Once More, with Flaying: Diablo Cody and Company Dissect 'Jennifer's Body'
Diablo Cody is living the Hollywood dream.
If that sounds trite, consider her circumstances. Born Brook Busey, Cody (who adopted her pen name in 2003 after repeatedly listening to "El Diablo" by the pop trio Arcadia while passing through Cody, Wyoming) attended parochial school in Illinois for 12 years before moving on to the University of Iowa. After graduating, she tore through a string of "dismal" jobs - among them, working as a secretary at a Chicago law firm and proofreading advertising copy for Minneapolis-area radio stations - until, on a whim, she took up stripping, often billing herself as Bonbon or Roxanne.
That gig didn't last, either, but it helped open the doors to a much more satisfying career. Blogging about her experiences as an exotic dancer, Cody soon attracted a worldwide audience, as her writings drew more than 5,000 hits a day on the Internet. At 24, she published her memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, and a year later sold her script for Juno, about a teenager's unwanted pregnancy, to 20th Century Fox.
The rest, as they say, is history. Juno became Fox Searchlight's first movie to gross more than $100 million, and Cody, now 31, won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Now she's back with Jennifer's Body, a horror-comedy once again set in the hellish world of high-school students - Cody considers teenagers her "muse" - and featuring Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons and The OC's Adam Brody.
On the perception of Jennifer's Body as a follow-up to Juno:
DC: "There is no follow-up to Juno. That was such a singular, amazing experience in my life. You only get one first film. I can't imagine having an experience that overwhelming again.
"I'm not a very Type A person. I'm not hyper ambitious. It was very cool to win the Oscar and all that good stuff, but then I wanted to move on to something new. 'What do I want to write? What kind of movies do I want to see?' Those were the biggest questions, and in the end I just followed my heart. I wanted to do horror. I was mostly restricted from watching horror films as a kid, which made that section of the video store that much more tantalizing."
On the tradition of strong female protagonists in horror films:
DC: "Like many kids in the '80s, I was totally obsessed with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, and those films always had a strong female protagonist, with the exception of the second one, which was really weird. As I've said before, I try to write everything in the service of women. I try to write good roles for women. It's important to me that, if I do nothing else, I accomplish that."
On relating to the women in Jennifer's Body:
Karyn Kusama, Director: "I think the social idea of the queen bee is very real. It starts in second or third grade, and you do see females who understand their power more instinctively than the other girls around them. I don't know if that power translates into a future where they become powerful women, but you do see this social hierarchy, particularly in high school, that's pretty painful. We wanted to literalize the tyranny of that kind of behavior."
DC: "To me, there's nothing scarier than a bitch. I think the bitch should just take her place in the catalogue of classic horror characters - Dracula, Frankenstein and a bitchy attractive woman. It's about that bad."
KK: "I really identify with [Amanda Seyfried's character] Needy, and the sense of invisibility you can feel if you're the kind of girl who's not looking to be looked at. When I read the script, the fascinating thing to me was that her invisibility is a real survival tool in this movie. It's the crisis of visibility that afflicts Jennifer.
"For me, that stirred up memories I have of those alpha females who, by the time they were 23, were married to the high-school quarterback and had three kids. All of a sudden I saw their lives in a different and more sympathetic way, and I always saw Jennifer as one of those girls - someone who could never escape her town or her prom-queen past."
Amanda Seyfried: "Being a teenager was hopefully the worst part of my existence. It's really true. I don't know anybody who had a great time in high school, with all the hormones, complex delusions, crazy jealousy and competition. For a teenage girl, it's a nightmare."
On working with Megan Fox:
KK: "Megan was perfect for the role. When I met her, I had to apologetically say that I hadn't seen Transformers yet, and she literally said to me, 'Please don't.' She said, 'I don't think it will help you feel confident in me.' I eventually did see the movie, and I think she does a very good job playing the girlfriend, but that's different from what she had to do for us, and she knew it. The fact that she knew it told me she was going to be fine."
Jason Reitman, Producer: "I'm constantly impressed by the woman, in terms of her ability to do the job both on-screen and off it. She's smart and extremely self-aware."
KK: "She's very prepared. She doesn't take a longer amount of time in the makeup trailer than everybody else. She's a professional. She's also thoughtful and smart when talking about her character. She understood there was something deeper about Jennifer. Jennifer is about her surface, but when the time came to see something more human and vulnerable in her, Megan could go there. She's a pro."
On working with Diablo Cody:
Adam Brody: "I went in with some script notes and some ideas for jokes, and Diablo literally said, 'Say whatever you want.' That's just the coolest thing ever. I mean, she won an Oscar. But I didn't take that too much to heart. All the changes we made together were democratic.
"She a sweet, genuine, self-deprecating person who's so collaborative. She wants what's best for the movie, and she has no egotism about other people's ideas. In terms of Diablo's wordiness, I think good writing is easy to say - it's when you're dealing with bad writing that it becomes difficult. If it's a good script, so what if it's a little stylized? I'm an actor. It's easy if it's good."
On Brody's character Nikolai, the devil-worshipping frontman for an emo quartet:
DC: "When I wrote this a few years ago, I was wondering who would be an unlikely villain, and there was suddenly this brand new crop of sensitive indie bands, all these emo guys. You know those guys are assholes, right? I wondered what it would be like if they were actual agents of Satan but they had this very charitable front, as if they just wanted to reach out to their fans."
On the passing of John Hughes, another filmmaker for whom teenagers served as a longtime muse:
DC: "I'm a huge John Hughes fan. I did some commentary on his DVDs last year, and I'm so sad about the man's passing. On the flight [to Toronto] I watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and I was thinking to myself, 'There's nobody like this, nobody's that good.' It's just outstanding. He's absolutely an influence."
On the possibility of a Jennifer's Body sequel:
DC: "I'll make Jennifer's Body fruit snacks if they want me to. Maybe a line of teething necklaces. Or even Kleenex. I'll do TV shows, whatever they ask me to do. And if they want to make a bunch of sequels, I'm there.
"Honestly, though, I have so much trouble thinking ahead of myself, even when I write. I try not to think too far in advance. If there's a demand for such a thing, I would never count that out. My fingers are still firmly crossed."
On her legacy as a filmmaker to date:
DC: "I've never heard anybody in a movie say 'Put it in.' I felt like the anatomical maneuvering of sex should be represented, because in the movies, the penis always magically glides into the vagina. It's always so graceful. But there has to be that moment when somebody says 'Put it in,' and if nothing else, I want that to be my contribution to cinema."