Nobody, not even Diablo Cody (née Brook Busey) herself, could have predicted that this former blogger with a short-lived stripping hobby (the basis for her 2006 memoir “Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper”) would end up winning an Academy Award for her very first screenplay, 2007’s “Juno.” Known for her snappy dialogue and pop-cultural quips (i.e. “That ain’t no Etch-A-Sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, Homeskillet.”), Cody has become one of the most recognizable screenwriters working today, in part because of her colorful past and spunky personality. Expanding into television, she’s already at work on a second season of Showtime’s “United States of Tara,” a dramedy series she developed with Steven Spielberg.
Opening this weekend is Cody’s second feature as screenwriter, “Jennifer’s Body.” What’s perhaps most surprising is that she’s getting more above-the-title attention than either the film’s director, Karyn Kusama (“Girlfight”) or rising starlet Megan Fox. A sexed-up horror comedy set to an indie-meets-emo soundtrack, “Jennifer’s Body” stars Fox as the titular villainess, a cheer squad vamp who becomes possessed by demons and begins murdering boys. While attending the Toronto Film Festival for the world premiere of the film, Cody called me to discuss comic books, feeling old, craving privacy and some of the criticisms about her screenwriting.
“Jennifer’s Body” has been called a horror throwback, but at the very least, would you admit to taking inspiration from “Heathers” or “Ginger Snaps”?
I will definitely cop to taking inspiration from “Heathers,” for sure. I always say “Heathers” doesn’t just inspire the things that I write; it inspires the way I talk to people. It inspired my life philosophy. I’m deeply obsessed with that film. I think Karyn, the director, wanted the movie to have a really vintage feel, and be reminiscent of the movies we grew up watching. I love modern horror movies, but a lot of them look a little flat, computerized and cold, just because we have all these wonderful high-tech tools now. I miss real buckets of blood, things flying around, practical effects and warm color palettes, and we wanted to get back to that.
Is the graphic novelization of “Jennifer’s Body” any different from your screenplay, and are you a comic book nerd yourself?
I love comics. I met Stan Lee recently and it was one of the defining moments of my year. I was very, very excited about the graphic novel, and I love the cover by Frank Cho. Getting to see something that I had written being rendered in that medium was a thrill.
So what do you like in modern comics? I feel they’re still geared mainly to the drooling fan-boys.
Yes, of course they are. [laughs] But I’m doing my best to infiltrate. I hope I’m doing the same thing with cinema, I don’t know. I like all the old Marvel titles, “X-Men,” “Excalibur,” “X-Factor,” “New Mutants” — I’m obviously a big “X”-fan. In terms of modern stuff, now that I’m old, I do more graphic novels like “Black Hole,” that kind of stuff.
You feel old at 31?
I know I’m not old, but I definitely feel old compared to some of these young whippersnappers who have been running around doing the junket with me. I feel like the mother hen.
When you’re writing comedy, does character come before jokes?
Yeah, always. For me, it starts with scene. I think about certain scenes that would be impactful or that I would like to see. Then I start to create the characters, and your final touch is your dialogue polish when you write your silly little quippy-quips.
Juno’s friend said “Honest to blog,” and Jennifer says, “Hello Titty.” These characters exist in different film universes, and yet they both speak in the same pop-cultural voice that you do. Could that be seen as a limitation of your screenwriting?
Big time. Absolutely.
And you don’t worry that some of your references will be outdated in the long view?
No. I like when I watch an old movie and they make a reference to something random. Like, when you’re watching “Sixteen Candles,” and they talk about her dream gift is a pink Trans-Am. It puts the movie in a specific place, and it’s kind of beautiful.
Would you ever write something that didn’t have these allusions?
Yeah, I already have. I wrote a script recently that’s interesting because the characters are pretty quiet. [laughs] They don’t do a lot of talking in general, and they certainly don’t employ the stereotypical Diablo Cody patois. I have no idea if it’s good, but it was fun to write.