A pole-dancing past and a future as the brain behind Barbie do not a typical feminist make. But then again, nothing about Diablo Cody — the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “Juno” and this month’s “Ricki and The Flash” — is typical.
The daughter of a Illinois Tollway worker and a construction company office manager in nearby Lemont, Illinois, Cody — née Brook Busey — first broke the mold by leaving the Midwest. [I had] a practical, Midwestern upbringing, where the emphasis was on … finding a vocation that would keep you financially stable,” Cody says. “So to come to LA [in 2007] was a crazy experience; I was meeting people who had been raised in these totally different, permissive environments, where they were told, ‘Sure, you can win an Oscar! You can be a celebrity!’ ”
Whether she intended to or not, Cody did become a celebrity: An AP article that ran in major news outlets after her Oscar win stated, “[Cody is] dominating a tiny little niche of Hollywood stardom: the celebrity writer. Not even wordsmith heavies Paul Haggis, Wes Anderson or Charlie Kaufman have stood in a spotlight so bright.” But her celebrity, unlike that of so many others, didn’t come at the cost of losing herself.
In fact, Cody has a way of inserting bits of herself into all of her work. Sometimes it’s obvious, like in her breakout memoir, Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, which she penned in 2005 after actually dancing nights in a Minneapolis men’s club.
Other times it is less obvious, like in “Ricki,” which released August 7 and stars Meryl Streep and her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer as an aging, would-be rock star and her neglected, now-grown daughter. “[The idea] came from my own anxiety about my career and raising children,” says Cody, the mother of three young boys (her third was born just this month). “I was thinking to myself, are my kids going to be happy that I followed my dream? Or are they going to be resentful about the fact that I wasn’t always home as a result? It’s interesting, because it’s not something I see men grapple with frequently.”
As with her other films — “Juno,” “Jennifer’s Body” and “Young Adult,” most notably — “Ricki” features a female lead. “Something that’s really important to me is writing female-driven movies,” Cody says. “I want people to think about the double standards that are out there.”
Even Cody’s style breaks the mold. Accepting the best original screenplay Oscar for “Juno” in 2008 in a tattoo-baring, leopard-print dress and asymmetrical black bob, Cody made fashion waves from the very first. “I’ve always been attracted to gaudy, sparkly things,” Cody says. “I figure if you’re going to get dressed up, get dressed up. I don’t really see the point of wearing something simple and chic and elegant — this isn’t a funeral, this is Hollywood.”
So when Cody puts her pen to the upcoming live-action Barbie film, set for a 2017 release, we can expect the unexpected. Still in the very early stages of writing, the chameleon author is finding inspiration in style. “I have bright pink hair [right now],” she says. “I look in the mirror every day and I see pink and it definitely puts me in the Barbie frame of mind,” she laughs.
The most unexpected thing about Cody, though, is that for the opinionated, feminist former-stripper, confidence doesn’t come easy. “I’ve always been self-conscious,” she admits, citing both career insecurities and physical ones. But despite her (totally normal) qualms, she offers a piece of invaluable advice to women everywhere: “I’ve never been particularly confident, but at the same time I don’t believe in being a shrinking violet,” she says. “If you’re going to put yourself out there, you might as well really put yourself out there — square your shoulders and be yourself.”
And for that, we think Cody’s the perfect woman to bring Barbie to life.
Diablo Cody sings her praises for the female megastars from her films
< Ellen Page (“Juno”): “Ellen is still a very dear friend of mine; I will love her forever. She went into that movie as basically an unknown Canadian teen actress and came out of it this Oscar-nominated star — and she handled it so gracefully. I wish I had handled it as gracefully as she did.”
> Jennifer Garner (“Juno”):
“Ohmygod Jennifer is so nice. And she’s such a wonderful mom. I think she’d had her first daughter at the time [we were shooting], and I remember thinking, ‘Some day, when I’m a working mom, this is the kind of working mom I want to be.’ ”
< Megan Fox (“Jennifer’s Body”): “Megan Fox is such an enigma; it’s impossible to get to know her. I think one thing people don’t realize about her is that she’s incredibly funny and darkly brilliant; it’s easy to overlook that because her looks are so spectacular, but she’s definitely one-of-a-kind.”
> Amanda Seyfried (“Jennifer’s Body”):
“Amanda is an unbelievably funny and warm person, and so talented. I think she’s the next generation of A-list, for sure.”
< Charlize Theron (“Young Adult”): “Charlize is a force of nature; she just embodied [her character] Mavis. And she’s also a super cool person — like, you meet her and you want to be her.”
> Meryl Streep (“Ricki and The Flash”):
“When I got about halfway into [writing this script], I thought to myself, this has to be Meryl Streep. Not only does she get the movie made — which is a major consideration — but she’s perfect for Ricki. She can sing, she has that incredible vulnerability and she’s the greatest living actress.”