TORONTO (Reuters) - Oscar-winning writer Diablo Cody insists she is neither nerdy pushover or sexy cheerleader, as are the two main characters in her high-school horror movie “Jennifer’s Body.” But in her new Hollywood reality, she may embody a little of both.
The movie, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival late last week and debuts in theaters on September 18, is a campy flick centered on the intense bond between best friends — the mousy character Needy, portrayed by Amanda Seyfriend, and the superficial bombshell Jennifer, played by “Transformers” star Megan Fox.
But underlying the gore, jokes and high school drama, the movie speaks to female empowerment and explores the complex relationships between girlfriends.
“(Director) Karyn Kusama and I are both outspoken feminists. We wanted to subvert the classic horror model of women being terrorized,” Cody, sitting on a couch wearing skinny jeans and leopard print pumps, told Reuters.
“I want to write roles that service women. I want to tell stories from a female perspective. I want to create good parts for actresses where they’re not just accessories to men.”
Cody, 31, vaulted to stardom with 2007’s “Juno”, a story about an off-beat, pregnant teenager that earned her the Oscar award for best screenplay. She was lauded for bringing a fresh, edgy voice to Hollywood, and Cody and Juno director Jason Reitman teamed up again to produce Jennifer’s Body.
Apart from tackling the male-dominated horror genre, Cody said a key reason for writing the movie was to bring to the screen a new way of expressing the intensity of female bonds.
“The friendships that I had as an adolescent had this unparalleled intensity,” said Cody. “I wanted to show how almost horrific that devotion can be. It’s almost parasitic.”
The movie opens with this statement: “Hell is a teenage girl”, meant to reflect the horrors of puberty. But the hellish emotions felt during high school often reappear as teenage girls mature into young women.
“There’s the scene where Jennifer’s sitting alone smearing makeup on her face. I always thought that was such a sad image. She’s so vulnerable. I don’t know any woman who hasn’t had a moment sitting in front of the mirror and thinking, ‘Help me, I want to be somebody else,’” she said.
“What makes it extra affecting is that Megan is stunning.”
The story follows a night that ends in a tragic fire. Jennifer, possessed by a demon, sets out on a bloody rampage in which she devours boys, and it’s up to Needy to stop her.
“It’s a meek shall inherit the Earth sort of thing. I think it’s always really satisfying and cathartic to see a character that was previously bullied become super human,” said Cody.
Cody, whose career before writing for the big screen ranged from stripper to insurance adjuster, insists she did not exorcise any personal demons in the script. But if she had to pick one character she was more like, it would be the geek.
“I would say I was more of a Needy than a Jennifer. I was never an Alpha female, and I’ve never gotten off with bullying other people. If I had to choose, I was definitely the one being shoved, not the one shoving,” she said.
She said Jennifer is a product of a culture that pressures girls to be skinny, beautiful and just like movie stars. Yet, Cody admits that being in the spotlight has changed, her, too.
“This business (show business) has forced me to clean up,” she said. “You would’ve never have seen me in high heels, with make up on like this. I’ve gotten a bit self-conscious about my appearance.”
When asked if she’s ever made the fashion pages of celebrity magazines where culture watchers judge what you wear, Cody said yes, but there was a twist.
“You know what I have been in, which is so unfair? The ‘who wore it better.’ I’ve never worn it better,” she added.
Cody said she hopes the film inspires girls to take life into their own hands and do with it, what they want.
“If I had gone to this movie as a teenage girl I would’ve come out of it feeling totally inspired. I would’ve wanted to write, I would’ve wanted to create and I would’ve felt like I watched something that was speaking to me,” she said.
Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte