FINAL FRIDAY: Diablo Cody Feature Interview
By Duck Kolenik
(Mackenzie Davis, Charlize Theron & Diablo Cody at the TULLY Premiere)
This is a special one, folks. Though the interview portion isn't quite The Odyssey, the road leading up to it certainly is. I’ll condense and fast-forward, don’t worry. Many moons ago I was in search of a new job and sent my resume to a friend at a production company, who then submitted me for a position he’d heard whispers about (“A-list Writer Needs Assistant”)…
A week or so later, I found myself fighting sleep, wobbling in front of a house perched upon the famous and bendy Mulholland Drive. I just stood there. I worked 36 hours straight as a nanny (without even a catnap) and couldn’t get my brain to behave. I tried to muster up the courage to pose as composed, still not knowing whom I was supposed to be meeting… Before I could bring myself to breathe and ring the bell, I got outted. A tiny, yet stabbing, bark flooded the porch and footsteps followed.
The door opened to reveal the body of that bark (Luca the Chihuahua) and a Ms. Diablo Cody cupping him in her colorful arms. “Holy Hell, I’m awake now!”, I remember thinking. I’m not sure whom I was expecting, but it definitely was not her. Her, being one of my writing idols and a woman. It was quite the awakening double shock.
Diablo was sporting some jet black and very serious extensions. Her mascara was smeared and hung like Christmas lights under her bottom lashes. Somehow it still looked pretty and lit up her bleached blue eyes. It was clear we were both vibrating with nerves, so she made the first move with her welcoming grin and a coffee offering. In that instant all my worries and exhaustion dissipated. She has that sort of effect you. She then went on to apologize for her appearance. Turns out she was equally as sleep-starved as I was. After the explosion of that little movie called Juno, it was as if she accidentally boarded a roller coaster (which incidentally she loves) that no one ever told her never actually stops. After discussing our face bags we moved onto our monikers. She said, “at least yours isn’t a Nom de plume”. I appreciated that. A few years later, a witty journalist, Jonathan Van Meter, wrote a Vogue spread about Diablo and mentioned me in the opening. Essentially, he said that only a girl named Diablo would find an assistant named Duck. I never thought about it until then, but I liked his logic.
We talked without pause for a couple hours and discovered our mutual fondness of absurd and particular things; LMN movies, Bubbies pickles, weird wallpaper, Candlebox, karaoke, trashy memoirs, Tiki bars, Peter Dinklage. We then gabbed some more about the band shirt I was wearing, our music obsessions, moon boots, bear claws and our families. Finally, when our mouths were too cotton-lined to continue, I put down her pup and coffee mug, then headed for the exit. Instead of a handshake I got a hug and she hired me on the spot. My life forever shifted. For one, I didn’t have to change diapers for a living anymore, and two, I ended up becoming the adoptive mom to Luca the Chihuahua (a few months later). I traded taking care of a bunch of other people’s kids to just one other person’s dog, who is now my own. And that’s what they call ‘The American Dream’, kids. Oh, and I also got to work with one of the most talented writers around, so that was a lovely perk as well.
Looking back, we certainly packed a lot in while working together for all those years. This is where it gets smooshy and where smeared mascara reenters, only on my end this time. Diablo was as gracious a boss (and equally as gracious a human) as they come, fully welcoming me into her home and life. She truly is one of the most brilliant and comically in tuned people I have had the sweet fortune of meeting thus far. Don’t get in a round of Jeopardy or Celebrity with her. You’ll leave with whiplash. Other than that, she’s easy and generous and humble and refreshing. The meandering point is that Diablo actually deserves all of the success she’s pocketed so far, and a great deal more, which is commonly atypical in this business. She doesn’t climb or use or calculate and as a woman she works extra hard to carve out her space at the table. She’s still the same hysterical and shy Midwest girl with 'a gift' that I met all those years ago. I’m thrilled I’ve had the opportunity to see how a person can evolve and also stay exactly the same, in the best ways possible.
Finally, onto the film and interview! This is tough, because Young Adult holds a special place in my bent heart, but Tully now rivals it as my favorite feature to date. Diablo Cody, Jason Reitman and Charlize Theron fit together as a trio once again in the most wonderfully satisfying way. When the credits rolled I thought of that Anatex (wooden maze rollercoaster with beads) game, in seemingly all Pediatrician's offices. You know the one! You sit and watch the kids clumsily try to solve it and it’s so stressful and you want to reach out and help. They drop some of the beads, can’t get their hands through the wires, knock it over. Eye twitch!
But when the Dr. calls the kid in, it’s your turn. You take a chain of beads and effortlessly push them from start to finish in a perfectly streaming line that looks like a magical, fluid dance. That is the feeling I got after seeing this movie. Diablo, Jason and Charlize just played and mastered that wooden wonder. A big resounding, Yes! So much satisfaction. Okay, maybe I spent too much time as a nanny, or maybe this specific reference is because Tully is a nanny or that the game is a baby roller coaster… Any way you spin it though, I hope the three of them stay on that track together forever. It was a gorgeous and gratifying ride.
(Mackenzie Davis was astounding as well. I’m convinced she is a mystical being from another world. Every time she was in a scene I swear I heard a faint harp play in the background above her head and I resented the need to blink. I have a feeling there will be another collaboration in the future. Also, at the after party for the premiere I saw her take countless selfies IN the bathroom with adoring fans. She said yes to every last one of them. She’s high on my list for taking those requests like a champ. I wouldn’t even look in the mirror in that lighting. Saint Mackenzie.)
ENJOY THE INTERVIEW!
DK: What's your favorite moment from being on set for Tully?
DC: My favorite moment from being on set… well, it was the night of the 2016 Presidential election and we were shooting the bar scene in Bushwick. The election results were beginning to roll in, and I ran to a corner store to buy a bottle of Champagne so we could celebrate the election of America’s first female President. I felt so optimistic and giddy walking back to set with that bottle of champagne. That was a great moment! It didn’t last.
DK: Changing it up to another medium… What record can you not stop listening to? AND what TV show are you loving right now (other than The Bachelor)?
DC: Right now I can’t stop listening to Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour.” It sounds like a cold drink on a warm evening. As far as TV goes, I’m semi-ashamed to say that I’m VERY excited about the return of Jersey Shore. The magic is still there!
DK: Something no one knows about you? For instance, when I scratch me knees I cough. Bizarre, I know.
DC: I have a pretty reliable photic sneeze reflex— if I walk out into the sunlight after being inside, I sneeze. It’s a weird genetic thing.
DK: Favorite character OR least favorite character in Tully?
DC: My favorite character is Tully herself— she’s complicated and mysterious and silly.
DK: The best piece of advice you were ever given by a fellow writer?
DC: My favorite bit of writing advice actually comes from Peter Roth, the President of Warner Brothers TV: If you’re going to fail, fail on your own terms. Protect your writing and your vision, and if then if the project doesn’t work out, at least you made what you wanted to make.
DK: What was the last thing you laughed really hard about?
DC: I was in a table read with Cheri Oteri this morning. Enough said.
DK: What’s the most irritating thing you see in a show or movie? For example, it drives me crazy when in a script someone at a bar says, “I’ll have a beer”. No specific kind or anything. Why!
DC: My least favorite thing is when I’m watching TV and I can spot the “network note.” It’s usually a line here or there that was dropped in to either a.) explain something that the network assumes the audience can’t grasp or b.) make the protagonist seem warmer/friendlier. They always ask for the same stuff.
DK: What is something you’d like to be asked in an interview but never are?
Answer it …
DC: I rarely get asked about Jennifer’s Body! I love that movie and its director, Karyn Kusama. And yes, I WOULD like to remake it as a hit TV show on the CW, thanks for asking!
DK: What’s your main motivation for creating? What made you become a writing marvel?
DC: Aww, I’m not a marvel. I create because I feel compelled to do it. Same reason anyone makes art. I’d be writing in my spare time even if it wasn’t my day job.
DK: Any fun & embarrassing stories that happened to you on set, location, etc?
DC: Oh man… I got terrible food poisoning on Juno, right before filming began. I was so new to the business that I was convinced I was going to be fired. It’s funny in retrospect, but I still had a regular 9-to-5 Midwestern mentality. I thought I had to attend every meeting on the production schedule or I’d get written up by management or something. I remember dragging myself to the production office— I was lying on the floor holding a wastebasket in case I had to puke. And people were like “Um, this is a meeting for the electrical department. You don’t have to be here, sweetie.”
DK: What character (you have ever created) is most like you as a person, embodies your personality? (And you can’t say Mavis, because she is obviously written about me :)
DC: Duck, I have to say Mavis! I relate most to Mavis for sure— but there are so many women who have told me that they are Mavis. It’s why Young Adult remains my favorite movie I’ve written. I think there are a lot of us Mavises out there.
DK: Is there anything you’d like to get off your chest about anything happening in the world right now? This is your chance to be free!
DC: I think we need Jersey Shore now more than ever.
DK: Any inside tips about upcoming secret projects?
DC: Well, I wrote the book to a musical called Jagged Little Pill, based on the iconic Alanis Morissette album. We open on May 25th in Boston, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t dreaming about Broadway. So maybe you’ll see Alanis and I taking a bow onstage in New York next year. Maybe.