One of the perks of this job is interviewing celebrities. Other perks include getting paid to watch television, being invited to cool parties and having Jane Lynch say "Hi" to you while having brunch on a random Sunday morning. But that’s another story.
So when I was sent to cover the press junket for the upcoming film, The Runaways, no one had to ask me twice. Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, and writer-director Floria Sigismondi were all scheduled to take our questions, up close, in-person, roundtable-style.
I arrived at a very swanky hotel in Beverly Hills, received my room assignment and milled around with the real journalists in the hospitality suite. I didn’t take advantage of the full lunch buffet because the last thing I need is to be assaulting Kristen Stewart with pasta salad breath. Instead, I chose to drink as much free Pellegrino as I could in two hours.
Eventually, I made my way to my assigned room. Other journalists were already seated, so I took the last empty spot, next to two reserved seats. I was reading a text message on my phone when someone pulled out a chair. I looked up in time to see Joan Jett sit down. Next to me.
As you would expect, Joan was wearing a lot of black. Even her papers wear black. When you’re a rock star, you’re a rock star 24/7.
The roundtable interview format has no set rules, other than be courteous to your fellow writers, wait for your moment, and jump in. Here are the highlights of my afternoon:
Question: Did you have [casting] input, and what was your first thought when you found out [Kristen Stewart] was connected to the part [of playing you]?
Joan Jett: My only real input on the casting was to suggest if they could get real teenagers, it would make a difference. ‘Cause even in a couple of years, the energy shifts. That was my only comment. I heard that Kristen had been cast – Twilight had come out a couple of months earlier – so, I knew who she was. I had seen her face all over the place. But I had also seen some of her films. I had seen Panic Room, maybe another earlier one, so I was familiar with her work and I wasn’t colored by that Twilight label. I was really into it.
Right before she went to start [shooting] New Moon, we had a day together. And I just kind of dumped on her for a few hours about The Runaways and what it meant to me, and why I wanted to do it, anything I could think of, and probably a few things that I wouldn’t tell anybody else: private, personal stuff.
I asked her if she was going to cut her hair, and she said, "Yeah!" I really got a sense that there was commitment there, that she really wanted to be authentic. She realized a lot of things: that The Runaways were important to a lot of people, that we were still living – or some of us, God rest Sandy West’s soul – so, I think she took it seriously.
Q: What traits did you guys share? As you got to know her, what did you see of yourself, in her?
JJ: [Kristen] is her own person, but I think, energetically, physically, the way we kind of move in a room, is similar. Now, there may be more similarities that I don’t know about, that we didn’t have a chance to even discover.
But she loves music, she played guitar before we met, she can carry a tune. I thought it was essential that these girls sing the songs, where they could. It’s really obvious when you’re lip-syncing to an old Runaways’ track. I thought they did a really great job.
Q: What’s it like seeing your life on the big screen?
JJ: It’s pretty surreal. We were so dismissed so much of the time, and now, something is resonating. There’s a teenage story in there about rebellion, fighting authority, [being] told that girls can’t do something, just because no one ever saw it before. My parents told me I could be anything I wanted [to be] when I was five or six. I really took it to heart.
Jett being exactly what she wants to be
AfterEllen.com: Do you think the sexual relationship you once had with Cherie Currie was accurately portrayed in the film?
JJ: Was it accurate? That’s too much of a loaded question. Things happen. People experiment. Teenagers did it before me, they did it during me, they did it after me. It’s no big deal. There’s a lot of focus on it, and I do understand why, but to me… accurate? [The movie] would have had a lot [stronger] rating.
The room burst into laughter.
Next: Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning