Artist Floria Sigismondi had directed a slew of notable music videos for Marilyn Manson, Christina Aguilera and the White Stripes when she was approached to write and direct The Runaways—her first screenplay and feature film. Suffice to say, she nailed it: the movie is a stunning, shocking coming of age tale full of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. We talked to Floria as she finished final edits on the film.
Since The Runaways was your first screenplay, what was the first thing you did to prepare to write it?
I did tons of research—I did interviews with all the people in the band, and found out if there were crazy fans from the time, and people who collected memorabilia. I also read hundreds of articles and interviews, which was great to read how the girls would speak in their own voices when they were 16. I immersed myself in the whole scene and what was going on in the mainstream, too, because I thought that was important. From today's perspective, we've seen it all, so that was a question—how do you show that these girls were doing things that no one else was doing?
How did you end up showing that an all-girl rock band really was groundbreaking?
I gave that point of view to Kim [Fowley, the band's producer]. He would say "There's nothing like this on the radio." And also, he talks about what the guys were doing at that time. It was all glam-rock, like they were putting lipstick on each other's, um, you know...[laughs].
Kim Fowley is often given a lot of credit for creating The Runaways. Was the band really his project?
Kim and Joan had the idea for an all-girls rock band at the same time. So when they met, the two of them went out and searched for all the girls together. I don't think it was a product of just Kim, but being the manager and the producer, he organized the auditions with all these girls.
The film really focuses on the friendship between Joan and Cherie. How did you decide to make this the center of the story?
There was already a Runaways documentary already, and I wanted this to be about the band and how they felt, and what it was like to be so young and caught up in this crazy time and a loss of innocence. And Joan and Cherie were best friends, so I gravitated to that. For me, what was important was to get the true essence of each character, to get what they were like rather than get 'Well, this happened and then that happened and then this happened again.' That doesn't work when you're doing a film about something. When do you choose to end someone's story? So with the true essence, it was "Ok, there was a truth in that, if not necessarily the physical action of it."
Was there anything visually that you wanted to bring with you from your past work?
The word that I used to describe it to every department head is "raw." Because a film about the '70s could be a little bit of a caricature, because the '70s were a time of elaborate fashion and home décor. And that's why I love it, but everything was exaggerated, big collars and prints on everything. There would be printed couches, printed carpets, printed wallpaper, another wall would be textured with wood and then the person sitting on the couch would be wearing two different prints! It could become like this cartoon, so I wanted to balance that.
What I love about the '70s is that it was a time when people were a lot more daring in their personal style, and also, you created it. Things were happening—disco was coming out and there was Farrah Fawcett and Charlie's Angels, and then punk was just coming out, but you couldn't go to a store and buy punk, you would have to make it. You had to put your own studs on your jeans, and make your own T-shirts. And in the film, the David Bowie belt-buckle, Cherie made that. The Runaways T-shirts the girls wore, I think an aunt made them. I just love that, people were really daring about their personal style and people had it. If you wore jeans, you really wore them in yourself. You really were committed.
Though this is a story about teenagers, you really didn't sugarcoat anything—it's pretty mature stuff. Were you ever worried about it being too risqué?
Well, they were in a very mature situation, but they were very young, and so it's a coming of age story about how they lose their innocence. I really wanted to get into the mind-frame of being a young girl, as you're starting to grow and people are looking at you a little bit different, but at the same time, being thrown into that rock world. These girls embraced that and wanted that, so that's what they did.
The Runaways movie is eye candy for anyone who loves platform shoes, rock
music and leather jackets. And isn't that all of us? Here, costume designer
Carol Beadle talks research, inspiration and David Bowie.
You and director Floria Sigismondi have worked together a lot, right?
We've worked together from the very beginning, and we kind of all got our big break when we did the Marilyn Manson "Beautiful People" video. It was a real collaboration of about four or five people—the art director, hair and makeup, myself and Floria as director. We created a very interesting vibe for that, and just carried it on.
Did you plan on being a costume designer?
I didn't really pay attention to the fact that there were stylists. Now, every little girl wants to be a stylist, and in 1994, I didn't even know that was a job. I wanted to design clothes. I loved it, and went to fashion design school, and just assumed that was what I would do. But within six months of graduating, I was doing costumes.
What was your first step in starting to conceptualize the costumes for The Runaways?
Research, massive, massive research, which I love. I always do lots of research for every single job, because it's super interesting. I've done a lot of period projects, and I also kind of grew up with this. My older brother and sister were in a band. My parents were also really into music, and so from an early age, I was just bombarded with pop culture. My brother was a real glam guy—he wore the platforms and the tight, androgynous clothes, long hair. My older sister was a massive Bowie fan and that trickled down to me. You know, you always think you're the biggest Bowie fan ever—everyone thinks they're the biggest Bowie fan on the planet—but I really was the biggest Bowie fan ever! So a lot of this, I lived it, quite frankly—from the New York Dolls to Roxy Music and Bowie and all the punk stuff.
I went to Amoeba Music [in Los Angeles] and got great music magazines from the '70s, like Circus and Melody Maker, because I wanted to get the real rock 'n' roll vibe. These girls, the Runaways, weren't looking to the Brady Bunch for inspiration, they were looking at their guitar heroes. Cherie was a massive David Bowie fan, so I tried to think of that, and what her inspiration would be at that time. Joan wanted to be the guy, there wasn't anything fluffy about her—and her inspiration was really just Suzi Quatro! She's just tough.
How much of the clothing in the film was vintage, and how much did you make?
There was a lot of vintage, but also augmented vintage that I would add to or subtract from. I designed all of the costumes that they wore onstage in Japan, like the red and silver outfits, the corset, anything that was really specific and referential. The thing with that is—you kind of want to make it better! You want to pump it up. I also designed Cherie's outfit when she does her David Bowie act at the high school talent show, and the leather jacket and pants that Joan wears throughout the film.
What was one of the most fun things about working on this project?
Just being able to do a period piece and have it be close to my heart with fashion and music, and mixing the two. The most challenging aspect was showing the passage of time, that it's a year later and these girls have been to Europe so they're not going to just dress from the Valley. They've seen a few things, but still trying to keep it real.
What do you think are some of the big fashion trends that this movie will start?
Platform shoes are going to be big, though they're already coming back, but I think it's just that spirit of rock 'n' roll dressing. We're already seeing some major designers going with that—look at Balmain. I think kids are just getting a whiff of the '80s, and I think that this film, instead of just showing Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, this film shows earlier, '70s rock chicks and even a bit of punk. The '80s sometimes get a little watered down and perky, but for the girls who are a bit edgier, it will be good for them to look at Dakota and Kristen and think "I could rock that." And then want to pick up a bass!