Based on the book by original vocalist Cherie Currie (Neon Angel), a new biographical film tells the tale of the formations of one of the most groundbreaking groups of the 70's - all girl rockers The Runaways. Playing Cherie and rhythm guitarist/vocialist Joan Jett are Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart and as the real life tale revolved around lurid stories featuring liberal amounts of sex, drugs and rock n' roll, interest in this new adaption was already riding high, before the success of Stewart in the Twilight saga pushed it even higher.
Buzzine's Emmanuel Itier recently sat down with Kristen and Dakota in Los Angeles, CA to talk about the experience of working with two of the female legends of rock, learning to be a new kind of star and the differences between fame in the 1970's and the 21st century...
Emmanuel Itier: What did both of you see in Joan and Cherie that made you want to do this? I understand that when you read this script Dakota, you said that you didn’t want anyone else to play the role.
Dakota Fanning: I don’t know if I said that, but I really wanted to be the one to be able to do it and hoped that they would let me do it. I did it because I really loved the character of Cherie and not really knowing about The Runaways. It was just kind of reading the script, and that was my introduction. It was really great and I just wanted to be able to play that out and live her life for a little bit.
EI: Kristen, what do you see in Joan? Do you see any parallels between you and her?
Kristen Stewart: Yeah, I guess there would be for both. We have been professionals from a young age, which is hard, but for her in such a different way, when she was younger. The biggest adversity I face is bloggers, and she had people throwing bottles in her face and saying, “Sit down, you ugly loud-mouth.”
To see how assured she is now and to know that she wasn’t always like that, that it actually took a lot and that what she has now is a really thick and developed armor, you see that happen in the movie, hopefully - or at least that’s what I felt I wanted to do. It’s like a hardening, but she’s very in tune with herself, and I think she’s really cool.
She’s really honest. It’s a self-preservation sort of thing, and she’s really a survivor, and at the same time, she demands to live her life the way she’d like to. She’s just a very smart and inspiring person.
DF: I think they all become numb to the outside, whatever is going on and what everyone is saying about them. I think that’s kind of what you see in the movie.
EI: Can you talk a little about your instruments? I talked with Joan Jett about how you guys trained with them. Have you played instruments before?
KS: I played guitar.
DF: I didn’t have to play an instrument in the movie... I just sang!
EI: How were your mic-checks?
DF: That was cool. I learned that. Cherie taught me how to do that, which was a really special moment for me.
EI: You played with a live band for a while, right? Getting the feel for the stage and performing with all those amps around…?
DF: Floria [Sigismondi]‘s husband is in a band called The Living Things. I didn’t perform, but I just went to their home studio and sang some of the songs with them to see what it would feel like. You can never really feel what it’s going to be like, though, until you’re actually filming.
EI: Joan has a very specific way of moving onstage. How did you go about preparing for that, learning her style?
KS: We all had like two weeks where we had band practice where all the girls came in. They played the song that we recorded. I think there were like five or six that we did that we had to have down. They played them over a speaker, but then we were actually trying to play as a band to it. It’s exhausting, especially with the guitar and you don’t know it. I would be exhausted at the end of a rehearsal and she’d be like… [Sighs] I’m like, “Ah, my shoulders are killing me.” But it was fun. There’s an okay amount of footage that you can see in their performances. There’s not an abundance, and they’re all sort of fuzzy, but it’s just like copying.
EI: The sexuality of this film is very important: Was it difficult for you two to recreate the tone of that sexuality that was particularly unique to that period?
KS: Sure, because nowadays, younger kids… I mean, I guess I wouldn’t know this for sure, but while there was a sexual revolution going on, that’s had an affect on us now. So people feel much more comfortable at a young age doing stuff like that, but these girls really were the ones to rebel first. It wasn’t normal for girls to be sexually aggressive in any way, so I think it would be different, for instance, in like Thirteen when they kiss and they’re not in love but they’re friends - it is a completely different thing. It’s just a different thing to watch.
EI: Floria was saying that the love scenes weren’t really challenging, but there were a lot of rules when you guys were shooting that which were kind of annoying, in terms of placement. Can you speak to that at all?
DF: There was nothing in the script that I couldn’t do. It wasn’t like that.
KS: It was always pretty subjective too. Even after the roller-rink, you don’t know what they’re doing... they’re just sort of together. It was never written in the script, like, “Hardcore sex scene.” It’s like, “Well, Dakota is 15. We can’t do the hardcore sex scene.”
EI: Getting to hear all the music, what do you think about it now? Does it speak to you like it did to people at that time?
DF: It does to me, just because it reminds of the time in my life when I was so immersed in playing Cherie. So it carries a different thing for me. Every time I hear it, it takes me back to those times, which is what I love about music. It’s special to me.
EI: Any plans to make your own albums now?
EI: But that is a pretty common thing you see after actors do a musical kind of movie…
KS: No, we’re not packaging this deal!
EI: You’ve both grown up on camera. Had you two met before? Were you two paying attention to each other’s careers before working together?
KS: She’s always been the one. There’s no one else that levels up. So yeah, definitely. I’d met her a couple of times before we met to actually work with each other, but it was always really quick...
DF: ... It’s weird to talk about a time that we didn’t know each other really well...
EI: Kristen, you talked about the bloggers being the problem today as opposed real-life hecklers 30 years ago. Do you think that’s taking things to extreme and causing problems for actors, with the internet becoming so pervasive now?
KS: It’s the same stuff; it’s just more of the same thing if you have another outlet for media. Hearsay is sometimes really awesome and it’s sometimes very destructive, but whether it’s going to be typed on a computer screen or going back 50 years when you actually had to speak it to people… people hated rumors. People hate rumors now, whether they’re really huge or really small. I don’t care.
EI: Even with all this success that you have, and not changing that much that I can tell, how has it been handling all this attention and yet continuing with the work that you’ve always been doing?
KS: I don’t actually know how to answer that. It’s weird that you just get anyone’s opinion at the click of the mouse. It’s just weird and it’s not something that we’re used to, but it’s not like the opinions haven’t always been there. People are just able to get them out.
EI: Do you read them?
KS: Well, I don’t sit down, like, “Oh my God.” I don’t have Google alerts!
EI: How is the responsibility different in playing a real-life person compared to a beloved fictional character like Bella in Twilight?
KS: Probably just personality, and also Bella’s effect on the world obviously wasn’t as great as Joan’s. Obviously I never got to meet Bella. It’s completely different.
EI: But people have an investment in both Joan, who’s real, and Bella, who’s not.
KS: So all those people who have investments in these women, that’s awesome for them and I love to make cool movies for them... but when it becomes personal and it’s my responsibility to not destroy what people are going to take from the most important part of my friend’s life, Joan has become really a big part of [my life].
She’s awesome and I really love her. If we hadn’t told the story right, people wouldn’t know who The Runaways are. People don’t know The Runaways in our generation. So because they’re going to see them through us, it’s a much different experience than making an original, fictional story.
EI: This is a story of friendship and artistic rivalry. Was there any discussion of who was getting the most close-ups in the film? A better dramatic arc? [Smiles]
KS: No. [Laughs]
DF: [Laughs] No.
EI: What is your friendship like now? Dakota, do you see Kristen as an older sister, in a way?
KS: No, I see her as an older sister.
EI: Dakota, this is a complete reversal of the persona that most people have come to know you through. I remember meeting you for I Am Sam…
DF: That was a long time ago!
EI: It was. But are you concerned what your fan-base will take away from this story, which is an incredibly different side of you that we haven’t seen before?
DF: I’m not nervous because I think the people who are true fans or really enjoy movies or really enjoy the work that you do will understand the choices that you’re making and why you make those choices and will accept that.
KS: It’s not fans; it’s probably just random people who have this idea of her.
DF: Obviously, because they’ve seen me in I Am Sam when I was really little. I’m getting older now, and I want my career and the movies that I do to get older with me, and I hope that everyone can do that with me.
EI: Were you looking for something like this when it came along? Was it deliberate on your part?
DF: No. I think the way that anybody chooses movies, or the way that I choose movies, is not deliberate. I don’t really even know why I choose the movies I do. Just something about it makes you want to do it and it just happens to be that it was more of a different subject matter than I’d done before.
EI: What are you working on at the moment? Are you still working with your mom [Jules Mann-Stewart] on K-11?
KS: It’s really on the rocks. It’s hard to get a movie made.
EI: I remember you talking about that a while ago.
KS: Yeah, I know. I probably should have held onto that!
EI: Do you know what you are doing next?
KS: No. I have a clear horizon, which I haven’t had in years.
EI: Is the third Twilight [Eclipse] going to be in a much different style than the first two, or very different in tone?
KS: I don’t know what the tone is going to be. I haven’t seen Eclipse. He’s a very technical director. He’s very thoughtful. What I think is really cool for Twilight, shot-wise, is he’s very conceptual. He really takes a lot of time. You’re not going to see a bunch of steady-cam. It’s really deliberate, which is really cool because it gives you more time to think about what you’re doing. I don’t know, though, because I haven’t seen the movie yet...
Apparition Distribution's 'The Runaways' is in limited theatrical release from March 19, 2010.