She’s a little runaway:
with filmmaker Floria Sigismondi
April 14, 2010
From The Runaways:
Kristen Stewart, left, and Dakota Fanning
After establishing herself as an artist and music video
director (her resume includes Marilyn Manson’s “The
Beautiful People,” among many others), Floria Sigismondi
is making her feature film debut as the writer and director
of The Runaways (review),
the story of the 1970s all-girl rock band, starring Dakota
Fanning as lead singer Cherie Currie and Kristen Stewart as
Joan Jett. Live-Metal.net’s Greg Maki recently caught
up with Floria for a quick chat about the movie.
with Sundance, for the past couple months you’ve been
pretty steadily promoting this movie. Do you ever get tired
of talking about it? Did you get up this morning kind of dreading
having to do another round of interviews?
Floria Sigismondi: [laughs] Were
you reading my mind? [laughs] I always think that
there’s a new way to talk about it, there’s a
new question. You know what? It’s funny because normally
when I finish a piece of artwork, I don’t talk about
it. Doing the artwork is the expression. Do you know what
I’m saying? The thing came out of me, and to talk about
it you have to put your mind in a different place. So it is
quite challenging. That’s a great question. [laughs]
Are there any questions that
you’re just really sick of having to answer?
Well, you know, just the typical what drew me to it. I can
see why people would want to ask those questions, but it’s
kind of an automatic kind of question.
Is the pressure on?
Yeah, I guess so.
As you were trying to get into
making features, did you find that people have a stigma against
music video directors?
Well, I did in the beginning. I’ve been trying to make
a film for a while. Either it wasn’t the right project
or just nothing happened. But I did feel that. Not this time
around, maybe because it was this movie. But I didn’t
feel that at all. I said, since this is kind of happening,
I just kind of felt that the stars were lined up and it was
the right thing to do and things were clicking and things
were moving ahead. (There is) a lot to do in a film, and you
obviously have to have a complete determination. It really
is a miracle because so many things can go wrong in a film
and it can fall apart at any moment. To have actually watched
it go through and then we’re speaking about it right
now is pretty amazing.
Were you inspired any other rock
‘n’ roll movies as you were making this?
Well, I watched Sid and Nancy a lot. I was really
inspired by Christiane F. more so, a German film
that was made in the 1980s about a girl in the ‘70s.
That had a really great look to me and a feeling of youth,
and I think this story kind of has a big youth theme in it.
But I just watched all kinds of films. I even watched Klute.
I watched Straw Dogs. I watched a lot of things just
for sort of grabbing the feel of the time. I just surrounded
myself with different kinds of things. But another rock movie?
Actually, when you start to think about it, there aren’t
that many rock movies from the ‘70s that aren’t
comedic or anything like that. So, yeah, I really didn’t
see anything like that to pull from. For me, this was more
a coming-of-age story in the rock world.
When you were writing the movie,
how much research went into it?
I had done a lot. I had done numerous interviews with Joan
and Cherie and Kim [Fowley] and people that were around in
the scene. So I had done all that research. Then I’d
researched hundreds and hundreds of articles that were written
about the girls, which was really great because I was able
to hear their voices when they were 16 and the way that they
talked. Then I researched the scene, what was happening around
and things that I liked in terms of aesthetics. I covered
a large room—8-by-8, maybe—floor to ceiling in
photographs, and I’d laid out my script so you could
kind of see the form the movie was gonna take and also what
was happening musically around them. You could see when punk
was coming in. You could see when things were starting to
go down and sort of the look of the girls got harder and darker.
I think that was really helpful for the actors and the crew
You can talk to a bunch of different
people who were all involved in the same events and they’ll
all have a different view of it and maybe they’ll conflict
at times. So how did you decide which version you were gonna
Well, you could say this specifically for Kim Fowley, his
character. His character had to dance a line because Cherie
saw him as a bit more menacing and manipulative and she was
probably looking, I think, up to him as a father figure that
he obviously couldn’t be. So he was the most destructive
on her. Joan thought he was funny and thought of him as this
partner in crime—they were gonna go out and do this
thing and they would get all hyped up and they had the same
dream. So they saw him completely different in the same situation,
where Joan would laugh and Cherie would be completely hurt
by it. So with his character specifically, I had to sort of
create him in that humorous but smart way, and I thought Michael
Shannon did a great job in portraying him.
Yeah, it’s kind of going through the motions and kind
of going through the story and picking things that were more
the essence of the truth rather than, in this scene this happened—because
whose version are you gonna do? So for me, it was like, they
all have a different version of how they broke up and who
walked out and who came two minutes late. But for me, it was
like, yeah, but what is it? What is the truth to that? Cherie
didn’t want to be in the band. It’s like, they
wanted to go on and they were hard on her, so it’s like
creating the scene and getting down to the core. So that’s
where I kind of made my decisions.
The focus obviously is on Cherie
Currie and Joan Jett. Was that purely a rights issue or did
you make that decision?
Well, it’s a little bit of both. I was drawn to them
because they were both the singers in the band and Cherie’s
story is so intriguing. She gets plucked out of a bar for
the way that she looks and she gets incredibly famous, and
all that happens in 13 months. I was very drawn to her story.
Also, I had more details with her story because I had her
book that she’d written [Neon
Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway]. And Joan was the perfect
balance—being iconic obviously—because she was
so different. They were nicknamed Salt and Pepper. So I was
really drawn to that. I was drawn to the fact—and it’s
kind of carried through my work for a long time, sort of being
drawn to complete opposites and throwing them together and
seeing what happens. And that’s what these characters
are. They’re very different and it was kind of magical
for a moment when they met in this band, and then they couldn’t
sustain it. That friction and that complex and that love—all
these things—is what drew me to focus the story on the
two of them. And, also, I think I looked to make it a little
more personal, rather than making it just strictly a band
What did you do to have your
cast prepare for their roles? Did you put them through any
kind of rock ‘n’ roll boot camp?
Yes, I did. They obviously had tons of music to listen to
at home. I put Dakota in front of my husband’s band
[Living Things], actually, because I wanted her to feel what
it was like to sing. You can be subtle as an actress, but
as a singer in a rock band, you can’t. So I wanted her
to feel live amps and drums and guitars, all that energy behind
you and the loudness of that and how it’s a very physical
thing. You don’t just go up there—it’s not
Leonard Cohen. You have to use your body, and I wanted her
to feel that. We had done that maybe four or five times and
we were waiting for Kristen to get back from—we shot
between the two (Twilight) movies—and then
we put the whole band together. Every day, they rehearsed
for maybe four or five hours a day, for a week or two. We
had them go through guitar lessons, drums lessons—whatever
they needed to do to perfect their instrument because for
me it was very important that they could play because, especially
since at the time people couldn’t believe it and were
sort of taken aback that they were so young and could actually
play their instruments.
From left, Alia Shawkat, Scout Taylor-Compton, Stella
Maeve, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning.
And also, what we did, Joan’s band came in to put the
instrumentation down for some of the tracks that they were
gonna be singing, and the girls, both Kristen and Dakota,
sang their own vocals. So I think they had all this experience
behind them—being in the studio, being at rehearsals,
bonding as a band—so that by the time we got to shoot,
it was sort of part of the making of their characters. I think
it was very important to have that.
I think I’m about out of
time here, so just one more question: Do you have another
film lined up or another project lined up after you’re
done promoting this one?
No. I don’t have anything right now. I’m just
reading and kind of getting my radar back out there and figuring
it out. But first I need some sleep. [laughs]
Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway
Runaways movie review
Photos courtesy of Apparition Films