Queen of Noise: Floria Sigismondi on The Runaways
The director of the proto-grrrl band pic discusses working with Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie
Kristen and Dakota give really fantastic performances -- particularly Dakota. What drew you to those two actresses?
Dakota wasn't on our radar right away because she was too young when I was writing; she was probably 13. Then she kind of grew up. When I found out she was interested I really was excited because she's a great actress and I feel like she's quite mature for her age, so I felt confident that I was able to talk to her about some subjects and stuff that maybe you wouldn't necessarily, you know- you'd have to talk about differently, if she hadn't had all this experience. I mean, she had done, I think, 40 films before she'd done my film; so she's incredibly experienced. But there's something so fresh about her, in her eyes; I thought that what was so great is that she'd be good at both the more innocent Cherie and then the fallen Cherie. Her arc was tremendous so I was grateful to have her. Kristen Stewart I'd seen in Into the Wild, and the Twilight movies hadn't come out, and there was something quite captivating about her. Although she was in that film for such a short period, there was something captivating when she came on the screen, and strong. She really emotes a lot with her eyes; both actresses do, and I think that was important because there was a lot of stuff said in looks in my film and I knew that I needed that. She also has this sort of toughness that Joan has.
They seemed to really get along so well, too.
They really did, they really bonded on the film which was great because in real life they are like that, you know. The two women, when we did our recording sessions for the music: Cherie came in and did backup vocals and it was like no time had passed once they got into a room together; it was like the good old days.
So Cherie sang backing vocals on the movie tracks?
Yes. And then Joan came in with her band and put all the musical tracks down.
Another great scene in the film is Dakota, as Cherie, performing David Bowie's "Lady Grinning Soul." You've actually directed clips for David -- have you shown him that piece?
Yeah, you know I emailed him telling him that the main character in this film has been incredibly influenced by David Bowie, just to let him know that musicians are still being affected by his music and how great it is. He was just amazing to work with. I've not spoken to him about that scene but we were arranging a screening for him. I really don't know if he went to see it or not. It would be interesting to see what he thought. Cherie was really taken by him and if you look at her whole image it's sort of like, where he kind of went more feminine, she gets more masculine and it's the whole idea of this androgynous kind of character.
Did you see any films from the era that influenced the way you put The Runaways together? I'm thinking of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, or films of that calibre.
Yeah I saw The Fabulous Stains; I don't know how much that film influenced me -- and that's a cool film -- but I was more influenced by Christiane F., the German film about a junkie, although it was darker. I loved the way it was shot and I thought the young girl [Natja Brunckhorst] was really great. And Sid and Nancy, you know. I always went back to those two films. There was something about those two films that really grabbed me.
And Christiane had the obsession with Bowie, too.
Yes, I know! There were certain similarities there.
Do you think it's difficult for an "all girl film," as it were, to make it in the movie world, just as the band found it difficult to make it as an all-girl band in the male-dominated rock industry at the time?
I don't know, you know. I think girls wanna go watch films about girls, so I don't know that it's that. It might be the distribution, just being a limited distribution. Being on limited distribution, you really have a limited amount of people that can see it. I really wouldn't have thought that would be a hinderance. Also, it's about young girls and being rated R makes it more difficult for the young girls to go see it.
Would you say it's an appealing film for adolescent audiences?
I think it would be appealing. I don't know if they could get out to see it because it's restricted, so you'd have to have someone 17 or older, or a parent, to go see it. I don't think a 15-year-old kid could just go and see it. The kids that I spoke to that had seen it were really kind of excited by it. You don't see a lot of films -- not that we're promoting it -- of young people being a bit raw, so I would think that that would be appealing.
There should be more of them.
[laughs] Yeah, I just make 'em.
You're corrupting the youth one film at a time, Floria.
Oh dear, don't give me that! [laughs] I think that because it's restricted you kind of have to educate your kids going in; not everyone who sees those images is gonna go do stuff, you know. But I am telling the true lives of these people, and that's what happened to them -- you've gotta be true to that.