Diablo Cody, a.k.a. Brook Maurio, won an Oscar for writing “Juno” in 2007, but since her hailed debut, she's delivered more complicated, unconventional, and hair-raising movie scripts featuring women in starring roles. “Jennifer's Body” gave us Megan Fox as a zombified cheerleader; “Young Adult” offered up Charlize Theron as a jaded, sociopathically self-absorbed writer who pines for her high school boyfriend. Even 2013's “Paradise,” Cody's directorial debut starring Julianne Hough, focused on a religious woman who rebuilds her life in Las Vegas following a traumatizing accident.
Now, Cody's giving us yet another antiheroine with “Ricki and the Flash,” her new film starring Meryl Streep as a rocker and wayward mother who returns to her Midwestern roots when daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep's real-life daughter) experiences a devastating breakup. With director Jonathan Demme at the helm and a spellbinding cast (Streep, Gummer, Kevin Kline, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald, and more), “Ricki and the Flash” is a study in familial resentments and begrudging warmth.
We chatted with Cody about the new movie, out August 7. She taught us these eight lessons about the greatness of Streep, the reason she left Twitter, and the fun of her new Amazon series with Tig Notaro and producer Louis CK. (Above, watch our December 2014 video interview with Cody.)
1. She has a good theory about why her movies are often about women rebelling against quaint upbringings.
“I think maybe I have a fantasy of returning to Lemont [her Illinois hometown suburb] and just upending things. I would be even cuntier than Mavis in 'Young Adult' though. I wouldn't even try to couch it. I usually say that everything I write is about somebody going through some Cronenberg-esque transformation like pregnancy or becoming a zombie or getting older or getting burned. I don't know why. It's just a thing I constantly return to. But fucking with a quaint hometown? That's interesting. This is a coming-home story.”
2. She knows she's changed since 2007. That's how Ricki came to be.
“I have to say, I look at things differently now that I have kids. I find myself having anxiety over how my kids perceive me as they get older and I get older. That's where Ricki from. I guess my anxieties have changed. I don't know if they'll see me as a Ricki-type character, but I hope they're appreciative of the shit I've done rather than resentful. The people I know who grew up with a parent who had a cool career, they seem like they have more of an issue with it than they take pride in it.”
3. Yes, she was intimidated by Meryl Streep.
“I was really just trying not to fuck things up,” she said. “These are people who know what they're doing — like really know what they're doing. There's a level of professionalism here I'd never encountered before. I said to myself, from now on, I'm working exclusively with legends. I was just trying to sit back and watch things go down rather than having a really active role in the production where I'm changing things all the time.”
4. She had no problem picking the single actor who most impressed her with how he delivered her dialogue: Michael Cera as Paulie Bleeker in “Juno.”
“Honestly. In my whole career, yeah. That character was blandly supportive on the page, and he came in and turned it into a human being just with his delivery.”
5. Meryl is Meryl because she's more excited about moviemaking than even most newcomers.
“If I were at Meryl's level, I would be the laziest motherfucker at this point. I'd be like, 'I'm Meryl Streep, I can do what I want. I've commanded everyone's respect permanently.' That's not her. She's in the headspace of 'How can I deliver the greatest performance of my career? How much can I commit myself? How can I reinvent myself?' It's this incredible passion that's still there. It's something you see in, like, 23-year-olds.”
6. She quit Twitter because it's tiring. And not that fun.
It's pretty bad. It's turned into a total circle-jerk. I'm increasingly disinterested in having any public profile. I do this stuff because I'm obligated to promote the movie, and that's cool and I'm happy to talk about it. I just don't really want my shit out there anymore. I just want to emerge every few years with a movie. For me, I feel like I can't even be myself on social media. I miss 1999 when you had a blog and could be a total asshole. Now, like everything you say has to be perfectly worded so as not to offend anybody. It's exhausting.
7. Her new project, an Amazon series starring Tig Notaro and produced by Louis CK, is one of her easiest writing assignments.
“We wrote that script a year ago. Now it's shooting in three weeks. Finally we can talk about it. The amazing thing about working with someone like Tig is that she has this amazing voice that exists already. I didn't have to sit down and craft a character. Here's a character sitting in front of you like a gift on Christmas morning, and I get to write to that voice. For me to have somebody who's already funny and is sort of effortlessly hilarious? To write dialogue for that is very pleasurable.”
8. If you noticed that Tig Notaro has a sullen charisma similar to Charlize Theron's character in “Young Adult,” there's a reason for that.
“Sullen charisma is the exact tone we're looking for on this show. That's why Louie and Tig got in touch with me. They liked “Young Adult.” If you like Mavis, I think you'll enjoy this show. Tig is just inherently lovable, yet she has a lot of scathing observations.”