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March 2010
THE RUNAWAYS | An Interview with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning

An Interview with Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning

By Max Evry

March 18, 2010

In the relatively short span from 1975 to 1979, the all-girl teenaged rock band The Runaways managed to burn their mark onto pop music while at the same time creating a powerful image of female power and independence. Best known for their hit single “Cherry Bomb” (“Hello Daddy, hello Mom, I'm your ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb!”), the line-up included future solo artists Joan Jett and Lita Ford, along with lead singer Cherrie Curie. All members of the band were around 16-years of age, and sparked a great deal of controversy with their “jailbait” image and wild stage presence. After signing to Mercury records the group found success both here and abroad, but a mixture of drugs, booze, and the typical creative/personal differences between band members and their manager, Kim Fowley, led to their eventual dissolution.

Now a new film titled, appropriately enough, “The Runaways” seeks to tell their story with the modern perspective of them as rebellious trendsetters and feminist icons. “Twilight” star Kristen Stewart portrays Jett with fierce ambition and attitude-to-burn, while Dakota Fanning plays Cherie as a shy girl with a wild streak inside just waiting to be unleashed. The two former child actresses sat down with us to discuss the film and the burden of playing such pop icons.

  What surprised you the most in terms of what a rock band goes through?

DAKOTA FANNING: My first taste of that was being thrown into the recording studio to sing the songs, and I haven’t re-recorded them to this day. Those are how they are and what is in the movie and the soundtrack. That’s kinda how The Runaways were back then, they just did it one or two times and that was it.

Kristen, you’ve been a guitarist for awhile. What were some things that carried over from the movie to when you play now?

KRISTEN STEWART: Its definitely got me playing more guitar. When I play music it’s nothing like Joan’s. She’s a rhythm guitar player, I’m like a weird, picky, manic… I play so differently from her. I was really lucky that I play guitar ‘cause I had such a small period of time to learn the songs and she has a very distinct way that she plays. Luckily I didn’t have to learn to make it sound right… when you hear guitar in the movie it’s actually Joan playing. I had to learn the songs so I could look like it.

What cues did you learn from your real-life counterparts?

FANNING: They were really involved in helping us as much as they wanted to help us. Playing a real person is the most daunting task, especially with Cherie actually being there, and meeting her and talking with her about these experiences was more than helpful.

STEWART: There were things that we would never know that we wouldn’t be able to put in the movie that would be lost that were very important to them, just details. Photos and footage and a book that is a subjective retelling of the story. Her book is definitely her side of it. It was nice to hear Joan’s because it was very different and there’s a million things that would have been wrong if they weren’t there to correct us.

FANNING: I was definitely looking at the way Cherie was. Cherie onstage and offstage is very different, so I wanted to make sure there was a difference. Onstage she emulated David Bowie and was bigger-than-life and had so much confidence, but in real life she’s very vulnerable. There’s an innocence about her.

There’s such a palpable energy to the movie, it’s like being locked in a room for two hours with these people. Since you inhabited them all the time did any of that rock ‘n roll energy rub off on you once filming was done?

FANNING: They became friends. I still see Cherie a lot, and she has such a big personality. Things in my life I go back to them, I relate to them ‘cause it’s such an important experience for me. I pretend that I’m still doing the movie and I’m still playing her. (laughs)

STEWART: I had to do a bunch of press. I went to Comic Con right in the middle of shooting. I was so not ready for that. I was in a completely different headspace and I think it definitely showed.

  That might be why I asked the question. I remember at Comic Con you still had the hair dyed, that posture, you seemed to still be in that world.

STEWART: I know, I was doing this all the time. (hunches) Yeah, very perceptive.
Was there ever any challenge of “getting it right” in terms of capturing the real-life people you were portraying?

STEWART: Yeah, that was the whole thing. They have very distinct styles. They’re performers, and I’m not a performer so that was a new thing for me. When I first started watching videos of Joan doing these songs she was so full of something that nobody could try to emulate. There are certain videos when you get lucky and see her staring into that camera, and you’re like, “never gonna be able to do that.” That was the hugest thing for us. For Joan it’s all about the music. Even if the movie’s storyline completely fell short and she was disappointed by it, if the music was great she would still be like, “good, at least people will be able to hear The Runaways.”

How does portraying a performer up there on the stage, receiving all that adulation, compare with your own experiences with rabid fans?

FANNING: I think it’s hard comparing an actor with someone in music. I think it’s really different, especially me just playing a musician. It’s a different energy than someone actually screaming and cheering for you personally. Also, fans of actors are usually fans of the characters you’ve played, and they see you as that character, as opposed to a musician where they love YOU and how you project yourself onto other people. An actor projects their characters onto other people.

STEWART: Musicians make statements. They’re there to be themselves. They’re more public figures than actors… she said it already.

How do you feel about your fans?

FANNING: Yeah, you have to have your fans to support your films, and that’s so wonderful when someone is moved or inspired by what you do. That’s why I do what I do. If you can help someone out there and they become a fan then that’s amazing.

STEWART: To share what you love with other people, there’s nothing more gratifying. It’s weird when people come up and say, “oh, I saw this random movie…” that in my head nobody saw, but they liked it. It’s a cool feeling. There’s actually nothing like it.


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