THE DEVIL WEARS GOLD
Or, at least, come Oscar night, Diablo Cody might very well have some gold on her arm, the ex-stripper having written this year’s indie fave, Juno. Interview: Paul Byrne
If Diablo Cody didn’t exist, chances are, some streetwise, wisecracking wiseass would have invented her. Someone like Brook Busey, a wild child who got tired of the nine-to-five life and so became a stripper. And, on a whim, whilst driving through Cody, Wyoming listening to Duran Duran’s El Diablo, gave herself a new name. One more befitting a stripper. And phone-sex operator. Oh, and writer, whose very first script has just been nominated for an Oscar after the sort of critical acclaim and media attention normally reserved for White House scandals and giant monsters rampaging through Manhattan.
“It is all a bit crazy, isn’t it,” says Cody. “I’m beginning to get vertigo, to be honest. Well, scratch that, Ive had vertigo for about a year now. At the moment, I’m in freefall.” Wherever Diablo Cody lands, chances are, there’ll be buckets of money there. And a whole bunch of studio chiefs eager to work with her. Before this little sexy Cinderella tale starts to make you spit out your cappucino, I should point out here that Juno is actually a wonderful little film, telling the story of, well, a streetwise, wisecracking wiseass 16-year old girl who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand with her best friend (the great Michael Cera). The sort of teenage girl who has a copy of Patti Smiths Horses on vinyl in her bedroom, Juno MacGuff (the Oscar-nominated Ellen Page) is no sweet little wallflower. Always ready with a well-aimed one-liner, and a born survivor, Juno decides to put the little foetus up for adoption to the first nice couple to answer her small ad in the local Pennysaver newspaper.
Enter Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman’s shiny, seemingly-happy yuppie couple…”I had been getting emails from this guy – along with a thousand other guys, I might add – when I was writing this blog about my experiences as a stripper, called The Pussy Ranch, and he reckoned I should write a script. This went on for about a year, until I finally sat down one day, and Juno popped out. I’d had loads and loads of ideas for books, but this story just came out of nowhere, and it seemed to write itself. It was an incredibly easy script to write.” And one that soon became the toast of Hollywood, with seasoned directors falling over one another in the hope of being the one to bring it to the screen. In the end, it fell to the young Jason Reitman, the son of noted director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Stripes) who had just made his feature debut with 2005’s sweetly dark satire Thank You For Smoking.
“You’ve got to understand, I’m a pessimist,” says Cody, who’s just filed for divorce from a husband she met through the internet four years ago, and married in 2004 shortly after she moved in with him “to live in sin” in Minnesota. “So, firstly, I didn’t think I could write a script. And when I did, I didn’t think anyone would be interested – I’m a first-time writer, after all. Thirdly, I didn’t think that, even with someone happy to take a shot at making it into a movie, I’d be that lucky that the right director and the right cast would turn up. But they did…” Indeed they did, J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney rounding out a wonderful ensemble cast as Juno’s understanding if understandably gruff parents.
That Juno has become The Little Film That Could – or this year’s Little Miss Sunshine, as some critics have dubbed it – has meant that its writer has become something of a star, appearing recently on Oprah alongside some of the films cast and, eh, her parents. From ex-stripper to A-lister, seemingly overnight.“That’s when I decided the world had gone completely upside down,” nods Cody. “What am I doing on Oprah? With my parents? Have I just invented the cure for cancer? Have I found Osama bin Laden?”
With the Oscar nominations (Reitman is up for Best Director, and there’s also the little matter of a Best Picture nod), Juno is bound to do well as it begins its release outside the US, where it’s already become Fox Searchlights biggest-grossing film (outperforming previous holder, Sideways). And that will mean Diablo Cody will be once again held up to the light by the media. Hey, she’s got it all – a sexy past, a hit movie, and a bright future…“If I could just throw in some lesbian action, and a lost puppy, I might just make the cover of every magazine in America,” she laughs, “if not the world. I’ve decided it’s time to step back from the limelight a little, because even I’m beginning to get sick of the incredible Diablo Cody story.” Step back from the limelight? With the chance of an Oscar win or two on the big night, isn’t this the time when nominees traditionally sprint onto each and every single TV chatshow that will take em? “I hadn’t thought of that. Hell, I might just have to wait until after Oscar night to go lie down in a darkened room then…”