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Festival Q&A: Flora Sigismondi and Cast Talk ‘The Runaways’

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Claiborne Smith

The Runaways is a love letter to the era and place it portrays—the rock scene in L.A. during the mid to late ’70s—but it’s also a glitzy ode to the sneering little punks who made up The Runaways.

The fact that the five members of The Runaways were adolescent girls was, at the time, something unprecedented and, according to The Runaways, often unwanted; with their gifted but creepy manager, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), The Runaways cut a glam, hard-edged swath through the music scene and eventually (but briefly) made their hard-earned experiment a success.

Some of the band’s members—Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Lita Ford, for example—had success later, on their own, while the band’s lead singer, Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), couldn’t overcome her addictions and doubts about the band’s future.

“Some movies at Sundance change your life,” Festival director John Cooper said before The Runaways premiered on Sunday night. “And some movies at Sundance just rock.”

Saying that “what drew me to this story was what these girls did for it,” Runaways director Floria Sigismondi, the cast, and Cherie Currie and Joan Jett answered the audience’s questions after the film’s premiere.

What do you love most about your art?

Sigismondi: Doing it, I think. The process, just sitting there and coming up with ideas. And seeing those ideas come into the physical, physical world is the most exciting thing.

Dakota, had you done any singing before making this movie?

Fanning: I had done some singing before this, but nothing this iconic and these songs, I really felt the need to really do them justice. There are so many Runaways fans out there that want them to be exactly the way Cherie sang them, but I thought it was important for me to actually sing them, so I hope I did as good a job as Cherie did.

Kristen and Dakota, how much time did you spend with Joan and Cherie to create these roles?

Stewart: Everybody knows Joan Jett, right, but nobody knows how hard it was to become her. We were pretty lucky to have grown up as girls being told we can do whatever we want and that wasn’t the case for them. So considering how important it was for Joan and Cherie I’m surprised how open they were and they didn’t even know who we were. It’s weird to talk about your friend when they’re standing right there.

Stewart: She has such an undeniable presence. It’s not like it takes a really perceptive person to get to know somebody like that. She’s pretty much … you know, whatever, yeah.

Fanning: For me, when I first met Cherie, she has such a big personality. She kind of wore her emotions and her feeling and her thoughts on her sleeve, and was very open and honest with me about how she felt during this whole experience and to have her there for me was unbelievable and that was the only reason I was able to do what I was able to do.

How did Joan and Cherie feel the first time you saw the movie?

Jett: Very surreal, but in a good way. We were just talking about these two becoming us and it was really incredible and I have to give them such credit for their work ethic, because it wasn’t like it was just a gig. They were deadly serious about it and you can see that in all their preparation. I wanted to be there for Kristen to get whatever she needed from me, and I was also willing to get out of her face, if that’s what she needed.

Currie: Wow. I’m actually shaking right now. First of all, Dakota Fanning is my favorite actress of all time. And I keep saying that I’m going to wake up from this dream, but you know what? I don’t wake up. And I truly believe that I’m the most blessed human being on the planet. And Joan, I knew from the minute I met her that she was going to be the godmother of rock and roll. And I was right. Michael Shannon was incredible – you scared me.

Jett: It’s a really personal thing for us, and this was our dream, so it was very emotional to see this happen because we really believed in what we were doing. We thought we were doing great rock & roll. We weren’t hurting anybody, we were just trying to have fun and people took offense to that, and so it became the principle about following your dreams and not letting other people dictate what you’re gonna do in life.


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