13 Going on... 20?
You read that right — 13 Going on 30 turns 20 years old this year, so it's the perfect time to reminisce with behind-the-scenes details about the beloved rom-com.
The flick, starring Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo, follows Jenna Rink, a teen girl who wishes she could fast forward to adulthood after her disastrous 13th birthday party. She gets her wish when she wakes up as a 30-year-old woman, complete with a swanky Manhattan apartment, a glitzy magazine job, a mysterious boyfriend and no memory of the past 17 years. The movie was praised — and thus remains a classic decades later — for its honest depiction of growing up and its several memorable scenes. (Who can forget that "Thriller" dance number?)
Before you settle in for a movie night, read on to learn more about the making of the movie and its enduring legacy.
Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo didn't meet until the first read-through.
Although they didn't know each other prior to filming, Jennifer was already a fan of Mark's work. "Five years ago if you had said, 'List three or four actors that you would love to work with,' he would be at the top of my list," she said in Making of a Teen Dream, a behind-the-scenes documentary about the 2004 rom-com.
The lead actors campaigned to play their teen selves.
According to Mark, he and Jennifer initially tried to play their 13-year-old counterparts in the movie's flashback scenes. "It was being talked about for some time, but eventually, they thought it wouldn't work so well," he shared in the documentary. That might be why it took some time to settle on the flashback cast. In fact, the young actors who did eventually take on the teenage roles weren't even in the first iteration of the film, Vulture points out. (No, seriously, you won't recognize these unused clips at all!)
Paparazzi interrupted a pivotal kiss scene.
According to director Gary Winick, paparazzi were everywhere during production. "You can't kick them out and they can be in your way, which they were," he revealed. "Of course they were taking pictures of Jennifer every moment they [could]." The paparazzi even tried to snap shots of a kissing scene between Jennifer and Mark, leaving crew members scrambling to cover the actors with cardboard to prevent spoilers.
Jenna Rink's transformation occurs at a very clever time in the film.
As a fun nod to the title, Jenna wakes up as a 30-year-old at the movie's 13-minute mark. And the moment when she looks in the mirror to see herself as an adult was inspired by Big, the 1988 Tom Hanks flick with a very similar premise.
Mark nearly dropped out of the movie.
And the "Thriller" dance scene was to blame. "Whatever Matty was experiencing in that [scene] was actually just me," Mark said on the ReelBlend podcast, while he and Jennifer were promoting their 2022 Netflix movie, The Adam Project. "[Jennifer] had to drag me onto the dance floor. It took me six hours to learn what she learned in about six minutes. She was so good at dancing, and I was so bad … I almost quit the movie." We're glad he persevered because we can't imagine this movie without him!
Jenna's sleepover was almost cut.
Gary shared that he originally wanted to nix the slumber party scene because he believed it took away from the romance — but he later admitted that he thought it was one of the best scenes in the movie.
A deleted scene revealed Jenna's secret tattoo.
In a scene that was eventually cut from the movie, Matty convinces Jenna to go to the doctor to figure out what is wrong with her. While in the office, the doctor compliments her tattoo, leaving Jenna scrambling to search her body for the ink.
The 'Thriller' dance scene almost didn't happen.
Mark wasn't the only one with reservations about the number. According to an interview Gary did with The Telegraph, crew members didn't see the point of including the dance, which took some cast members hours of training to perfect — but studio execs insisted on keeping it in the movie because they planned to include the footage in the trailer. Luckily, director Gary saved the day by figuring out a clever way to work it into the plot.
There was nearly a different ending.
While Jenna and Matty were always going to end up together, Gary originally had a different ending sequence in mind. He wanted the movie to end with their wedding alone (which is still shown), but producers insisted on also showing more of the happy couple's life together, including a scene where they move into a home that closely resembles the film's iconic dollhouse.
The film marked the first time Jennifer had ever been directly offered a part.
The offer came on the heels of Jennifer's 2002 Golden Globe win for her work on the sci-fi series Alias. "I had never just been offered anything before," the actress said in the documentary, adding that her Alias co-stars convinced her to accept the now-iconic role because her personality was so similar to Jenna's.
Jennifer got her say when it came to choosing the director.
After landing the role, Jennifer requested to work with Gary, who was known for his independent film career. "When Jennifer was attached to the movie, she chose me as director. She saw Tadpole and we sat down and talked about what I wanted to do with the movie," Gary told the BBC. "We were in the same boat together on this one, really, because it was her first leading role and my first big movie."
Andy Serkis was told to tone down his acting.
In the documentary, Andy, who was known for his role in more serious fare like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, said Gary got frustrated with his over-the-top performance as Richard, Poise's editor-in-chief. "I kind of think I'm doing nothing here and he's going, 'Bring it down.' I'm thinking, 'If I bring it down anymore, I'm going to be lying down," Andy said.
The studio considered a few other big names to play adult Jenna.
Although Jennifer was the first choice to star in the film, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hilary Swank, and Renée Zellweger were all reportedly considered for the lead role.
The movie has more than one title.
Distributors reportedly were worried that the film's name wouldn't translate well in other countries, so they decided to adapt the title accordingly. In Australia, for example, the movie is called Suddenly 30.
It was Christa B. Allen's first film role.
The young actress who played teenage Jenna actually hadn't acted much prior to the movie, but Gary said that she had an "awkwardness" about her that was perfect for the role.
Jennifer thought Christa looked just like her.
"She has that tall thing going on," Jennifer said in the documentary. "Her arms are long and that is exactly how I was at her age. There was more of me than I knew what to do with."
Sean Marquette (young Matty) was asked to act 'more awkward.'
Gary revealed that the young actor seemed too cool for the role at first, so he had to give him some notes. (Marquette also had to wear extra padding to pull off Matty's look.)
Jennifer's real childhood photos made a cameo.
Several of the movie's flashback scenes take place in Jenna's basement. And the set decorators didn't have to look too far to make the set look like a family home: The pictures on the back of Jenna's door are actually photos from Jennifer's childhood!
Producers gave proper credit to the 'Thriller' choreographer.
Although Jennifer threw a few of her own moves in there, the choreography for the "Thriller" dance number closely resembles the routine from Michael Jackson's original music video. Movie choreographer Marguerite Derricks told Entertainment Weekly that she ensured Michael Peters, the original choreographer, was credited at the end of the movie.
'Thriller' was chosen for a sentimental reason.
While scoping out '80s hits to include in the film, the screenwriters said that they eventually landed on "Thriller" because the track evoked childhood nostalgia. "I vividly remember being in my best friend's shag carpeted den sitting ready to watch the world premiere of the 'Thriller' video," co-writer Cathy Yuspa told Entertainment Weekly.
The screenwriters changed the original script.
According to TV Tropes, Jenna was originally supposed to hitchhike to Matty's wedding — but the writers instead wanted to include a callback to Chris Grandy, teen Jenna's crush, so they ditched the original plan and made Grandy (played by Jim Gaffigan) drive the cab that Jenna hails to make it to her best friend's nuptials.
Jenna's Fifth Avenue apartment would cost about $10,000 to rent today.
In 2019, Entertainment Weekly crunched the numbers to see exactly how much the characters' lifestyles would cost. (So, yes, the numbers may even be higher now!) Should the magazine editor wish to purchase her palatial penthouse, it would set her back about a cool $5 million.
Matty's place would cost an estimated $5,000 to rent.
Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly reported that the West Village duplex Mark's character lived in would cost $5,000 a month to rent.
Adult Jenna's apartment can be spotted earlier in the film.
It's hard to forget the movie's signature "30, flirty and thriving" line, which also appears in an article in Poise (the magazine adult Jenna works for). Eagle eyes will notice that the magazine features another unforgettable detail: The apartment pictured in the spread is the same one that adult Jenna lives in.
Everyone turned to Judy Greer for comedy advice.
Judy, whose resume boasts a long career in comedy, excelled at improv, so when her fellow castmates were tasked with freestyling their own lines, they frequently asked her to verify that their improvisations were funny enough. "She can always make a line that seems funny ten times funnier," Jennifer said in the documentary. When it came to Greer's own improv, Gary said that it was often hard to choose which of her one-liners to use because she came up with a different (but equally hilarious!) line for every take.
Designers used an iconic pattern twice in the film.
As a fun Easter egg, the blindfold young Jenna wears in the basement closet is made from the same fabric as the eye mask adult Jenna is sporting when she wakes up after her transformation. The eye accessories were designed by Cris Notti.
Jenna was a lifelong Madonna fan.
Remember the classic "I'm friends with Madonna?" scene after Jenna finds a framed photo of the songstress on her wall? While adult Jenna was allegedly close pals with the singer (the photo comes complete with the note: "Jenna girl, Margaritas anytime. Love you, Madonna."), young Jenna was also a fan. How do we know? An unsigned version of the same photo can be spotted on her vanity in the film's flashback scenes.
Judy's mom got emotional when she met Alexandra Kyle.
When Judy's mom first saw the young actress who portrayed the young version of Judy's character Tom-Tom, she was blown away by how similar they looked. "She said, 'It's like seeing my daughter again,'" Alexandra revealed. It seemed like everyone but Judy saw the resemblance, though: "I looked like a little boy, and she's gorgeous," the actress joked.
Several members of the 'Six Chicks' went on to achieve major stardom.
Spot any familiar faces in the "Six Chicks," the clique that bullies Jenna in the beginning of the movie? Ashley Benson later became a teen TV staple after starring in Pretty Little Liars, while Brie Larson won an Oscar for Best Actress in 2016 for her performance in Room.
This wasn't the only time Christa took on the role of a young Jennifer.
In 2009, she was once again tapped to portray a younger version of Jennifer in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. "I needed a young me again," Jennifer said on The Kelly Clarkson Show. "I know the perfect young lady." (Jennifer also shared that she still keeps in touch with Christa!)
The director was inspired by three classic movies.
Gary told the BBC that he watched The Wizard of Oz, It's A Wonderful Life, and Big to prepare for the shoot. He noted that 13 Going on 30 pulled unique elements from all three films. "Those were the three movies I put up there and aspired to," he said.
The movie was filmed all over New York City.
"We would go up one side of New York and down the other, in the park, under the Brooklyn Bridge," Jennifer said. She recalled seeing both tourists and native New Yorkers scoping out the set. (FYI: You can now take a tour that highlights destinations from the movie.)
Jenna's clothes were symbolic.
In the documentary, costume designer Susie DeSanto shared that Jenna's fashion evolution signaled the changes her character was going through. Her closet full of pinks, pastels, and soft fabrics is not only a callback to the types of clothes 13-year-old Jenna would have picked out, but helps display her "sweetness and softness" as her character rediscovers who she really is.
Jennifer spent time with teens to prepare for the role.
"A kid of 13 can seem like an adult, but that can be deceptive," Jennifer said. "You always have to remember they are also incredibly vulnerable, skittish, and childlike. Finding that balance was challenging."
And she tracked her teen behavior on a chart while filming.
Gary told the BBC that while playing a teenager came pretty naturally to Jennifer, elements of her performance still required a bit of nuance. "We basically had a chart of different degrees of behavior from her 13-year-old self to her 30-year-old self," he said. "As we were doing a scene or a shot, we would bracket it on the chart as to what point she was at at that particular moment."
Gary and Jennifer hoped to work together again, but sadly never got the chance.
After Gary's death in 2011, Jennifer told Entertainment Weekly, "There wasn't a single project that I didn't try to do with him. We had scripts written together, we developed things together. It was an ongoing and unfinished collaboration. We had several 'next' movies that we were about to do. We just didn't get them done quickly enough."
Ariana Grande paid homage to the movie.
The singer infused several nods to the movie in her music video for "thank u, next," including the house Matty builds for Jenna, the wedding sequence and the magic sparkle dust that sends Jenna to adulthood. In a sweet Instagram exchange with Jennifer, Ariana said that as a kid, she fell asleep to the movie every night. "I still do sometimes, especially when I'm sad," she wrote.
Jennifer and Judy acted like spies on set.
The on-screen frenemies became incredibly close in real life. In the documentary, they revealed that they even pretended to be spies to pass the time. Judy admitted that she was the brainchild behind the espionage antics, but Jennifer said she was more than happy to oblige, perhaps as a nod to her Alias roots. Great news: The pair still remain close friends.
Jennifer and Mark reunited on screen in 2022.
Eighteen years after 13 Going on 30 made its big-screen debut, Jennifer and Mark teamed up for The Adam Project, a 2022 Netflix movie that, in a fun twist, is also infused with time travel elements. Mark told Entertainment Weekly that working with Jennifer again was like "coming home from a long journey."
Jennifer's movie 'The Family Switch' is full of nods to '13 Going on 30.'
"We overtly mention 13 Going on 30," the director of the 2023 Netflix comedy, McG, told Entertainment Weekly. "There's a meta sort of runner in the movie because I like showing the audience that kind of respect."
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