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Stewart stars as Joan Jett, the rhythm guitarist with a powerful passion for the music. Fanning is Cherie Currie, the group’s lead singer and source of sex appeal. The group is a monumental success, hurling its members into the intense life of fame, fortune and anxiety. Through all of the trials, successes and tribulations, Currie and Jett are always side-by-side trying to help each other stay focused and deliver the goods, the music.
Check out what Fanning and Stewart had to say about embodying rock icons and their relationships with their real life counterparts as well as Stewart’s hesitation to retell exactly how Jett explained to rock out on the guitar.
Dakota, Cherie Currie said you got a temporary tattoo of a cherry even before reading the script and you took that as a sign that you were destined to play her. Can you tell us about that?
Fanning: I came home from school one day and my mom had - there’s a script you need to read and I always try and get information out of her, like what’s it about before I read it, but she never wants to tell me because she doesn’t want to bias my opinion. But I had a cherry temporary tattoo that I had put on for fun that day, I was bored. And it was a cherry and so she was like ‘Oh, but the character actually gets a tattoo like that movie.’ And so it was like a little thing that was meant to be.
The movie is a lot about rebellion. Do you have a rebellious side?
Stewart: I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot for me to rebel against. Nobody’s telling me to be a certain way, so I don’t have to proactively rebel. I guess I have rebellious thoughts. I think it’s kind of messed up that girls have much less opportunity to be themselves. It’s easier for – if I was a dude, I could have a much more unique individual personality that people wouldn’t talk about in a negative way. Girls are supposed to be a certain way. That bothers me.
Fanning: I don’t think I have as much against me now than they did back then and I didn’t grow up in a time when I thought I couldn’t be something or I couldn’t do something. That thought had never occurred to me. And so I think a lot of girls our age probably feel that way and don’t realize that there was a time when you actually couldn’t do something, couldn’t be what you wanted to be. I don’t think a lot of people really know how hard it was for these girls back then.
Did Joan and Cherie help you get a sense of what it was like to be alive and be a female musician back then? Dakota, Cherie mentioned she taught you some mic movies.
Fanning: It’s the mic move she does during ‘Cherry Bomb.’ She taught that to me so I could do it. Yeah, she taught me how to do that. [Laughs]
Stewart: That was crazy! I’d never seen that before. [Laughs] I’ve always been super nostalgic for the 70s even though I’ve obviously never lived then, but there’s great stories and I like the music and stuff. You get a sense from all the videos and stuff that they’ve got of themselves [from when they were] younger. You get a sense of what it feels like to live back then from the music and they sort of filled us in about little stuff, little stuff it would be hard to remember and probably random for this, but it was good that they were around because they needed to be there to fill in the blanks.
Fanning: Yeah, I was definitely really nervous but I didn’t think that any other way would be acceptable. I thought that the only way to go was to re-record the songs if I was able to, if I had the voice to do it. I was really excited about getting to do that, but very nervous at the same time. I was just kind of thrown into a recording studio and that was it and I recorded the songs and that’s what you hear in the movie and on the soundtrack. I don’t think I really realized that until I was there and suddenly it was over and I thought I would just re-record them a bunch of times; I thought that was just the first time I’d do it, but, nope. That was it. Which was probably good because that’s actually how they recorded them. They were just thrown in there and did it only a couple of times and that’s kind of what I did.
Joan Jett has this album Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth. Do you think she regrets anything of that era?
Stewart: No. I know she doesn’t. Everything you do in your life makes you who you are and she’s sort of is really loving life right now.
There’s seems to be an irony in the title, she has pride that it was a misspent youth.
Stewart: Yeah, definitely. She’s incredibly proud to be everything that she is. I’ve never seen anybody walk into a room so completely innocently confident. She doesn’t realize that other people might not be like that and that’s a different – it’s not like overcompensation. It’s not like she’s trying to be a certain way, she just [is].
What kind of message do you think the movie is trying to get across for both longtime fans of The Runaways and for people who are new to the group?
Fanning: I think probably the younger audiences, their only way of knowing The Runaways will be through this film and maybe that will lead them to go back and listen to their music or watch the ‘Live in Japan’ videos. I didn’t know The Runaways when I first read the script and I didn’t know who Cherie Currie was and what her story was and I think a lot of people obviously know Joan Jett, but they don’t know Cherie.
Both Joan and Cherie speak very highly of your performances. Was there an added pressure to live up to their expectations?
Stewart: Yeah! Oh man. If we didn’t tell the story right this would have been the version of The Runaways that people my age would know about and that thought before the movie was over of course – it drove me crazy. The shoot was very fast and it was sort of mad scramble to get everything. Working with Floria was great because it’s like we really had a lot of room to do and be and live, but at the same time, when you care about something so much it’s scary to have – she’s a first time director. I love her music videos, I love the movie, I’m so proud of her, I’m so proud of everyone involved, but this is a different experience because usually if a movie’s not good and doesn’t turn out the way you thought, it’s sort of the way it goes, whatever. But this, we didn’t have any other option. The guilt that I would have harbored for the rest of my life, it would turn my stomach black.
You mentioned Joan’s confidence. What advice would you give to fans looking for a boost in confidence?
Fanning: We all have our insecurities -
Stewart: Aw, this is so sweet already.
Fanning: [Laughs] I think we all have our insecurities. For Cherie on stage she was a completely different person than she was off stage and still to this day she’s kept that vulnerability and that innocence. I don’t really know exactly what her insecurities are but I think we all have that, I don’t know, I think it’s something you have to figure out for yourself. I don’t know if I have any advice that will help everyone with their insecurities because I have my own.
Stewart: Everyone has them, so don’t worry about it. I don’t know what to say either. God, I feel really bad for people that are like 13 or 14 right now. I’m sorry you’re going to get older! I don’t handle my insecurities very well, so don’t worry about it. You’re fine.
Did you two discuss the relationship between Joan and Cherie and come up with your own conclusion to define that connection because it’s kind of ambiguous in the movie, intentionally?
Stewart: It’s so funny how people think it’s ambiguous. I was trying so deliberately to make it like – it’s such a unique friendship and they rely on each other so strongly. You add a kiss to something and suddenly it makes it like ‘Oh. My. God. They love each other and they’re lesbians.’ It’s like, ‘No! What?’ I feel like we got to see them interact now and seeing them together was really really helpful because they turn into the same people that they were back when they hung out all the time. And they still really love each other. Like they really really love each other. It’s hard to describe. They’re just really close and they kissed one night and big deal.
Fanning: I just want to keep doing what I love to do. I don’t have anywhere specifically I want to take my career. I think that it’s just what I love, it’s the only thing I know how to do, it’s the only thing that I feel like I’m okay at.
Stewart: You’re alright at it.
Fanning: [Laughs] And, yeah, I just want to keep going. You hope that people continue to want you to be in their movies and bring stories like this to life.
Dakota, You have a number of particularly intense scenes because your character goes through more of an emotional arch. How’d you prepare for those?
Fanning: I don’t know if there’s anything specific that I was thinking. I think when you love something so much and you love a character and Cherie has become my friend and has inspired me so much just in my own life, you want to be the best you can for them. Because a lot of people don’t know who Cherie is, this is going to be maybe their only way of knowing her story. It is a lot of pressure, but it was good pressure. It was exciting and a challenge and I liked that. I think when you know a character so well you just kind of know what to do.
Kristen, you play guitar yourself, but did Joan give you any tips on how to really embody the female guitarist?
Stewart: She’s got a really unique connection to the music, the way it comes out of her. The compulsion to make it, to create the sound isn’t something that all musicians have and the fact that she never started playing lead guitar – she wanted to play rhythm guitar, she wanted to keep the music going. So she was always telling me to connect like it’s coming through you and considering your guitar is right here [points to pelvic area], it really is a weird center. The only way that I can describe it and I’ve said it before, is like – she literally sort of told me – it was like - why am I doing this right now? The only way I can describe it and the way she told me to play like her and it’s the only way that feels right is to like – you have to @#$% your guitar. [Turns to publicist] I didn’t know how else to say that. I’m sorry!
The film focuses on Joan and Cherie’s friendship, but what can you tell us about your actual friendship?
Fanning: I didn’t know that it’d be so hard to talk about your friendship when your friend’s sitting here. I literally like close off [turns away from Stewart], I can’t do it! I don’t know why!
Stewart: I know, it’s so weird. I feel my face going all like -
Fanning: I get really embarrassed for some reason.
Stewart: I don’t know, it’s a weird thing. It’s rare that you meet your friends – well, you meet a lot of friends on sets or whatever, but –
Fanning: Someone that you know is going to be your friend for a long time.
Stewart: Yeah, there you go.