After reviewing the punk rock biopic The Runaways
this past week, I caught up with the lady at the center of it all: Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie
, whose book Neon Angel
inspired the film. Though I didn't think actress Dakota Fanning did Currie justice, I had Cherie herself weigh in with her thoughts on the film, the production, and her post-rock-star life.
Willamette Week: Would you say you've been doing more interviews in the past few months than even back in your Runaways days?
Cherie Currie: Oh for crying out loud, yeah.
How many times have you seen the movie?
Probably 10 times, give or take.
I've heard you've had a pretty positive reaction to it. Did that change with each viewing?
Every time I see it I like it better. My first reaction was “Oh my God, these actors are incredible.” And Dakota. She is just…Dakota [Fanning] and Kristen [Stewart] and Michael Shannon are incredible in this movie. But of course since I lived it and they took it from my book…they took creative liberties that I didn't quite understand. I was of course a little defensive, I was thinking, “Oh, the real story isn't good enough?”
They didn't want to include the part in your book where you had been raped before joining The Runaways?
They didn't want me to lose my innocence too early on in the film. There are reasons why people do things, and I thought that was very vague. The bottom line is the [movie] scratches the surface and the book tells the real things. There are things that happened in The Runaways that would blow people's minds. So I'm just so happy that I got the book.
I know Joan was a co-producer for the film. Did you two confer on the set, like, “They're doing this right and this wrong”?
Oh, sure. When I was on the set at times when Joan was not in town, I was on the phone with her constantly, letting her know what was going on. Joan was there every single day that she was in town. She took her position of executive producer very seriously. There were things that needed to be changed to make it authentic for the '70s and what we had been through. They didn't really want me on the set. [Producers] John and Art [Linson] made it really clear that they didn't want me there, less is more, sure I could come once in a while…but it was Dakota that wanted me there and I was there for her. Joan and I both did the very best we could.
Having worked so closely with Dakota, who is experiencing fame at a similar age as you did, do you feel the pressures of fame have changed since the '70s, or the way young people are introduced to fame?
It's completely different. In the '70s the only fame you saw for teenagers were kids you saw in sitcoms, there were some teen idols. It was very different…I mean there were drugs, it was crazy back then! Now there are laws that protect young people, thank God. To me it's night and day.
Did you and Joan give Dakota and Kristen any advice?
Of course. And I think my favorite time was when Dakota came to my house and we sang the lines back and forth to every single song…and ate peanut butter-filled pretzels…to me that was the most fun, and teaching her the mic move for “Cherry Bomb.” She was better than me.
Are you currently into any of the modern girl rock movements, any bands that were born from what The Runaways started?
You know, I have to be honest, I listen to a lot of news radio, I don't really listen to music that much. I listen to my son, my son writes and produces great music, he's actually going to be onstage with me this summer. I don't listen to much music unless it's classic rock.
Most recently you've been into chainsaw art carving…tell me about this, how did you find this? What is it?
Chainsaw carvers, is what they call themselves. You take a log and you take a chainsaw and you make mermaids and dolphins and humans, and the typical bears of course. For me, it was back in 2001, I was a relief carver, which is two-dimensional basically. Some people use chisels…I need the fastest machine to remove wood because I have no patience. I was driving to the beach one day over to Malibu, and I saw a couple of guys chainsaw carving at the side of the road. And I didn't stop, but I couldn't get it out of my head, you know the voice in your head that tells you to turn left, turn right, saves your life every day? That voice, and I circled back, and I walked into their gallery and saw these mermaids, and beautiful, detailed, gorgeous pieces of art, and that voice just said, “You can do this.” And I talked to the owner, Rio. Beautiful guy. And I started the next day.
In your book, you depict a scene where your producer Kim Fowley has sex with a young girl in front of the band. Do you wish they would have included a scene like that in the film?
Yeah. Absolutely. I would have loved for them to [show] what happened to us in Europe as well. We were arrested in Europe, thrown in jail for possession of hotel room keys of all things…and at that time the punk movement had happened and it was very violent over there, and they tried to turn our car over, with us in it, and we ended up running over a fan. It was horrible, it was frightening crazy stuff that went on, of course [it] wasn't in the film.
Do you think with Hollywood films, they would rather have a simpler story thread?
I think it had to do with the budget, and what they could do, it was not a huge budget film. It was Floria Sigismondi's first script as well. I lived it, so I see an epic. And I won
the talent show, dammit to hell.