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Floria Sigismondi’s ‘The Runaways’ Takes Off on Disc

19 Jul, 2010 By: Billy Gil

The Runaways Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart

Floria Sigismondi has gone from directing some of the most striking (and disturbing) music videos of the ’90s (if you don’t suffer from nightmares, Marilyn Manson’s stop-motion “The Beautiful People” is a waking one) to directing two of the biggest young stars in the world — the “Twilight” saga’s Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning — in The Runaways.

The film, which hits DVD ($27.96) and Blu-ray Disc ($34.95) July 20 from Sony Pictures, is based on the story of the ’70s all-girl teenage punk band of the same name that in four short years together helped set an example for rockers of both genders to follow, in addition to launching successful solo careers for band members Joan Jett (played by Stewart) and Lita Ford. But their story is marred by the typical trappings that have crushed so many artists before and since — drug abuse, interband issues (Stewart and Fanning, who plays singer Cherie Currie, share a kiss in the film) and a domineering manager (Kim Fowley, played by Michael Shannon) who takes advantage of the girls’ youth and beauty.

The film’s DVD and Blu-ray include a commentary with Jett, Fanning and Stewart, as well as a making-of featurette. Sigismondi spoke to us about recreating the story of the Runaways.

HM: Coincidentally, I heard The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” in the car yesterday, and I was wondering what was more important to you in making this film, getting the details correct or the energy?

Sigismondi: I think both. We'd done some live performances (Stewart and Fanning perform in the film), and I really wanted to capture the energy they had onstage. For me it was more important to get the dynamics between Cherie and Joan, and their relationship with Kim.

HM: Can you talk a little bit about the special features on the DVD? How did the girls respond to having one of the real-life inspirations for the film, Joan Jett, around? (Jett was an executive producer of the film.)

Sigismondi: She was pretty quiet, she observed a lot. It really kind of helped Kristen. We didn't have a lot of tech time, so they didn't have a lot of time to spend together beforehand. All that time she spent on set, I think that Kristen gobbled it up, really became a sponge and got her mannerisms because of the time she spent on set. It was Joan Jett now and not Joan Jett when she was 15, but [Stewart got] her attitude. I think [Stewart] really did a great job in getting the swagger down, she holds her body in a very particular way. All that physicality really helps.

HM: Have you experienced a lot of interest for the DVD of this film as its being released around the same time as Eclipse?

Sigismondi: I don't think anybody knew it was in theaters, is the bigger problem. I think maybe, I think there's always the chance to talk about it. I hear it. I don't have a television, but I've heard they've been talking about The Runaways along with Eclipse, and I think that both girls are proud of what they did.

HM: Do you think young Twilighters who may be drawn to this film could learn something from it?

Sigismondi: It’s a different time. Hopefully what it does is inspire girls to follow their dreams. Joan's story is very much that she just keeps on doing what she's meant to do. It's a little bit different than what here initial dream was, to go forth with an all-girl band, and she's still rocking out today. I think that's quite a heroic thing to do, to keep on going. With any pioneer, there's always conflict, and the ones that win are the ones who keep on going. And for Cherie's side, she's really trying to find herself, kind of bouncing around, trying to figure that out.

HM: What were some of your filmic inspirations for this movie?

Sigismondi: I looked at Christiane F. (based on the true story of a teenage girl’s introduction into the drug-laced underworld of 1970s Berlin, released on DVD in 2001 by Image). That film just had a reality I wanted to inject into this, a texture and attention to details. Although it's a different film, I loved Sid and Nancy. I watched anything from Klute to Straw Dogs, the whole ’70s thing.

HM: One movie I was reminded of was Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains. Did you consider that an inspiration at all?

Sigismondi: I have such a bad copy of it. It's on VHS, and half of it is all smeared. But I did like it, and I guess the similarities are kind of girls rocking out and doing their thing and guys giving them a hard time, but it's not one of the films I was really drawn to — maybe just because of my bad VHS copy!

HM: What did you bring from your music video experience to making this film?

Sigismondi: Because I've worked with musicians most of my life, it was very important to have the girls look very authentic on stage and having the girls singe their own songs. For me it was getting the girls to feel like musicians.

HM: Being a music-oriented film, do you think The Runaways benefits from being on Blu-ray?

Sigismondi: Yes. I did a transfer for theaters and a separate transfer for the DVD [and Blu-ray Disc]. I really had the time to experiment when I got there, I knew what I wanted to do. Hopefully the Blu-ray will capture the quality I saw in that transfer.

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