very often. It was a “miracle project.”

Are you still working on writing?

I write mostly non-fiction. That’s what I’m the best at — writing about myself, my experiences or something close to me so I feel like I can see through that person’s eyes. My grandfather just passed away, and right before he died he spoke to me about my creative writing and he wanted me to focus on using my imagination a little bit more and taking myself out of my comfort zone. Because of him I think I’ll be exploring that more.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
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