Kenny Laguna: I have the queen of rock and roll here for you. (Laughs.) That was easy, right?
Ha. Sure. Hi Joan. So how did you feel the first time you saw the film and saw someone else playing you?
I'm not so sure I can actually describe it. I was on set every day, watching a monitor, so it wasn't as shocking to me as if I had never seen it. But I was watching Kristen [Stewart, who plays Jett] be me everyday. I was hanging out with her and was around her as she was in character, so I don't think it was such a jolt when I finally saw it, because I was a little bit prepared. I was very impressed. She embodied me as much as possible.
What kind of direction did you give Kristen?
When you're you, it's kind of hard to direct someone how to be you. She had her own methods. I could tell that she was really watching me, really listening to me.
As far as direction, I just wanted her to feel free enough and close enough to me that she could ask me whatever she wanted. We did talk a lot and she would have various questions whether it was about an accent or about something The Runaways went through. I thought we were a lot a like, energetically and the way she is. And I thought there was a lot she did just naturally.
So I told her, 'Listen, just relax into it and be assured that if there is something that is way off base, I'm going to come to you and mention it, but I want you to relax and follow your instincts. And whatever you think I might do, or whatever you would do, just do it.' She needed to be able to relax and not think I was judging her on every movement. And I wasn't. I just tried to stay out of the way, really.
You've been approached about doing movies about The Runaways before. What made this one something you wanted to be involved in?
I never really wanted to do a film about The Runaways. I figured they would only screw it up. I really was not looking to do this. The Edgeplay thing [a documentary released in 2004] I didn't want to be involved with, because it was sort of a Jerry Springer take on The Runaways.
Once they got to the point of River Road being involved. I had to make a decision, because it looked like it was going to be real. So I had to kind of decide, 'Are you going to give it a shot and try to be involved, or let it go?' I decided that with that level of commitment, I wanted to give it a shot and hope the rock 'n' roll gods were on my side.
Well, they clearly were. The film is fantastic.
Did the movie make you nostalgic for that era?
Oh, I've always been nostalgic for that period in time! People always like to reminisce about their teenage years, but I have to say, it was an incredible
time. Every day was so full, and the reality was so much more extreme, on every level, than what the movie was. So that can only give you a taste of what it was like. It was like that, but 10 times better!
Lots of other people in the band went through pretty hard times after The Runaways broke up. What kept you going?
I was pretty driven. But after The Runaways broke up, I felt very defeated. And I was very depressed and cynical and I thought that what I thought was true—that if you work hard and you're a good person, good things will come to you—just those ideas about life were pretty shattered.
I was very lucky in meeting someone like Kenny Laguna. I think what you need is someone to believe in you. So I'm very blessed that Kenny came into my life. We met to write songs, and then I asked him to produce the songs that we wrote together, because he was a producer, and it moved forward. Then when nobody wanted to deal with me on any level, no management, no nothing, Kenny figured he could take on that job and get me record deals and stuff.
And he ran into the same troubles that The Runaways did and that I did on my own, and I think he was kind of shocked how people put up so many walls, for no reason, for seemingly no reason at all—because I was a girl, because I was a punk, because I wore leather. There were so many excuses that it was quite shocking for him. So it became sort of a mission. It became the principal. And so we started fighting together. I think that is really what helped me to build on what The Runaways had been.
Do you think it's still hard for women to make it on their own terms in the music industry?
I think they are definitely still having to fight, but there is much more visibility for women who are on these missions. There are girls and women playing guitars and drums and bass in every city in America. They're out there. You don't necessarily see a lot of it. I think they still have to fight to get recognition or to be taken seriously. I think sometimes when you come from a pop perspective, it's a little bit easier, because somehow that's not threatening. But when you pick up a guitar, or you're playing the drums, that threat comes in. It's a struggle, but the more girls that do it, the more they'll find support, I'm sure of it.
Did you ever want to do another all-female band?
No. Definitely not, certainly not right away because I knew there would be comparisons. And The Runaways were so special to me that I didn't want to do another one and take away the specialness of what it had been. So I purposely went in the complete other direction looking for guys to be in the Blackhearts. You know, but if I was going to start another band now, I certainly wouldn't put up those kind of restrictions now, because I wouldn't feel funny about it.
All images are from the book Joan Jett (AMMO Books, March 2010). Images 1, 3, 6, 7, 8: © 2010 ammobooks.com. Images 2, 4, 9, 10: © Brad Elterman. Image 5: © Bob Gruen/bobgruen.com.