By Nicole VilleneuveIf you watched music videos in the late '90s, the intricate macabre aesthetic and now-familiar jarring camera work of Canadian director Floria Sigismondi is likely to come to mind. Having directed her first clips for early singles from the Tea Party and Our Lady Peace, she quickly became responsible for some of the most memorable videos for some of the biggest artists at the time, including Marilyn Manson's massive and creepy "The Beautiful People." This year, Sigismondi branched out into feature films for the first time, bringing former Runaways singer Cherie Currie's memoirs to life. Equal parts music biopic and a classic coming-of-age tale, The Runaways is also a visual first for the director, stripped of the surreal in favour of raw rock and roll reality as lived by a handful of teenage girls tearing their way through the music industry in the '70s. For the recent release of The Runaways DVD, Sigismondi talked with Exclaim! about working with icons Currie and Joan Jett, preserving their careers and stories, and delicately detailing intimate moments of female reproductive functions.
You're in L.A. right now, right? What are you up to lately? Yeah, L.A. Just reading a lot, figuring out what the next project is.
The Runaways DVD has just come out, and it's been a while since the film's release. Overall how would you say the experience has sat with you? I enjoyed the experience for sure although, you know, when you're making a film there are lots of challenges. But all in all I enjoyed making it, and now I'm kind of keen on making something else right now.
Is it safe to say you took a lot from it? It was your first feature-length film. It was a very small film, so I wouldn't say I took a lot on. Well I mean, it took four years to make, because I wrote it also, so by the time I was shooting it I had already lived with it for three years.
This is the first screenplay you've done too I guess, right? Yes.
How did you find the process? It was good! I loved how I had to play sort of... to sort of find the story. I had Cherie [Currie, Runaways singer]'s book to work from but that was all her side, and that was interesting to me. All the other people and trying to sort of figure out what the story was, like meeting Joan [Jett], then meeting Kim Fowley, and just going back and looking at hundreds and hundreds of articles. Just trying to find what the story was. Sort of playing ― well not a detective, but sort of mapping out what the road was going to be.
Is writing something you'd like to tackle again? Either a screenplay or something else? Yeah, I'd like to do that again.
The research process sounds pretty cool. Yeah and that's what was so rooted in reality. There was a lot of really rich source material, and that kind of made it fun.
I know there was a lot made of both Joan Jett and Cherie Currie being on set during filming, with Joan especially taking on an executive producer role, right? Yes.
And listening to the DVD commentary it's clear that Kristen Stewart really took a lot from her, both in the role and personally, and I'm curious if you could say the same in some way? Yeah, I mean it was great having her on set because of the support she gave Kristen [Stewart]. Kristen hadn't had a lot of prep time. We were shooting in between two Twilight films, and so I think I had about a week or two with her, so having Joan on set with her really helped because Kristen was able to really sponge off of her, and she really did get her mannerisms down and stuff like that, so that was great. Kristen felt secure in having her around, and it really helped her. And then Cherie, she didn't show up that often, but she was there a bit, yeah.
How about yourself, through working with them? Did any of their input influence your decisions in making the film? Oh yeah, for sure. I did many, many interviews with them, and it was... how do I get their character, how do I inject their character in such a short period of time, and create scenes that informed that pretty quickly. When you know somebody, how do you do that in an hour and a half? So that was the challenging and fun part of it at the same time. Like that scene where Joan gets her leathers, and right off the bat when she says, "I want what he's wearing," that scene sort of tells you what sort of person she is. When you look at the film it's sort of a character study, it's more of a character-based film.