Aside from The Runaways, Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart have appeared in three other projects together — two Twilight installments and the Kate Hudson-directed short Cutlass — but it’s only in the band biopic that the two finally get to show off the rapport they’ve always had in real life. Each is well-cast in The Runaways, and when Movieline spoke to Fanning and Stewart yesterday in Los Angeles, they recalled their characters both literally and subconsciously: The 16-year-old Fanning is as California wholesome as Cherie Currie with the same cool, intellectual drive, while the 19-year-old Stewart is all inchoate passion and feeling, channeling Joan Jett.
So what was it like to play two young girls on the precipice of fame when both Fanning and Stewart have been dealing with it all their life?
You both were child actors. How did you navigate potential resentment about your career, whether it came from family or friends?
DAKOTA FANNING: I don’t know how you would do that. I’m lucky — I mean, I have a sister who also acts [laughs], and she’s not really resentful of what I do. I’ve been lucky, because I think I’ve never experienced it.
But you go to high school right now—do you feel like you have to act a certain way to compensate for the fact that you’re “the famous one” at your school and people already know who you are?
FANNING: No. I think that is who I am. I have to be the same person when I’m working as I am when I’m just going to school.
KRISTEN STEWART: And if you change who you are for people who are resentful of you and want you to be a certain way—
STEWART: —they don’t have your best interests at heart. Their criticism is rooted in their resentment, so it’s like, why would you change to abide by that?
Do you think Hollywood is harder on young actresses than it is on young actors?
FANNING: I think it can be, just because girls are “supposed” to be a certain way. In this movie, girls aren’t supposed to play an electric guitar and they’re not supposed to be in a band that plays this kind of music. These girls kind of broke that stereotype a little bit, but I think there’s still some of it today, maybe.
STEWART: Yeah, they had different challenges. I mean, I think that we’re allowed to be a little more outspoken. I think in the business, it’s harder for girls, and it’s so obvious and transparent. You don’t have to be perceptive to see that girls are “supposed” to be a certain way, and if they’re not…there’s just less room for individuality for girls. At least, people will notice if you’re different, and they will talk about it. It’s weird.
Kristen, everyone talks about how you “became” Joan Jett for this role. Once you weren’t her anymore, did any of that stick with you?
STEWART: I always feel like characters change me a little bit. The roles that I play, I always take things from them, but it’s just as any other life experience that was relevant to you would change you. So not particularly, no. At the same time, this was one of the best movie experiences that I’ve ever had, so compared to other stuff that’s affected me, this is really huge.
In some ways, these girls were exploited by their producer Kim Fowley, and since you’re young actresses who are recreating those situations, there are people who will find that exploitative, too. Dakota, do you feel like this is well-worn territory after all the controversy surrounding Hounddog?
FANNING: I don’t know, I think it’s pretty different. I think that since a lot of people have seen me [onscreen] since I was young, they don’t want to see me in those kinds of situations. They think of me, still, as being in I Am Sam and six years old. That can not be fair sometimes, but I accept that and I understand it. I just have to be true to myself and what I want to do and do the work that moves me and inspires me. That’s what I’ve tried to do. In this movie, Cherie was really 15 when it all happened, so I didn’t feel like I was faking anything, you know? I mean, it’s just acting. It’s just a movie!
Everyone in the band had a different relationship with Kim, but just to say that they were exploited by him? Even if he pushed them to wear a corset, that’s what they wanted!
STEWART: With Kim, it’s funny that everyone gets from the movie that he was exploiting them. It’s something that’s talked about all the time, that somehow, he shaped them and gave them a shtick. But they were who they were! They would have been a band without them — he was their manager and gave them a lot of connections and was really eccentric and crazy, but they were really motivated. It’s hard to describe their relationship, but at least Joan had a fondness [for Kim]. They were friends, and they weren’t threatened by each other, necessarily. Everyone in the band had a different relationship with Kim, but just to say that they were exploited by him? Even if he pushed them to wear a corset, that’s what they wanted!
FANNING: Cherie found the corset herself!
FANNING: On Sunset Boulevard, she saw it in the window when she was walking with a friend. She picked it out, you know what I mean? It wasn’t like it was forced upon her by him.
STEWART: Right, it’s not like it’s [Kim saying], “Oh you’re 15, this is perfect. People will freak out when they see this!” It’s like [Cherie saying], “No, I want to wear this. This is what I’m wearing.” Then he went, “Oh, people will freak out. I’m going to capitalize on this.”
Do you think it’s condescending, then, when people think that these young girls couldn’t possibly be sexual aggressors themselves?
FANNING: Yeah, I mean, the way Cherie expressed her sexuality was to wear a corset and strut around in her underwear on stage and perform “Cherry Bomb.” She emulated David Bowie and that’s who she wanted to be and that’s how she was sexual, which is very different from Joan. Joan went a completely different way.
The paparazzi attention on this film was intense. In a way, did it help you get into character for those scenes where the Runaways are mobbed by fans?
STEWART: I think the Runaways were so new to it all when they got any fan who recognized them, or even a huge group of them in Japan. An actual photographer wanting to take their picture was such a different experience for them. I was, like, so ready and so prepped — it was like, “Twilight’s gonna be such a big deal.” I don’t want to say that I knew fully [what was to come] — actually, sort of the opposite of that — but compared to them, I was expecting it, you know what I mean?
It’s different for an actor, too. [The Runaways] accomplished something so personal, that was their own thing. Movies are a collaboration, so you can’t take so much credit. You’re not making a personal statement, but musicians are. I couldn’t relate to that feeling of overjoyed accomplishment. That was something new, that was something that I only had with this film.