INT: Diablo Cody
Way back in May of 2008 I had the kick ass opportunity to visit my first movie set. Along the way, I had the chance to interview the talent and stars behind one of this summer's bloodiest horror flicks, JENNIFER'S BODY. At the time Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman were hot off of the success of JUNO and Megan Fox had still been riding high off of the first TRANSFORMERS. Since then, the movie has been sitting on a shelf as, it's studio Fox Atomic has been re-absorbed into it's parent 20th Century Fox, and it's crew have moved onto other projects. Now, it's time to dust off the... dust from my visit and shed some light on JENNIFER'S BODY!Interviewing Diablo Cody was a pretty intense experience. I could tell that she doesn't like being a formal interview and prefers to just shoot the breeze in a relaxed situation. She wants to hang out in a bar and talk about the minutiae of filmmaking and pop culture. During the interview, she fielded questions like a nervous job applicant - a bit intimidated by the interview process and not sure how best to present herself. Despite her nervous, and sometimes hyperactive, demeanor, Cody showed that she knows what she's talking about. She loves the genre and wants to only show it the utmost respect. Read on to see what she had to say about the making of JENNIFER'S BODY and just life in general.
When everyone else talks about the film – like Karyn [Kusama, the director] has all of these layers of how she sees it as the evils of teenagers in the way they treat each other – do you think of any of that when you’re writing it or do you just see a good story? No, no… I was really over-thinking it. I was definitely going to deep places. It was an opportunity for me to tap into a lot of my emotions and think about the things that have given me reason to be anxious as a woman. And just the hunger that society imposes on young girls – sometime literally. And I think of those things as horrific so I wanted to write a horror movie. Is it at all a reaction to some of the horror you see today. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied by the stuff that you see? I think of it as being a cousin to that stuff – but completely different. I actually am satisfied with some of the stuff I’ve seen in recent years. Some of the stuff is visually dissatisfying, I think a lot of the movies have started to copy each other visually and I’m getting tired of that aesthetic. So I’m happy with how rich and warm this film looks but ya’know I think there’s been a lot of really smart social commentary in recent horror movies – so I’m happy with it. What is this film looking like? What kind of visual style or palette does it have? Ya’know, I wrote a lot of colors specifically into the script. Like Needy has this really gross magenta prom dress because I love those really rich pinks – it makes me think of Argento with the bright red. And David Mullin shoots the most beautiful night stuff – it’s really like enchanted forest creepy. I really like it. Karyn brings out fairy tales a lot as a visual reference and I hope we’re getting that look. Are there any secret references in the script to girls that bullied you as a teenager? I wasn’t bullied as a teenager, I kind of separated myself from that. It wasn’t really my posse but I remember the competition between girls and I remember this one girl in particular who seemed willing to tear flesh to get what she wanted. Yeah. Society pits young girls against each other, I think. When did you become a big fan of horror? What was the first horror movie you ever saw? I think the first horror movie I ever saw was POLTERGEIST. And my mom had allowed us to rent it on VHS because it was PG – I think. It was crazy. Looking back at that film, it’s really terrifying and gory. Like that guy rips his face off – that would not get a PG now. So my brother and I watched it and we were completely transfixed and terrified. I still think about that movie. I’m so mad about the opening title sequence – with the sign off and the national anthem. I’m so mad that they did it first because I love it so much. What else does JENNIFER'S BODY have in it? Because it sounds like a teen movie, but its rated R so what else does it have in it that adults will like? I think good storytelling can pop up anywhere. I think sometimes you even go see a children’s movie that’s satisfying to watch if it has a good story. So I think if you’re interested in story or just in dialogue or just in social commentary – those are all things that are in the movie. I hope it has things in it that will excite teenagers. I hope they’re not bored. I think this is an important film for teenage girls to see because like I said before I think they are underrepresented in cinema. So if they can go and see it and see themselves as heroes and villains – that’s good. There’s a band in the film. And rock and horror kind of go hand-in-hand and you’ve kind of brought that back that. Can you talk about that at all? I’m glad that people see that as reintroducing a classic element to the cannon that’s great. To be honest I actually thought it would just be hilarious to take a band that was like super wussy and super-mom-friendly and poppy and then have them secretly be satanic assholes. Can you talk about the band in the film? They were originally supposed to be called “Soft Shoulder” but there’s already a band called that. Because the lyrics that we heard in there, were you just trying to find something kitsch? Yeah, I actually wrote those lyrics but – that was my intent. I just wanted to find the cheesiest, top-40s power ballad that just took FM radio by storm one summer. And then just imagine if it had really dark origins. The band represents greed and ambition and desperation and just to stop at nothing to get famous. Your next film that supposedly is going into production is a sex comedy. Now when this finishes do you feel that you’ll have exercised your urge to make a horror film. No, I plan to make many more. Do you think that one of your first directorial gigs will be horror? I think ideally it would be, but I don’t know – I have to learn how to direct. Considering the string of terrible teen-slasher movies in the late 90s, what’s the tough sell to the audience? How do you assure them that this is not just another SCREAM 3? This is a horror movie – not to sound like a complete pretentious douche bag – but it is a horror movie made by filmmakers and made by people who genuinely care about film. Karyn (Kusama) was a total horror geek. I’m a horror geek. The producers are into this stuff. This was not a mercenary effort to make something that seemed like it was kind of profile. We wanted to make a horror movie and we are extremely respectful of the great films that came before us. And I think that people will see that in the finished product. Can you tell us about the casting? Are the leads how you imagined them in your head when you were writing this? I tend to not be super visual when it comes to imagining the characters just because I haven’t been writing movies very long. I never picture certain actors. I tend to go at it like a short story where I’m actually imagining the person in mind as a distinct entity. Like I’m making people up. Like I’m imagining my own people! (laughs)
Are all the people in the cast what you would’ve wanted?
Oh, absolutely. Megan (Fox)… Megan’s perfect. She’s absolutely how I imagined Jennifer. And Amanda, I think in a way created Needy. Because I always saw Needy as being very nervous and submissive, but then Amanda comes in and she brings this humble quality to the character. And she’s such a lovable person – you root for her. And that’s important.
Tell us about the status of the series you’ve been working on and if you’d rather stick with that or return to filmmaking…
Working in TV is amazing and, especially as a writer, the pace is really inspiring. You have to be creating constantly. I like that. I like the fact that I can write something and I can see it on television two weeks later. So that’s cool, but it is completely different, and, when it comes down to it, I think writing features is probably my top priority. I’m very excited to be working on the series but, to be honest, working at Showtime is almost like producing short films. It’s not like writing for a network. It’s fun.
Sequel for JENNIFER'S BODY?
Wouldn’t that be awesome? I thought about it a little. See, I like sequels, especially when they’re done well.
What’s you’re favorite sequel?
Do number 3s count? Because NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 is actually one of my favorite horror movies ever!
Was it important to you that your next project that was made was different from JUNO?
At the time that I wrote this, there were rumblings that JUNO could get made but it still hadn’t occurred to me that it was going to happen so that was definitely not something I was conscious of while I was writing it, which was nice—I was still in the phase where I didn’t have to be conscious of that. Now I’m conscious of it all the time.
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