There is a tornado in the room but Diablo Cody doesn’t notice. While a hairstylist buzzes around her, clothing stylists lay out a spread of dresses and jewelry, and various people, including a movie studio representative and photography assistants, run in and out of the room, Cody juggles three conversations, all without turning her head away from the makeup artist. She discusses ideas with the photographer, talks about a tattoo on the clothing stylist’s foot, and, from across the room, she overhears someone use the word reportage. “That’s a good word,” she says to no one in particular.
Cody is a word person. She grew up a punk rock girl in Chicago and started her writing career blogging about her days as a Minneapolis stripper, a gig that led to a book deal for her memoir, Candy Girl. She wrote the script for the breakout movie Juno, a screenplay loaded with the quirky phrases that have become her style, and won an Oscar. Fans loved her for being an unknown and outspoken tattooed woman from the Midwest who conquered Hollywood, a city overflowing with would-be screenwriters huddled in workshops. Critics derided her for the same reasons. Cody didn’t notice. She stuck to the words. She created the Showtime series United States of Tara with Steven Spielberg and wrote Jennifer’s Body, a horror film about a teenage cannibal, played by Megan Fox, that hits theaters this month.
As she lounged on a couch in an L.A. photo studio, Cody, 31, talked tattoos, the dark side of Bono, partying at the Playboy Mansion, and why she’s finally adding a new entry to her word list: no.
INKED: Tell us about Jennifer’s Body.
DIABLO CODY: I don’t know what could be more appealing than a movie in which Megan Fox plays a teenage cannibal who preys exclusively on boys. [Laughs.] It was an idea I had after I wrote Juno but before Juno was made. I was feeling experimental and I felt like writing a horror movie. I grew up on horror movies, especially those classic ’80s horror movies with teenagers in peril, adults who don’t listen, women who are either incredibly heroic or incredibly sexy or both. You’ll notice that the last person standing in a horror movie is typically female, which is an interesting part of the genre. I didn’t want to write a modern horror movie. I wanted to write a classic horror movie. I wanted the whole vibe to be 1983, and I think we pulled that off.
Why a cheerleader instead of a cannibal goth girl?
She’s actually not a cheerleader. That’s a misunderstanding. She’s on the flag team. If you’ve ever been in high school you know there’s a distinction. Honestly, I think Jennifer is the kind of girl who knows that she looks good in the skirt. She wants an opportunity to be front and center. The other girls are like her backup dancers.
We’ve heard that she is possessed.
I don’t want to give away the whole plot to your readers, but she is possessed by a demon and there is a villainous rock band in the film.
Is that idea of the evils of rock music a reflection of your Catholic upbringing?
That’s interesting because all of the action takes place in this kind of Minnesota Lutheran town. Those are the kinds of people who make you burn your Kiss records. But, really, I was inspired by these earnest, cheesy eyeliner emo bands out there. They come off as so cuddly and sensitive. What if one of those bands was secretly totally fucking evil?
How much Slayer did you listen to while writing this?
The funny thing is I was listening to stuff like U2 and Coldplay. Everybody looks for the dark influences with a band like Gwar, but nobody thinks to look for the dark influences in somebody like Bono.
Were you forced to tone down any of the gore in the film?
In the first draft of the script I wanted somebody to be completely disemboweled. I wanted to see the intestines strewn about the forest like party streamers. I think I even used that exact phrase. It didn’t make it. I think people thought the party streamers comparison took it too far.
Why a cannibal? Are zombies and vampires over?
No. Vampires are very much in style right now. Look at Twilight. For me, it was the blatant symbolism of a female cannibal. Ever since Hall & Oates wrote “Maneater” we’ve had this idea of a beautiful woman preying on the souls of men. I wanted to do a literal version of that.