In 1975, Joan Jett, a Los Angeles teenager with punk rock in her blood, became the heart and soul of the seminal all girl band, The Runaways. The legendary group paved the way for future generations of female musicians.
Taking a break from her role as Bella on the Twilight Saga franchise, Kristen Stewart is continuing to tackle challenging roles, as she does with her portrayal of Joan Jett. The movie spotlights the love-hate relationship between Joan and the group’s lead singer, Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) on and off stage, that was fueled by the decadent lifestyle the group experienced on the road with sex, drugs and alcohol, which culminated in The Runaways’ break up just three years and five albums later.
I spoke with Kristen about this new role and her relationship with the real Joan Jett.
Can you talk about working with Joan? Was it hard to capture her essence, she’s bigger than life it seems.
She is bigger than life. That’s true and you get that from both Cherie and Joan. I don’t know if it’s because I know them well, but you look at pictures and footage and it’s like, ‘Gosh, I’m sure it’s because I know them and I know their dynamic, I can see what’s going on in these pictures. Whereas, before, they may have just looked really cool. They just looked awesome.
This is the most important time of Joan’s life. She’s got a huge fanbase and she’s like the Godmother of rock ‘n roll, literally, she was the first woman to start her own record label. She’s a daunting figure to play. Then, you know her and you’re like, ‘Wow, you’re so full of weird, little tics’. I’ve got tics but they’re all different tics from hers. She’s very idiosyncratic. She’s probably one of the most rich, vivid and dynamic people I know.
Talk about your own musical tastes. I read that you didn’t know anything about The Runaways. What did you learn in terms of rock ‘n roll?
I have a pretty varied taste in music I think and it is primarily rock music; the big umbrella of what I’m into. I’m not that into hip-hop, but I like both. This was a cool experience because there are a lot of bands that Joan is really influenced by that I know that are obvious; like she’s obsessed with the Stones. She listens to (Led) Zeppelin and just loses her mind. Hey, I just abbreviated both of those bands! It was cool to get to know music that was just a little bit more obscure, like Suzy Quatro is not something that is a staple of our generation.
In terms of being able to play rock ‘n roll, I don’t know, I just really love this movie because they were the first girl band, and people don’t know that. There’s an aggression and an assertiveness that people didn’t want to see from girls then that comes through their music and, at the same time, it’s so feminine. It’s a distinct aggression. It’s not male. I love that and that’s why I think the movie is cool or should be cool.
You and Dakota have great chemistry, but was the love scene awkward at first? That’s not something we’ve seen from either of you in earlier roles.
I’ve never made out with a chick before. I mean, it was only one scene; it literally took a day. In the script it’s a really fleeting thing. It was also written very abstractly and vaguely. It was like, ‘Did they (kiss)?’ Yeah, they did. And I feel like it was that way for them too. The fact that it’s been called a love scene or (people say), ‘Tell us about your romantic involvement.’ It’s like, ‘What?’
Your guitar playing is great in this. (she grimaces). Well, it seemed to be.
I played along.
Orianthi, a modern female rock guitarist, says she is trying to really support girls who want to play guitars and rock because, even today, the prejudice is still there against them. What would you say to young women who want to rock out?
I feel like if you are filled with a compulsion (then follow it). You see Joan listen to music and she’s like, ‘I have to make that noise!’ and people want to see that. That’s why she’s so successful. Who knows why women aren’t more successful? I keep saying that rock ‘n roll is aggressive, sexually aggressive in a way. The singer is the aggressor and people don’t want to see girls in that position. They’d rather go after them. But, I feel like times have changed.
I really feel like it’s a little different now. It’s so much easier. There are way more musicians or artists that are (female) now.