Back in the days when she was working as a stripper and phone sex operator, Diablo Cody never dreamed she’d one day be the toast of the Telluride and Toronto film festivals, with a project in the works with Steven Spielberg, a second movie deal, and Oscar buzz spinning around her. Cody got her big break when her quirky, honest writing style on her blog caught the notice of manager Mason Novick, who then helped her secure a literary agent for the blog entries she was compiling into a book. Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, about her experiences as a stripper and phone sex operator, shortly followed.
It was Novick who suggested that Cody had a good voice for writing a screenplay. The idea for “Juno,” Cody’s first film, directed by Jason Reitman, started with the seed of a memory of the experiences a friend of Cody’s had in dealing with a teenage pregnancy. Cody added in a healthy dose of her own personality, mixed in some tight, clever dialog, and before she knew it, “Juno” was being shopped all over Hollywood. The screenplay caught Reitman’s eye early on; fresh off the success of his freshman feature effort, “Thank You for Smoking,” Reitman got himself attached as director, Ellen Page was cast as Juno, the film started shooting on Valentine’s Day, and seven months later, “Juno” was sneak-previewed at the Telluride Film Festival to an almost overwhelmingly positive buzz. It went on to play well at the Toronto International Film Festival — and suddenly everyone wanted a piece of Cody.
Having conquered Telluride and Toronto, and with pundits spinning the Oscar web for original screenplay with her name in it, Cody is riding high and enjoying her success. She has a pilot, “The United States of Tara,” underway for Showtime (being produced by Steven Spielberg, no less), and Universal just bought her pitch for her next feature film, “Girly Style.”
Says Cody about “Girly Style”: “It’s a college sex comedy told from the female perspective – kind of a “Porky’s” for girls. These nerdy college girls are determined to lose their virginity but they’re extremely selective. When we have sex comedies about guys, the gag is always that they’ll have sex with anyone. This film plays off the fact that girls have this whole idea around how their ‘first time’ needs to be special, and uses of the comedy inherent in that.” Cody pauses reflectively. “You know, there’s this whole idea that virginity is a sacred flower or something, and this imbalance in the way that women’s sexuality is presented, and I hate that. So I want to write a film that challenges that. A couple of years ago I don’t think this pitch would have flown, but we have the momentum or something, because they (Universal) just loved it.” Mason Novick is set to produce.
With “Juno,” Cody was able to be very involved throughout the production process. Reitman is not lined up to direct either her new film or her pilot, though, and I wondered if she’s feeling nervous about working with someone else. “With ‘Girly Style,’ it’s going to be very different – it’s a much bigger picture than ‘Juno’ was, bigger budget, it’s a studio film.” She pauses to munch a post-hangover, pre-workout banana. “I was gonna say, I don’t think big studio films lend themselves to collaborative effort, but maybe that’s not true.”
Cody herself is a California girl these days. She and her husband Jonny (her right arm bears a tattoo that reads “Jonny’s Girl”) relocated to Hollywood from Minneapolis. One of the biggest changes in her life since moving to LA: she has a personal trainer now, something she never would have considered in Minneapolis. “Hell no, I didn’t even know what a personal trainer was!” Cody laughs. “I don’t know what a personal trainer would be in Minneapolis, probably some guy who makes you go and chop wood. I hired a mean trainer to force me to work out. It works really well but at the same time it’s terrifying.” Not too terrifying, though, for the former stripper and blogger – who turned out to be a talented screenwriter to boot — who’s taking Hollywood by storm with her sass and style.