Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
August 15, 2012
(originally published March 15, 2010)
No, Kristen Stewart did not actually urinate on a guitar while playing Joan Jett in “The Runaways.” It just looks like it in the movie.
She did, however, sing and play guitar, and she does a pretty decent job of portraying the rock icon in one of the first prominent all-girl rock bands. Dakota Fanning fares even better as Cherie Currie, the highly sexual and very underage lead singer of the Runaways, a band that existed only in the latter half of the ‘70s but endures in rock history books, both for the band’s groundbreaking female sexuality and for spawning successful solo artists in Jett and Lita Ford.
Stewart, a notoriously uncomfortable interview subject, has done a ton of press for the film and says she’s excited for her upcoming time off. She doesn’t have any jobs laid out for her until the conclusion to the “Twilight” saga “Breaking Dawn” starts shooting in November.
By phone from her native L.A., the 19-year-old Stewart—who’s never been to Chicago and has no idea what she’d want to do if she came here—talked about getting better at interviews and the difficulty of enduring Jett’s signature leather pants.
How hard was it to become as badass as Joan Jett?
[Laughs] It’s a challenge in that she’s not that one-dimensional sort of punk rock chick. She’s really, really sensitive and delicate which is why she’s sort of that explosive as well. So when I got to know her I was so intimidated at first, and it went away sort of instantly because she was so cool and was really excited about the project. It was hard but it was something that I needed to do. She became my friend, and I had a really enormous responsibility.
For me the movie recalled a “Freaks and Geeks” episode when James Franco’s character says rock n’ roll doesn’t come from your brain, it comes from your crotch.
I mean, that’s definitely Joan’s philosophy. She’s always upset and discouraged by the fact that people don’t want to hear that from girls because that’s sort of a guy thing to be aggressive sexually. People don’t want to see it from girls ever, unless it’s in a way that’s like, “Oh, come get me.” You know what I’m saying? And that’s always really pissed her off.
What’s something that you love about leather pants?
Um, I don’t love a whole lot about leather pants. Only because I had to wear them for those five weeks. It was so hot I can’t describe it to you. And they were too thick and they had gotten wet in pre-production and they shrunk and we couldn’t make them again because we had no time or money so they were way too small for me. Luckily Joan always walked around with her pants undone. And so I was like, “Well, that’s good, ‘cause I can’t do my pants up.” One time they made me fall down. They were so tight I ate it so very badly. And luckily I was wearing leather pants ‘cause I would’ve shredded my knees. They’re not fun to wear. They’re cool but not too fun to wear.
Did you need help getting out of them?
Oh, yeah, and I had a different person help me everyday. No, I’m kidding. I’m not funny at all. No, I can take my pants off.
Why are young music fans unfamiliar with the Runaways?
I don’t really know why we don’t know about the Runaways. It trips me out. I would think that if they were the first girls to ever pick up instruments and play music with them that we would know. There are people that are really into obscure music and are into them because as soon as you start digging you find it. But if you don’t, they’re not mainstream. You don’t know. They’re not like the seminal, “They started girls rock ‘n’ roll,” and they should be because they did.
People have talked about your apparent nervousness in interviews. What makes you nervous about doing interviews or appearing in public?
[Those are] two different things that I strongly react to. It all is circumstantial too. Sometimes you’re just in a good mood or sometimes you’re overwhelmed by people’s energy because there are so many of them, and it’s such an important thing to me … to go present a movie to my industry for the first time it premieres is always sort of overwhelming. Especially when I was younger. I’ve had a lot of experience so I am getting used to it. And it’s getting easier to enjoy it too. In terms of doing interviews, I used to think that it was so impossible to define yourself in a quote and a quick soundbite for somebody, and I still feel that way definitely to a degree, I just think that if you stop trying to control everything and you just sort of relax and you just stay honest, it’s getting easier.
You were awesome on Leno. Did your experience on the Oscars make everything else pale in comparison?
[Laughs] Yeah, actually, that’s a good—considering it was so close together, and I was so sort of freaked out about the Oscars, yeah. And I had spoken to Joan before I went there and I saw her thing that she did the night before, and it was so cool to see “Cherry Bomb” on Leno. It would’ve been just as awesome to see “Bad Reputation” and “I Love Rock n’ Roll” or whatever. But to see “Cherry Bomb” on Jay Leno was just a really cool experience. I was really amped about it going into it.
What, if anything, does Joan Jett have in common with Bella Swan of “Twilight”?
[Laughs] God, I guess, hmm. They definitely both have … I guess this would apply to anybody, really, but they have a really strong, almost righteous sense of morals. Not necessarily just the conventional morals that you think of but just their own very unique set of them. They’re really innocently confident, you know what I mean?
Yeah, yeah yeah. Because Joan doesn’t even realize how confident she is. She walks into a room and she doesn’t even realize people are going to be like, “Oh my gosh.” She just is that way. And I think that even though Bella is awkward or whatever, she still is who she is, and she doesn’t even realize that she’s different necessarily.
Could someone say the same about you?
[Laughs] I don’t know. That’s exactly why I hate interviews. I have no idea. You know what I mean? I’m not sure. You’d have to know me.
In "Twilight" you're torn between a vampire and a wolf. If Dracula and the Wolfman turned up at your door, which one would you invite into your house?
I guess the wolf. If you think about it—I suppose it depends on what folklore you’re subscribing to—but they only turn when there’s a full moon. And I think Dracula might f*** you up any night.
You’ve played a lot of moody characters with deep issues. How interested are you in playing someone who’s happy?
I’m not sure. To be honest I can’t plot out my course. I have played complicated characters in the past. I’ve also played fairly uncomplicated … there’s been a few … I feel like I tried to do that in “Into the Wild,” just to play a really sort of, not mindless at all, just sort of unassuming and not very complicated. The way I choose projects to be involved with I really have to be moved to a level that I can’t be specific about. I can’t choose genres. I can’t have like an ideal project. It needs to just speak to me.
How does it feel to have a Twitter account dedicated to your butt (@kstewsbutt)?
Wow. Um, [Laughs] that’s nice. The funny thing is that I’ve always sort of been self-consciously skinny and I think that’s really funny that that’s in existence.
If it makes you feel any better that account has some 2,800 followers. The account about my butt only has 12.
[Laughs] Well, that’s cool. I don’t have a Twitter. I don’t know if you have a Twitter. You must. Even though I’ve never seen your butt, just to get yours one more [follower] I’d get a Twitter.
That’s nice of you. The movie in some ways is about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Put those in order of preference.
[Laughs] Oh, I can’t do that. It’s a family newspaper and then this will follow me forever.
That’s OK, we’ll run it anyway.
Oh, ok. Well, I mean, I guess drugs would be last on my list. And I guess second would be, um … [Laughs] Oh, god, I should not be doing this right now. [Laughs] Yeah, no, I’m not going to. [Laughs] Drugs are definitely last on the list and the other two are, you know, they’re comparable.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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