On backlash, motherhood, Hollywood, reboots, queer subtext and man-eating demon banshees.
"You're totally Jell-O. You're lime green Jell-O and you can't even admit it to yourself," Jennifer Check informs her plain jane best friend, Needy Lesnicki, in Jennifer's Body. The line is quintessential Diablo Cody -- a stylized bit of dialogue that is as campy as it is clever -- but would also come to describe reactions to the movie itself.
Critics may not have been jealous, per se, but they certainly had a chip on their shoulder when Jennifer's Body was released in September 2009. The movie, about a cheerleader who is sacrificed by a devil-worshipping rock band, only for the ritual to backfire and leave her possessed by a man-eating demon, was absolutely eviscerated, the ire most pointedly directed at Cody (who won her Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Juno the year prior) and star Megan Fox.
But that was 10 years ago, and in the decade since, Jennifer's Body has amassed a devoted following who finally understand it as the subversive, darkly funny, feminist horror movie Cody always meant it to be. Once reviled, the movie is now lauded as ahead of its time and an icon of the genre. To mark the anniversary, ET brought the screenwriter and actress -- who hadn't seen each other in the better part of that decade -- together to interview each other about their occult cult classic.
What ensued was a freewheeling and especially candid conversation about backlash and feeling misunderstood, Hollywood, motherhood, reboots and remakes, queer subtext, man-eating demon banshees, and the lasting legacy of Jennifer's Body.
MEGAN FOX: Something that people ask me about a lot and I don't ever have the answers for is the inception of this project. I have a specific question of my own, but just in general, for you, how did it start? And how did I get involved in this movie? And Amanda? And everyone else?
DIABLO CODY: My entire life, I had dreamed of writing a horror movie. I'm a huge horror fan. You know, at the time that I wrote Jennifer's Body, I'd only done one feature at that point -- I had written Juno, which is not a horror movie unless you think that unwanted pregnancy is a horror, which I guess it kind of is.
FOX: I know a few of those people.
CODY: [Laughs] For me, it was just the fulfillment of a dream. And Juno had been a successful movie, so coming off of that I was sort of given carte blanche to write anything that I wanted -- and it's very rare for a screenwriter to have that kind of freedom and indeed, I have not enjoyed that level of creative freedom since. So, I just thought, "Alright, this is it. I'm going to write my crazy, gonzo horror movie and I want it to be female focused, I want it to be about a female friendship, and I specifically want it to be about a girl who eats boys. I want it to be about cannibalism and sex and empowerment and revenge and all that stuff." I just knew what I wanted. And so I wrote the script, and if I recall correctly, it was a very free flowing and exciting and easy process. I think I was aware of how bizarre it was. Like, right off the bat, I was like, this is not a super commercial movie. But I was lucky enough to get Karyn Kusama attached to direct, and then the big question became who is going to play Jennifer? Honestly, everybody else -- for instance, the character of Needy -- we read a lot of people and we talked to a lot of actresses. I remember sitting down with, like, Emma Stone before we realized that Amanda Seyfried was clearly perfect for the part. But Jennifer, we always knew that was you. There was no question about it. I'm sure you remember being approached early on in the process.
FOX: I don't remember too much, it was ten years ago and I was in the middle of total chaos. I got a call from my agent saying, "There's an opportunity for you to work on this movie. It was written by Diablo Cody, she wrote Juno--" Was I at the premiere of Juno?
CODY: You were and I have a photo of the two of us together and you do look like you were dragged to that premiere.
FOX: I remember I was wearing a Mötley Crüe T-shirt and I thought I was super cool at the time. I was going through [a phase], like, I'm going to be grungy and rock and I just don't have any of that in me at all. It was totally fake. So I went to that, I don't know if I was signed on to do it yet. It was in the process, I think. So we had to take a picture together on the red carpet. What's the point of that? Why did they make us do that? Why does it matter? Why would I sign on to a movie just because we walked a red carpet together? Or vice versa, why would you want me in your movie because I came to the movie premiere of Juno? One has nothing to do with the other. It's such antiquated bullsh*t.
CODY: They just loved that stuff.
FOX: They still do it! It doesn't mean anything. And then I met with Karyn and I don't know if I want to call them storyboards, but she had these... vision boards? She showed me those -- not that I was like going to sit back and be like, "I don't think this is the director for this movie." I would never say something like that. I'm going to trust that they know exactly what they're doing. But she showed me her ideas and I thought that it was amazing, and I never for a moment questioned it. I don't even think I read it all the way through. I think I read it like 30 pages in and I was like, "I really want to do this movie." I don't feel like anybody else could have done it but me, and that's such a weird--
CODY: I agree! I've said this many times. You've heard me say it.
FOX: I was in that space, I kind of was that person in a way. It was the allegory of what was going on in my life and so it was the perfect project for me at that moment. So I never questioned it.
FOX: What was it about me that made you think I could play a psychopath that devours boys?
CODY: You know what it was? I think, and this is a compliment--
FOX: [Nervously laughs] OK…
CODY: You have mystique, which particularly now in this era of social media and people being completely accessible, it's rare. Old movie stars had mystique. It was hard to imagine, for instance-- You know what, I'm not going to name names. I will just say, many of the actresses in your cohort, I could not imagine playing Jennifer. Because they did not have the sort of self-possessed, Eva Gardner-type quality that you have, and we just knew. We had seen Transformers-- You're laughing! Is that your favorite subject?
FOX: I actually don't mind talking about it anymore. I've come full circle with that.
CODY: I'm the same way with stuff.
FOX: I've been on a total journey with that and have made it back to the place where nothing that I've experience is a bad thing. It was always something that grew me in the right direction that put me where I am now. Do you hate talking about something because people associate it with you so much that like, "Ugh, I'm tired of talking about it"? Or because you had a bad experience?
CODY: Well, I have to say there was an era -- an era! I make it sound like it was 100 years ago -- but there was a time when it was painful for me to talk about Jennifer's Body, because you know. That movie was a commercial failure and I was savaged personally. It wasn't just having a professional failure. It was hard and I had written about it a lot and I had actually gone through therapy because of that experience. And now, ten years later, I genuinely love talking about it. I'm so happy to be here talking with you about it. But I think part of that is because we're being validated now. The movie has suddenly found its audience.
FOX: Did you feel like you were being savaged by critics, personally? Or you felt like other people in the industry were coming after you? Where did you feel the attack was coming from during the process?
CODY: I felt like people in the industry were defiantly coming for me. If you recall, the movie came out in the early days of Twitter-- You're not, like, a social media person. People are very careful with their tweets these days, but back then Twitter was a new social media platform and people were, like, reckless. I would search my name -- which was idiotic, I do not do that stuff anymore -- and I would see actual peers of mine, other writers and other directors making fun of me and the movie, I guess assuming I wouldn't see the tweet. But it was like, 'Oh my god. I'm being attacked from the inside.' And critics were awful.
FOX: For me, what was surprising was I felt like they didn't actually watch the movie. Like, how could they review it the way that they did after watching the movie? I do feel like obviously it was mismarketed, and I think probably you feel a lot of anger about that, right? Or you did at the time?
CODY: I still do. [Laughs]
FOX: It didn't really give it much of a chance. But it's their job to be impartial and be neutral and to watch a movie and review it that way, and that's obviously not what happened. And I don't like anything that I do, but even I, after seeing the movie, was like this is a f**king great, great movie. I expected to get sh*t on -- that's what was always happening and I figured was going to continue to happen -- but I was surprised that the movie itself was not given more respect. But year after year after year, it's growing this-- I don't know, can it even be considered a cult following at this point? I feel like it's broken through to where a lot of people are just obsessed with this movie.
CODY: They truly are. I hear more about this movie than any other project I have worked on. If I get randomly stopped in the grocery store -- which is strange enough for a writer; that doesn't happen to a lot of screenwriters so I feel very fortunate -- [but] if somebody stops me, it's always some, like, 22-year-old who wants to talk to me about Jennifer's Body. To me, that is the coolest thing in the world. It's like, I don't think you could have legally seen this movie when it came out and you found it.
"They said, 'What would you improve about this film?' And a kid wrote, 'Needs more boobs' and spelled boobs B-E-W-B-S."
FOX: Are we allowed to talk about some of the darker sides of what went on? Or are we trying to keep this light? Because I wasn't in on the audience testing and the screenings and the testing for the publicity and the marketing and all of that, what was that like? Because obviously something went in a very wrong direction. Where was that coming from?
CODY: Well the test screenings were horrible, and I believe that's because of the audiences that were recruited for the screenings.
FOX: Which were like frat boys? No offense to frat boys!
CODY: Oh, none. None whatsoever. Apparently frat boys don't like the word frat -- this is what I've heard -- so we can't offend them with our language. So, fraternity men. [Laughs] The studio had a strong, unshakable belief that this movie needed to be marketed to young men, specifically.
FOX: Which came because of me, I'm assuming.
CODY: Yes, exactly. I got a very memorable email from a marketing person at the studio once, where I had sent him this articulate defense of the movie and here is how it should be marketed and said, "What specifically are you thinking?" And he wrote back: "Megan Fox hot." Three words. In terms of what is the value of this film. So that should give you an idea of where they were going with it.
FOX: I was talking to somebody -- I can't remember who it was -- but somebody was mentioning at a test screening or you had a test group and somebody was like, "It needs more boobs."
CODY: I still have the card! So, there was a test screening and they said, "What would you improve about this film?" And a kid wrote, "Needs more boobs" and spelled boobs B-E-W-B-S. And that was the data that was collected and taken seriously by the people who were marketing the movie. I feel like it's kind of a cliché as a creator or a writer to complain about marketing -- I can't put the blame on other people -- but at the same time, I'm just-- The movie was just not marketed properly.
FOX: Do you remember the fiasco where they basically stole-- What poster did they steal?
CODY: True Blood.
FOX: Why did that happen? They stole the True Blood [poster] but put my mouth on the poster and thought that that was going to be OK. Even though the internet existed, they thought no one would know.
CODY: I think the very first piece of publicity that the movie got was that we had ripped off the True Blood poster, so things got off to a sh*tty start. I am not a performer and I feel like it must be a tremendous amount of pressure to be centered on this poster or to be the face of the film and people are savaging it. Not to get too heavy, but was it difficult for you? Or are you thicker skinned because of the profession that you are in?
FOX: No, I'm actually incredibly sensitive and that was at the height of-- There was so much going on with me at that time that that movie being picked apart wasn't at the top of my [list]. I was getting bullied from all angles. And it wasn't that that in particular wasn't hurtful -- it was -- but there was so much happening. I was dealing with a tremendous amount of negativity. And I was not on social media or anything like that, but it was just constantly in the tabloids or on celebrity blogs, like back when Perez Hilton was the website that everyone went to. Do you remember when I got photographed swimming in the lake and I was horrified, and I begged [producer] Dan Dubiecki to call Perez Hilton and not post those photos? I was just destroyed over that. I was so wrecked over that. Anyway, it was in that time, before I was getting any sort of social media feedback -- which I'm not getting now, anyway, because I don't check it -- but it was expected, I guess I would say, because I had such a fraught relationship just with the public and the media and with journalists.
I was struggling so much at that time, just in general, that this didn't stand out as a particularly painful moment. It just was a part of the mix. But it's overwhelming, and you must've been taken aback at how sexualized I was. Objectified is not the right word. It doesn't capture what was happening to me at the time. But it wasn't just that movie, it was every day of my life, all the time, with every project I worked on, with every producer I worked with, so it preceded a breaking point for me, where -- you said you had to go into therapy -- I think I had a genuine psychological breakdown, probably, where I wanted just nothing to do. I didn't want to be seen. I didn't want to have to take a photo. I didn't want to have to do a magazine. I didn't want to have to walk a carpet. I didn't want to be seen in public at all, because the fear and the belief, the absolute certainty that I believed that I was going to be mocked or spat at or someone would yell at me or people would stone me or savage me for just being out and being whatever -- I didn't look perfect, I was too fat, I was too thin, I was stupid, I was offensive, I was a waste of space, I was a bad actress, whatever -- all of the things you could think of, I anticipated experiencing that. Because my belief system was that the world wasn't going to accept me. I went through a very dark moment after that. We must have been going through it at the same time and we didn't know! It wasn't because of this in particular, but this added to it, of course. I feel like I was sort of out and in front of the Me Too movement before the Me Too movement happened. I was speaking out and saying, "Hey, these things are happening to me and they're not OK." And everyone was like, "Oh, f**k you. We don't care. You deserve it because of how you talk, because of how you look, because of how you dress, because of the jokes you make."
CODY: That's why you haven't really heard a lot from me on that subject, even though I have a lot to say. Because to be honest, I'm still terrified people will say, "Well, she was a stripper. Does she really have a right to talk about being sexually objectified or being put through sh*t in Hollywood? Because she made that choice for herself and her story is not valid." So, I'm scared.
FOX: I felt the same way. We live in this moment right now where you believe victims, but if there was ever going to one person that it was OK not to believe, it would be me. If it's ever going to be OK to shame a victim, it's going to be me. That's just the belief, because of what I have been through. And that's not to say that it's right, but it is a fear. It's the same fear that you're expressing. And not that I need to speak out so that I can have some type of healing, but just the fact that we struggle with that privately is unfortunate. Because there's not really a space-- Like, I don't feel like there's a space in feminism for me. Even though I consider myself a feminist, I feel like feminists don't want me to be a part of their group. And what are we talking about then? What is feminism? What is supporting other females if there is only certain ones of us we support? If I have to be an academic or I have to be not threatening to you in some way. Why can't I be a part of the group as well? Why do I have to be dismissed, because of what? Now especially, what did I ever do that was so provocative or so bad?
CODY: Nothing. That's why it's mystifying to me.
FOX: Especially considering all the stuff that's happened since then and what's happening on a regular basis in this country and with celebs we have [these days], I never really did anything that crazy. But I was really drug through the coals for a lot of it.
FOX: I wanted to ask you -- this kind of ties in -- when you were writing, if you had a certain archetype that inspired you for the characters? Because for me, I think I was clicking into the vibration of a character called Lilith, who you may or not--
CODY: Yes. The original woman.
FOX: The original woman, who refused to submit to Adam and so God made him a new, perfect wife from his rib. But his equal was Lilith, and she was banished to the desert for not submitting and she became a demon banshee who seduces pious, perfect men and also eats their children. And so that's the energy [I tapped into]. Because I'm very permeable and I'm very sensitive. I don't show that. I'm not stoic, that's not the right word. People think I'm standoffish, but it's usually because I have to be. I'm trying to put up a wall so I don't absorb everything you're feeling and he's feeling and this person's feeling and take it with me. And that energy was penetrating me at that time in my life and I definitely brought that to set and off set and just in general. I was living that for a minute and that made me wonder if you had somebody specific that you were inspired by.
CODY: I wish I could say yes, I was drawing from the Lilith archetype or from mythology or literature, because that would make me sound so cool and learned. What I was really basing it on was myself, because I was going through this transition in my own life. I really am in real life -- if we're going to use Jennifer's Body characters as a metaphor -- I'm a Needy. Like, I am a bookish, insecure, cowardly person. My real name is Brooke, and I had created this Diablo Cody persona to survive and get attention, which is something that I desperately needed at that point in my life, because nobody ever listened to me and suddenly when I changed my name and started doing uncharacteristic things, suddenly, for the very first time in my life, people were interested. So, I started to live that character in a really messed up way. Like, people called me Diablo, which is crazy to me -- nobody calls me that anymore. I was sort of consumed by darkness and I felt like I was in this addiction cycle with attention. You know, I've never experienced fame on your level -- nothing even remotely close -- but I was suddenly a public figure, which is unusual for a writer. And I was chasing the dragon in a way, when you get used to that level of attention and you want more of it, even though you know it's toxic and know it's not who you really are. Luckily, right after the movie came out and it flopped, I was able to pull the rip cord. It was not a coincidence that the movie came out and I got pregnant like a month later, because I was like, "I'm done." Like, I need a different identity now. This one is bad news. I'm going to be a mom. I'm going to be Brooke and I'm not going to go to red carpets and I'm not going to go to events. I did not want to be any type of public figure anymore. I just made that decision, which I do not regret. I've gotten better every day since then. But it was definitely autobiographical for me writing that movie. No one has ever actually ever asked me that, so it feels cathartic to talk about it.
FOX: Was Jennifer the projection of your alter ego, then? Needy and Jennifer were Brooke and Diablo?
CODY: Exactly, because Needy is the person who's looking around going, "This it all really messed up. This is not OK." And Jennifer's flicking the lighter on her tongue, which I love that that's become a very popular, iconic GIF that I get sent all the time. Who knew? One thing that people have asked me about recently is Me Too and the way that perhaps this film is finding more of a sympathetic audience now, because it is dealing with themes of consent, assault, male abuse of power. And one of my favorite aspects of the movie is that the villains are this rock band who are perceived as, like, really sensitive and emo. They're not like Mötley Crüe, where it's like, "Yeah, I would believe these guys would commit assault." I'm sorry, am I going to get sued for saying that? [Laughs] They're like Coldplay. I wonder has anybody mentioned that to you? Because it seems to keep coming up for me.
FOX: Recently, I realized that in filming that scene where they sacrifice me, that for me, that was really reflective of my relationship with movie studios at that point. Because I felt like that's what they were willing to do, to literally bleed me dry. They didn't care about my health, my well-being, mentally, emotionally, physically -- at all. They were willing to sacrifice me physically as long as they got what they wanted out of it, and it didn't matter how many times I spoke up and said "I'm hurting. This isn't right. I need someone to protect me. This is going on. Someone needs to listen.' It didn't matter at all. And so in that moment, they kind of were a representation of what I was dealing with that way. But a lot of people love that band, that fictional band that you created. That's become iconic on its own which is really interesting. I see people dressed as Jennifer for Halloween. I see people dressed as Adam [Brody's] character. What was Adam's character's name? It's been 10 years. I'm super sorry. And it was Low Shoulder, right? Not Cold Shoulder?
CODY: The band was supposed to be called Soft Shoulder -- like the road sign -- and there was apparently another band with that terrible name, so we weren't able to use it.
FOX: People love to hear stuff like that. Like, "It almost was and then it became this..." Anyway, my 6-year-old -- he's almost seven -- he was a zombie cheerleader [for Halloween]. He hasn't seen the movie, but my son is super creative and so he likes to design clothes and sometimes he wears dresses. He's like a little fashion designer or like a mad painter. He's like a Van Gogh, he's a crazy maniac for art. I don't know why he wanted to be a zombie cheerleader -- he came up with that on his own -- and when he chose that I said, "You know, I kind of played a character like that in a movie before." They still don't really understand what that means, that I'm in a movie but it isn't real -- because they think whatever's happening I actually experienced -- and I made the mistake -- and I don't know why I did this -- he wanted to see how she becomes a zombie. So I show him the scene in the woods where they're going to sacrifice me and he's so sensitive! He was hysterical. And he talks about it still -- it's been almost a year -- because he doesn't understand. And I was like, "Look at me! I'm right here! I'm laughing, it's OK! That's not mommy!"
CODY: "It's pretend."
FOX: "I was pretending. The way you fake cry when you want something, I was faking." But it's too much for any child to see, but also because that scene was intense for me and I forgot where I went with it. The crying and pain was genuine in that moment and I think he feels that. Obviously they're connected to us, you understand. They're connected to our energy. So he had a hard time with that. But I know that when he's a little bit older, he's going to be a big Jennifer's Body fan. And I expect to see him as Jennifer Check for Halloween at some point in the near future.
CODY: I mean, that's the coolest thing ever.
FOX: I don't know what you were thinking when you were making the movie. I never make a movie and I'm like, This is going to be iconic."
CODY: Oh no, never!
FOX: I'm never thinking that when I'm on set making a movie, so it's funny when that happens in retrospect. It ends up happening now, 10 years later, I look up and am like, "God, that was a really fun character. That was a really special movie and people are really championing it."
CODY: I was specifically pessimistic because I cared so much about the movie and because it was personal and so specific and so weird. Like, I knew the movie was not going to be successful, and I feel terrible saying that but I just thought to myself, "I did not write this to conform to any model of films that succeed. And it doesn't feel commercial, it feels indie and bizarre and that's why I love it, and I can't believe this movie is getting a wide release." Nobody was less surprised than me when the movie didn't perform.
FOX: Do you think looking back that, just for you personally, maybe that was a blessing? Because had you continued on that same trajectory of being in a vicious cycle with attention and fame, had that movie been very successful it would have propelled you even further into the ether and you may have floated away and never come back and maybe you would have never been a mother or not the kind of mother that you are now?
CODY: Yes. Yes, it is a blessing and it was also a character-building experience. It made me a better writer, because I think if everything you do is successful -- in general -- you become complacent and you start to believe your own hype. For me, especially at that time in my life, I needed to have the bubble burst. So actually it worked out. I wish it hadn't cost people, but...
FOX: But what did it cost them, really? You mean people lost money investing in the movie?
CODY: Yeah, or they lost opportunities. You think about that. That's the thing about writing a movie or a TV series is you feel like the godmother of the project in a way, you feel like there are hundreds of people depending on you for it to succeed. And I try to put that out of my mind because it's crippling, but it is a thought you have. A lot of lives are riding on this idea.
FOX: But it's also a matter of perspective, when somebody feels they've lost something in terms of that experience. I drink tea every morning and sometimes my tea has special sayings and mantras on it and one of them that I like is, "The only difference between a flower and a weed is a judgment." And that's the truth. Sometimes we look at things because we have a specific map of how we're going to get to this goal and what our future is supposed to look like and when something doesn't happen, we consider it a failure or that we've lost something and that we're suffering and the universe is against us, but the opposite is true. The universe is always conspiring on our behalf, to weave everything together for good, but you just have to shift your perspective. So at that time, I felt like I was suffering, but now, having a different outlook, having grown the way that I have grown, it made me a much better human being. I know people always that -- the adversity made me a better human being -- but it does, because it rips you. Like when you work out, you tear a muscle, but when it heals, it's stronger. And the same thing happened with me and with you, you're being torn open and it was very painful, but without that you're not going to have the same type of rapid growth. I feel like I've been six different people since the last time I've seen you, and that doesn't usually happen on its own -- there has to be an impetus, there has to be a force pushing it forward. And sometimes it's "adversity" or sometimes it's something that you view as being a negative, because you don't really grow as much when everything's positive. Like you said, when everything you do gets praised, you're going to lose your creativity to a certain degree, because sometimes the pain is the muse, or something the struggle is the muse. But sometimes the struggle is an illusion. Not to get all modern day prophet.
CODY: No, I'm loving this. Because I feel like we were expected to come in here and trade amusing and fluffy anecdotes from this film and instead we have gone so deep and I'm into it.
FOX: I think this movie deserves more than that. And you know I don't know how to do light, fluffy nonsense. And it's interesting because it seems like we were in a parallel in some way, even though we seem so different. I was feeling and going through a lot of the same things you were feeling and going through. And you say you were living a character that wasn't you and you were addicted to the character but you also didn't know how to get out of the character even though it was toxic and painful. That was absolutely what I was living at the time.
CODY: But you were being made to play that character which I think is even more traumatic, to be shoehorned into that.
"I came to see a cute movie like Juno and there's murder in this!"
FOX: I was pushed into it, but then I can't totally play a victim because I took over and I was like, "F**k it. If this is what it is, it's what it is. I'm going to do it and I'm going to do it full force." But it was not genuine and you're never going to thrive when you're being disingenuous to yourself. I think it took getting pregnant, that was the first real breakthrough where my consciousness shifted and my mind opened up and I was able to see from a bird's eye view and breathe and take it in and have a different perspective. And then another kid, and then another kid, and with every kid, I feel like that's always been the doorway into a better version of myself, because they're the mirrors that show you your shadow. You have to look at it and go, "This is who I am and I have to acknowledge that and I have to grow and I have to change it." [Laughs] I've been through a lot in 10 years. Also, I don't know if you get this? I get this all the time. People will be like, "You just don't really work that much." Journalists will be like, "It's nice to see you in a movie because you don't really work that much.' And it's like, I have given birth -- I have gestated and given birth to three children. I starred in a movie that opened worldwide, number one twice. I was on a critically-acclaimed sitcom. I f**king executive produced and created a show about archeological controversies. How much more f**king productive does a women need to f**king be? F**k you! And I'm in an industry that treats pregnancy like leprosy, so it's not like I can keep working once I'm past five months. I have to do f**king nothing! It is what it is. And that's so frustrating to me because it's like, when you're in Oscar realm or when you're in this huge blockbuster place and you're a pinup or whatever you want to call me, everything you do after that needs to be on the same level or you're failing.
CODY: Right, because you've had a moment of ubiquity.
FOX: And it doesn't work that way. How about cut us a break, especially as women who are creating life as well as working. You can't expect me to be putting out the same kind of things at the same kind of pace -- which I was never really an ambitious over-worker -- as when I was a kid and had no children and wasn't married and had a different life. For me that's really annoying and very frustrating. You start off here -- which we both did -- and if you're next project is here, which is still miles above where most people ever make it, you're still f**king up.
CODY: I knew I was f**ked from the beginning, because I won an Oscar for my first screenplay. So everybody says, "How many are you going to win?' I was like "One." Like, this is it. You really think I'm going to win another Oscar? That doesn't happen to people. People who do, like, creature makeup win, like, six Oscars. Screenwriters generally don't. Some do, I guess, like very, very talented ones. I don't consider myself on that level. I'm thrilled to have one -- I look at it every day -- but I've never been in a place where I think to myself like, "I need to sustain that level of success." Because how could you? And also I have three kids and it's a miracle that I'm here. Being able to sit here and discuss this with you is an achievement for me, because I got three kids out of the house this morning and I'm tired.
FOX: In my experience at least, being a mother is not something that's really respected in this industry. If anything, it's considered as a handicap. And that's unfortunate because it's not acknowledged, what we're juggling, what we're doing and also just the time away. Having to leave to go work all the time -- which I'm sure you do also -- it's hard when you have little kids. Even if you're staying in town but going to work or what I do, traveling far away, your mind is always somewhere else as well, because your heart is somewhere else. You're always worried about what's going on with them and the guilt of having left them and are you doing the right thing and then struggling with, What do I need to do for me, for my creativity? And who am I outside of just being a mother? Because that's not my only identity. It's very complicated and people don't give enough credit to people dealing with that, because it's not easy. It weighs on you. The same way when a fighter goes in to win a title fight, it's not a matter of just-- [Laughs] This is a bizarre comparison. I love the UFC, so this is at the top of my head. But they go in and people don't give enough credit to the fact that the pressure alone is going to drain them of a lot of their endurance and their strength. It's the mental pressure and the constant thinking that's going to weaken them throughout that process. And that's not the same thing, but my point is your mind is in a hundred different places as a mother as a writer, as a mother as an actress.
CODY: The vigilance is the most exhausting aspect of parenting. It is to me, more so than the actual physical acts of mothering. The constant vigilance, the constant awareness-- The stress is so heavy.
FOX: Nobody understands! Karyn had just had her son when we were doing the movie and she used to say, "I worry about the weirdest things." Like, "I leave him and I'm afraid that he's going to crawl and even though the windows don't open, that glass will disappear and he'll fall out of the top story of the building." And I remember thinking about that when I was young -- I obviously didn't have any kids -- but that is what it is, every room I walk into I look for everything that could possibly go wrong. If there's an earthquake, what's going to fall off the wall? If we're in a movie theater, how are we going to get out of here if an active f**king shooter comes in? It's constant and it's so draining and nobody talks about that, the preoccupation of the child's safety and get through this day and don't choke a piece of food please. Just that, just don't choke. The struggle of me having to worry about all three kids, nobody talks about it.
CODY: Yeah, no they don't, and it really is draining. Then to be able to do that and also hold down a job, especially jobs like ours that are creative and actually require us to dig deep and access something.
FOX: I remember after I had one of my sons, I had to go do re-shoots. I gave birth. They called me to do re-shoots two weeks afterwards. They were like, "Is she ready to do reshoots?" And I was like, "No. A person just came out of my vagina, I'm not ready to go do re-shoots, what are you talking about?" So they were graceful and gracious and I think I went back like four or five weeks later. And trying to negotiate being allowed to go to my trailer to breastfeed my baby was almost impossible. You know, you have to breastfeed every two and a half to three hours depending on the schedule you're breastfeeding on. Almost impossible, because they don't understand. You know what it is on set, if you take two minutes away it's like everybody's super stressed out about every moment that goes by because time is money. My point is it's a hostile environment for new mothers or any mothers in general.
CODY: I've walked around with a crew -- luckily I don't have to be on camera -- I walked around behind the camera with a pump on me, pumping, exposed, not caring because I was like, "I'm sorry if anybody is uncomfortable about this, this is happening."
FOX: You gotta get it done.
FOX: The other day I was [talking to someone] and they were like, "When you talk to Diablo, please ask her to write something for a streaming service." A lot of people have stopped me and begged for this movie to be turned into a series or a show or to be reborn somehow. I'm assuming you've been asked the same thing. What do you think about that?
CODY: Here's what interesting. Maybe five years ago, I really wanted to try and do Jennifer's Body as a TV series and there was so little interest that I couldn't even get to the pitch stage. Like, people didn't even want to hear the pitch. They said, "Why would anyone make a television show about a movie that did not succeed?" And I said, "Have you heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?" That movie was not well received and then went on to become this incredibly inspired series that was a huge hit. So I said, "This would be the exact same thing." Like, at least hear the pitch. And nobody would. Now, all of a sudden, I'm getting calls about it. People are very interested in doing something like that. I've thought about doing it for the stage. I think about it all the time, because it's beloved to me and the fact that the news of such a thing would actually be greeted with enthusiasm now.
FOX: Would there be any fear of not doing justice to the original?
CODY: Yeah, there would be some fear there. And at the same time, I do think that I feel so connected on just a really deep primal level to this project. I think I know what's right for this baby, and I don't think I would screw it up.
FOX: Could you override all the people who would try to screw it up?
CODY: That's always been my problem, actually. It's strange and I don't know if it's because of the whole Diablo thing or whatever, but I'm perceived as being assertive and I'm not. Like, I've been steamrolled so many times in this business. I'm a complete doormat, and I got steamrolled on Jennifer's Body, the movie, so I do think if I was to ever to make a series or anything like that, I would have to have total creative control and just be, like, a real bitch. And I think I'm ready.
FOX: Are you ready?!
FOX: I get asked about it all the time. I mean, I died in the movie so I don't know--
CODY: But it's magical! You could be back.
FOX: That's true. I would be back. I loved it. It's my favorite thing I've ever done.
CODY: I did not know that, and I'm happy to hear it.
FOX: Really? What would you think my favorite thing would be that I've done? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
FOX: Jonah Hex? You want to talk about a movie-- Whenever you're feeling bad about yourself, go read some Jonah Hex reviews. That'll make you feel better.
CODY: You have to get perspective, because when you're being dragged, you think you're the only person in the world being dragged.
FOX: It's the same thing when you have a pimple. You think everyone who meets you is staring at your pimple, but no one even notices. That's such a vain example, but it's the same thing I think everybody can relate to. When you have an imperfection and you're like, trying to hide it, nobody gives a sh*t. So it feels overwhelming for you because it's your whole world, but on the scheme of things--
CODY: Now that I have distance from it, I'm like, it should not have traumatized me to the degree that it did. But in the moment, you're the only person in the world with a zit.
FOX: Unless you're friends with Deepak Chopra, you're probably not going to have the right perspective going through something like that. You need somebody to help you see. But also, it's necessary, like we said. It's necessary to have to go through that stuff sometimes. [And now] I get people coming up and quoting at me all the time.
"Who gives a f**k what an 18-year-old douche thinks? Who cares?"
CODY: This doesn't really happen to me because I'm a little underground as a writer. What do people say to you?
FOX: "It smells like Thai food in here."
CODY: That's my favorite quote! OK then, I'm thrilled to hear people are quoting that.
FOX: That's one of the ones that has lived forever. I hear that one the most. I don't think I have a favorite quote, I mean that line was really fun to deliver.
CODY: And deliver it you did. You delivered like Dominoes, baby. I loved it.
FOX: There were a lot of fun things to say. You don't have a favorite thing that you wrote in the script?
CODY: I don't know if this is appreciated, but I love -- because it speaks to what you've been talking about here in terms of how women are objectified -- when Jennifer has been stabbed and says, "My tit" and Needy says, "No, your heart." To me, the audience is looking at her chest and seeing a tit and what I'm trying to show them is her heart. So for me, that was always my favorite moment.
FOX: Needy and Chip had some great moments too. Classic.
CODY: Chip's asking her if he's too big, that's good. [Laughs] She's having this moment where she's seeing this horrible vision and she starts screaming during sex, and Johnny Simmons says, "What's wrong? Am I too big?"
FOX: Johnny Simmons was brilliant in that movie. He's so good. I love him so much.
CODY: And Adam Brody. I mean, it was a great cast. It's a delightful viewing experience. Karyn, who we have not talked much about, really directed the sh*t out of that movie. When I first saw it, I was so thrilled. I left the edit. I was overwhelmed, I was in tears, and Mason, our producer, was with me, and we were both so happy. So then when the movie was screened, we were knocked for a loop.
FOX: Did they not understand that it was a comedy? Were they disappointed that it wasn't a straight horror movie? What were they upset about?
CODY: They recruited two types of people for the screening -- I'm gathering based on the data we received -- people who were huge fans of Juno, which is not the same kind of movie and many of whom were horrified and said like, "I came to see a cute movie like Juno and there's murder in this." They were not even prepared to see a horror film. And then the other part of the audience was guys who wanted to see something very specific from you.
FOX: What age group were the guys?
CODY: If I had to guess I would say they were 18 to 24? The coveted, precious white male 18 to 24 demographic was there. I do not recall seeing a lot girls there at all.
FOX: It's funny, people assume -- like they assumed -- that most of my fan base is male, and it's not true. It's young girls.
CODY: Oh, I know that from looking at Instagram and Twitter and the posts that I get sent, that it is women.
FOX: It's teenage-early twenties females, so obviously the studio misread that as well and got those people. But why give those people give any sort of creative input into how a movie should be made or not made? Why do they do that at all? Why do they do those test screenings? Who gives a f**k what an 18-year-old douche thinks? Who cares?
CODY: This is a bit of a tangent, but test screenings have gotten progressively more torturous over the years, because now we have reached an era where everyone thinks they're an expert on filmmaking because they have the Internet. So you'll have 12-year-olds in your screening like, "Um, I actually didn't think the DP was any good."
FOX: "That was the wrong lens on that shot."
CODY: Correct and it's like, "I'm leaving. Bye." Never have I received feedback that I have found useful and in fact, it's like bamboo shoots under my nails every time I have to go to one of those things. But editors have told me that they're helpful. My ego is too fragile that other than glowing praise, it's like, I'm out.
CODY: I have one more question, because I know people wonder about this: The relationship between Needy and Jennifer, at the time when the movie was released, the relationship and the chemistry between Needy and Jennifer was dismissed as totally exploitative and gratuitous and it was totally misunderstood, at least to me. It infuriated me, because I couldn't believe they thought that two feminist filmmakers, myself and Karyn Kusama, are going to exploit the relationship between two young women. Like, obviously that was not our intent. I always thought Needy was genuinely in love with Jennifer, and I was wondering if you felt the same way? Did you and Amanda discuss it on how you were going to play it?
FOX: I don't think we discussed how we were going to play it. It was funny, I feel like at that time we were both living the way our characters were living and we were kind of going through moments that we were embodying those characters. Even without having made the movie, we were already in that space, so we were that way together, as well. I think we had a similar dynamic to Needy and Jennifer off camera. Maybe Amanda experienced it differently. But I agree with you, I feel like she was in love with Jennifer, and I think teenage girls, their relationships are often so cannibalistic.
CODY: They're intense. You are feeding off your friend.
FOX: And sometimes it's intentional and sometimes it's not intentional. It's like conditioning. It's almost like a survival tactic of making sure you're the most powerful or you're the most liked or the most this, so you sort of drain the blood and the vitality out of the friend to keep the friend down so that you can shine. These are the things that I see often with teenage girls. But I did feel like there was a genuine love coming from Needy. I didn't feel that Jennifer loved her back the same way.
CODY: I don't think that Jennifer necessarily reciprocated Needy's feelings, but I do think Jennifer loved being desired by Needy. I think she got off on the attention.
FOX: It was a more manipulative version of the relationship, where Needy was more genuine and I think she would have been, like, a committed partner. I feel like Needy would have loved to take care of her.
CODY: She was in love. And I love that our queer audiences are recognizing that and celebrating it.
FOX: But obviously Jennifer would never have been a good partner.
CODY: No, Jennifer is not wife material.
FOX: No, she's not a wifey.