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Conversations with Juno's star Ellen Page and writer Diablo Cody
B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
junoback At age 29, Diablo Cody has also been nominated for her first Oscar, for Juno's original screenplay. Cody worked as a typist and a paralegal before moving to Minneapolis, where she worked as a stripper, sex phone operator and an insurance loss adjuster. She wrote a hugely popular blog about her work as a stripper, which was spotted by Hollywood producer Mason Novick (Red Eye). She eventually turned the blog into a memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. And then she went on to write the screenplay for Juno. Her next project is a cable series starring Toni Collette and produced by Steven Spielberg.

Your name is intriguing...
Cody:
It's fake! Originally I was writing about the sex industry so I wanted to have a degree of anonymity because I didn't want my friends and family knowing what sort of activities I was up to! I also wanted to protect myself from unsavoury characters. So, I came up with a name that I thought sounded very intimidating I didn't expect it to follow me through life, it was totally intended to be an online alias.

What got you writing?
Cody:
I've always written for my own edification and for fun, but I have this fear of rejection so I spent my entire life being a writer who didn't get published. For that reason, I've never received a rejection letter in my life because that terror would just grip me. I didn't even write for the school paper. So, when the internet publishing revolution came about it was perfect for me, I could write every day, put it out there and not have to worry about an editor telling me I wasn't good enough. It was very freeing. I started blogging every day, and when I started blogging about stripping and the sex industry, suddenly surprise surprise I got a huge audience! For some reason people on the internet are interested in sex who knew that? My blog traffic went through the roof and one day I got an email from this guy who said he was a big fan of my blog and he was also a producer in Hollywood and he said, "I think you should try writing a movie."

Had you thought about writing a screenplay?
Cody:
The odds of writing a screenplay and having it produced are daunting, as it's a very competitive field, and as I've said, competition doesn't appeal to me, nor does rejection. I'm very unambitious and I want to live in a bubble! So I said no. But he hounded me for a bit and I just said, "Whatever", because I had free time on my hands. I hit upon the idea for Juno. It didn't take me very long. I don't think writing movies is hard when I hear people have spent years nursing a single script I can't imagine what their day looks like! I wrote it and Mason, the producer, said, "Right, let's take it out there and see what people think." It was received very warmly from the beginning, and we were very surprised. We continue to be surprised every day. It's been a very crazy situation.

Did you set out to achieve anything in particular with Juno?
Cody:
It just kind of came along. I'm still actually proud of the fact that I knew what was going to happen I was working on an outline, which is rare for me. I was so shockingly organised! I originally wanted to write a dark comedy like Election, which is one of my favourite movies, but the surprising thing is the sweetness that emerged when I started to write it. That wasn't deliberate, it just kind of happened. Then, when Jason [Reitman, the director] came on board, it got even sweeter because he has a really big heart.

Do you think the film has a particular message?
Cody:
Any time you have the opportunity to impress your world on somebody in a major way, like with a feature film, I'm like, "Go for it." I like the way sex is treated in a matter-of-fact way, like in the scene where Juno's stepmother Bren says, "Kids get bored and they have intercourse," which is really the truth. It doesn't have to be this big politicised moral argument. The fact of the matter is: kids have hormones, you leave them alone and they're not exactly known for their self-discipline as teenagers, so what do you think is going to happen? That's why abstinence education is so absurd to me.

How have people reacted to the film?
Cody:
It's been awesome. We didn't realize what we'd made. We all love the movie, it's like loving your own kids, but when the audience loves it too that's amazing.

Are there any other provocative subjects on your mind?
Cody:
I wish there were. I miss going to the seedy underbelly of society and writing about it. The next step would probably be violent crime, but I'm scared of that. I've done stripping so what's next? Mafia? When I got the book deal I had to call my mom and tell her I'd been stripping, because she didn't know. I called and said, "I have to tell you, something major. " I told her I'd written a book and it was getting published and she was like, "Oh that's wonderful!" Then I said I have to tell you about something I did for an entire year and you're not going to be pleased. Her guesses were outrageous she thought I was a drug dealer. When I told her I'd been stripping she was like, 'No!' Drug dealing would have made her happier!

LONDON, OCT.07

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Diablo Cody and Ellen Page

Diablo Cody

Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Ellen Page in Juno
Ellen Page (centre) and Allison Janney (right), et al, in Juno

with Jason Reitman after winning the top prize at the Rome Film Festival


See also: INTERVIEW WITH ALLISON JANNEY

shadows on the wall

2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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