Italian-born Canadian director and photographer Floria Sigismondi is best known for her gothic, jittery music videos for the likes of Marilyn Manson, Interpol, The White Stripes and Christina Aguilera. Now she’s taking on the world’s first all-girl rock band for her feature-film debut.
The Runaways is a coming-of-age movie set in Hollywood’s glam-rock era. Charting the rise of the eponymous ’70s band, it stars Dakota Fanning as David Bowie-idolising lead singer Cherie Currie and Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as androgynous punk guitarist Joan Jett.
Why did you choose this as your first feature?
I’ve been flirting with films for years, but it just felt as though this was the one. Being a fan of the band and that era in music definitely drew me to it, as well as the story between these two young girls at that volatile time when they’re reaching puberty.
It’s a darker look at coming of age than most teen films.
Possibly. I looked at some films for reference and I didn’t find that many that I was drawn to, except maybe Christiane F [a 1981 film about a 14-year-old drug addict in Berlin]. But, yeah, the Runaway girls had it hard, for sure.
What drew you to the era?
It was a time where you had to create your own identity because nothing was readily available. All these great little underground scenes were happening: you had glam rock; you had punk rock; you had disco. And
if you wanted to join one of those scenes, you had to physically make your own look.
You appear to have changed your style to suit the story.
I was more interested in the characters and the story than dropping in some of the themes from my music promos. I wanted to keep this film very simple, gritty, raw and very naturalistic. I called on the characteristics of ’70s filmmaking, anything from Straw Dogs to Klute, where the camerawork is quite simple but beautifully composed.
Did you feel under pressure because Joan Jett was so closely connected to the project and on set every day?
I’m sure it was quite surreal for her but, for me, it gave the film more credibility. She would’ve spoken up if anything was wrong, but she was very supportive.
Did you always have Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning in mind for the main roles?
I always had Kristen in mind. When I met her she had this darkness about her – she was a little tough, but vulnerable at the same time. We signed her the day Twilight opened. Dakota was too young – she was only 12 or 13 when I was starting to think about the film – but when she came of age she wanted to do it.
Why did you decide to focus more on Cherie’s experiences?
The producers had optioned Cherie’s book, Neon Angel, so I got a lot of information from that. She was able to reflect on that time and go into a lot of detail because the band was just 13 months of her life, whereas Joan hasn’t stopped touring since she was 15, so I had to interview her to get her side of the story. But I decided to make the film about the two of them and how they came together with different dreams, but went their separate ways.
Was it strange to see them relive those memories on set?
Sometimes it felt like time stood still, that it was just like the good old days. I wanted to capture that in the film: that even though their worlds now have nothing to do with each other, there’s something still warm about their relationship.
The Runaways is in UAE cinemas now.