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Filmmaker Diablo Cody

Reitman and Cody, Consorting with 'Juno'

Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody are the director-screenwriter team behind the new film Juno, about a tough, sardonic 16-year-old girl; when she gets pregnant, she gives the baby up for adoption to a couple she finds through the PennySaver. New York Times critic A.O. Scott describes Juno as a "feminist, girl-powered rejoinder and complement to [the film] Knocked Up." Reitman also directed the satire Thank You For Smoking. Cody is the author of the memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper.




Related Topic

Other segments from the episode on December 6, 2007

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 6, 2007: Interview with Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody; Review of Gene Watson's album "In a Perfect World."


DATE December 6, 2007 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Screenwriter Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman of
the new film "Juno" on making the film and their careers

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The new movie "Juno" was made by my two guests, screenwriter Diablo Cody and
director Jason Reitman. We're going to talk about the movie and about how
they got into film. Reitman's first film was "Thank You for Smoking." He's
the son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the films "Ghostbusters," "Stripes" and
"Meatballs." Cody's entree into writing was through her blog, in which she
chronicled her experiences as a stripper.

The movie "Juno" stars Ellen Page as Juno, a 16 year old who has sex one time
with her friend Paulie Bleeker, played by Michael Cera. It leaves her
pregnant. After planning to get an abortion, she changes her mind and decides
to have the baby and find a worthy couple to adopt it. That couple is played
by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. New York Times film critic A.O. Scott
described "Juno" as a heartfelt, serious comedy, a feminist girl-powered
rejoinder and compliment to the movie "Knocked Up."

Let's hear the scene from the film in which Juno breaks the news about her
condition to her father, played by J.K. Simmons, and her stepmother, played
by Allison Janney.

(Soundbite from "Juno")

Ms. ELLEN PAGE: (As Juno) I'm pregnant.

Ms. ALLISON JANNEY: (As Bren) Oh, God.

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) I'm going to give it up for adoption, and I already
found the perfect couple. They're going to pay for the medical expenses and
everything. And--and--and what, 30 year--odd weeks we can just pretend that
this never happened.

Mr. J.K. SIMMONS: (As Mac) You're pregnant?

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) I'm sorry. I'm sorry. And if it is any consolation, I
have heartburn that is radiating to my kneecaps, and I haven't taken a dump
since Wednesday. Morning!

Ms. JANNEY: (As Bren) I didn't even know you were sexually active.

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac) Who is the kid?

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) The baby? I don't really know much about it other than,
I mean, it has fingernails, allegedly.

Ms. JANNEY: (As Bren) Nails, really?

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) Yeah.

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac) No, I don't--I mean, the--who's the father, Juno?

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) Um, it's--it's Paulie Bleeker.

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac) Paulie Bleeker?

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) What?

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac) I didn't think he had it in him.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody, welcome to FRESH AIR. I want you to
describe the character of Juno. And Diablo, I'll ask you to describe her
since you created her.

Ms. DIABLO CODY: I think the character of Juno is just sort of a very kind
of offbeat teenage girl who has maybe a tough exterior but inside is very

GROSS: And why did you want to write a story where the teenager becomes
pregnant at age 16, decides to have the baby but give it up for adoption?

Ms. CODY: It all came down to sort of this central image that I had in my
mind of this teenage girl who was, you know, a little, kind of rough around
the edges and a little eccentric, sitting across from a couple who were very
affluent and kind of polished. And they're essentially having to audition to
adopt her baby. And to me that was a really kind of powerful and strange
image, and to me, the power dynamic at work there was really intriguing. And
I could see an entire film just kind of in that exchange, and so I decided to
build a whole story around that.

GROSS: Jason, what interested you in this screenplay? What could you relate
to in it?

Mr. JASON REITMAN: You know, the first time I read the screenplay I just
thought it was hilarious. And I was actually in the midst of writing my own
screenplay when I got a call from a friend saying, `You have to read this new
script; it's called "Juno." It's about teenage pregnancy. It's spectacular.'
And I just found it completely original in every way. I thought these were
characters I'd never seen before. They're full fleshed out. The script had
sophisticated moves.

You know, it's interesting--I didn't actually remember this story until after
we finished shooting, but I have to imagine on a subconscious level this had
to do with my interest in the project--when I was 12 years old, my parents
decided to adopt a baby girl, my little sister. And they sat me down one day
and said, `Jason, tomorrow a social worker is going to come and visit our home
and evaluate whether or not we're a good enough family to adopt a child.' And
I remember that day, that audition day, when this woman was in our house and
was asking us questions and we were all on our best behavior. My sister and
I, who normally fight, were treating each other really well that day. And, I
don't know, I just remember that feeling, and oddly I feel as though Diablo
and I kind of came to this project from either perspective, Diablo having
grown up in a Juno MacGuff type house, and me having grown up in a Mark and
Vanessa Loring-type house.

GROSS: You grew up in the wealthy family house that was auditioning?

Mr. REITMAN: Yes. Well, when you see the film there's this moment in which
Juno is running up the staircase of the house of the wealthy family, and
there's this series of photos of Mark and Vanessa, played by Jennifer Garner
and Jason Bateman, and they're dressed in all white: white jeans with a
tucked in white turtleneck in these goofy poses. And that was taken directly
from my childhood, unfortunately.

GROSS: Oh, really? Your parents were wearing--that series of photos?

Ms. CODY: (Unintelligible).

Mr. REITMAN: Every year we did a series of photos. One year it was the all
white. One year it was jeans, white T-shirt and Ray-Bans. And the third
year--and this is probably the worst of them--was underwater.

Ms. CODY: That's so cool.

Mr. REITMAN: No, it really is not.

GROSS: Now, one of the key scenes happens at the--it's the opening scene,
it's the first thing we see. And it's the scene of Juno and her friend,
played by Michael Cera, having sex. I mean, it's not a graphic scene, but we
know that that's what they're doing. And Diablo, I guess I'm wondering what
you see as the motivation for these two friends having a sexual relationship
because it seems like they're not really quite girlfriend and boyfriend when
they do it.

Ms. CODY: I think Allison Janney's characters sums it up pretty succinctly
later on in the film when she says, `kids get bored and they have intercourse,
and Juno was a real dummy about it.' You know, I don't know, I guess I found
myself in situations like that as a teen where you're with somebody, you're
young, your hormones are raging and there's nothing on TV.

GROSS: There's been several articles recently about the fact that, in some
films, people who don't really necessarily want to have the baby end up
keeping it and rejecting the idea of abortion, and two examples would be
"Knocked Up" and your film, "Juno." So I'd like you to talk a little bit
about, Diablo, making the decision, you know, that she's not going to have an
abortion and also what you think people may or may not be reading into that?

Ms. CODY: Unfortunately for me, you know, there--it was a strange
coincidence that there is so much sort of unplanned pregnancy material
circulating this year. It's just--it's in the zeitgeist for some reason. You
know we had like "Knocked Up," "Waitress," our film. And all of them follow a
pregnancy. But that's in the service of the narrative. Certainly in Juno,
she's not pregnant for political reasons. You know, we didn't intend to make
a movie about teen pregnancy and the options available to people who find
themselves in that situation, not at all. You know, we just wanted to tell a
personal story about maturity and relationships, and the pregnancy is just--it
just kind of motivates the story, I guess.

GROSS: Jason, in both of your films, "Thank You for Smoking" and the new film
"Juno," the opening credit sequence is animated and really snappy. Can you
talk about the importance of the opening credit sequence and what you like to
do with them.

Mr. REITMAN: I've always been a fan of opening credit sequences. I'm not
sure if this is because I saw too many James Bond films as a kid...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. REITMAN: ...but, you know, I feel like they set the tone. And at some
point about 15 years ago people just stopped doing them, you know. I think it
may have come from directors' ego. They just like the film to end and for it
to cut to `directed by so and so,' and they got off on that. But at some
point the credit sequence started to disappear.

And when it came time for "Smoking" I knew I had a film in which people were
going to come in and think, `Oh, this is going to be some sort of educational
film or something like "The Insider" which was going to be heavy handed and
political.' And I wanted something light. I wanted something to set the tone
for exactly what we were about to walk into. So I knew these young animators
from my short film days, and I asked them to do a sequence of cigarette packs
that we would set to this fun song, "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette." And
they created something that was quite magically. It was lovely. It was
snappy, and it did set the tone for the movie. And I fell in love with that
process. And when it came time for "Juno" I went back to these same guys and
said, `So what do you got for me this time?"'

They said, `Well, we have two ideas. The first one is, it's quite simple. We
go around the shooting area and we just take photos of abandoned furniture and
put titles over them.' I was like, `Oh, OK, what's the other idea?' They said,
`Well, it's a little more complicated. We want to take a high speed camera
that shoots about 14 frames per second, shoot Ellen at various angles walking
then print out every frame, find an old Xerox machine, take every frame, send
it through the Xerox machine five, six times until it gets nice and cruddy,
then hand paint every frame, hand outline, hand cut out every frame. Then
we'll scan every frame back into the computer one by one, create a stop motion
animation, and then we'll go on to create in the background with drawings and
cut out photos. It would , you know, seven, eight months, the entire time it
will take to do the movie.' And I said, `Well, I like the second idea. That
sounds really good.' And they said, `We were afraid you'd say that.' But they
were thrilled to do it.

And it did, it took the entire length of the movie to make that sequence, and
it arrived at our digital intermediate coloring session literally in the final
hours and they just slipped it into the film.

GROSS: Aren't you lucky you liked it?

Mr. REITMAN: Yeah, no kidding. Well, I mean, I'd been checking along the

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. REITMAN: But they, you know, I really believe in the idea of creating a
family to make your movies with. And my producer, my cinematographer, my
editor I've known since I was in high school. The opening title guys I've
known since we met at the Sundance Film Festival. And the opening title
sequence for "Thank You for Smoking" was done in the living room of one of
their mother's house. So I just believe in that idea. I think it's just as
important to make films with the ones you love.

GROSS: My guests are Jason Reitman, who directed "Juno" and also directed
"Thank You for Smoking," and Diablo Cody who wrote the screenplay for "Juno."

I'd like to ask you a few separate questions about your own background.
Jason, starting with you. You know, your father Ivan Reitman is a director,
and he directed among other things "Ghostbusters," "Meatballs." How much time
did you spend on the set as a kid?

Mr. REITMAN: A lot. I was on a set when I was about a week or two old. I
was on the set of "Animal House," and since then any time my father was making
a movie during the summer I would spend every day on the set.

GROSS: Were you afraid to become a filmmaker and follow in your father's

Mr. REITMAN: Certainly. I was kind of terrified, actually. When I went to
college I went pre-med. At the time I thought I could never really have any
success on my own as a filmmaker. I'll always be compared to my father. And
even in success I thought, oh, I'll probably be a failure. And I went pre-med
under the thought, well, no one really mocks you for becoming a doctor and no
one ever, you know, questions that decision. And I'm a fairly bright guy, I
did very well in school. But I was not doing well as a pre-medical student.
And my father came out to visit me and he took me out to dinner and he said,
`Jason, what are you doing?' And I explained it to him. I explained my fears.
And my fears of also being compared to--you know, I know what people presume
about the children of filmmakers. I mean, they're thought to be as kind of
talentless brats with, you know, alcohol and drug problems. And I thought
well, this is just what people are going to think of me automatically going
in. And I explained to him why I went pre-med.

And he told me a great story. Actually he told me a story from his own
childhood when he was my own age, at the time he was around 17. He'd grown up
in Toronto and went to Montreal at some point. And while he was there he had
discovered submarine sandwiches. And apparently they were very popular in
Montreal at the time. And he came back to Toronto and he spoke to my
grandfather and he said, `Dad, Dad, I just found the greatest thing, it's
these foot-long sandwiches. They're called submarine sandwiches. And they're
making a fortune with them. Out in Montreal they've got stores with lines
around the block and they're great, and will you give me the money and we'll
start a sandwich shop.' And my grandfather said, `You know, son, I'm sure
these sandwiches are very good, and if I gave you the money to open up a shop,
you know, maybe we could make a lot of money. And if we did I'd be very proud
of you. But I just don't think there's enough magic in it for you.' And my
father instead went to college, became a music major, started a film club and
became a very successful filmmaker.

And he told me the story and he said, `You know, Jason, if you became a doctor
your mother and I would be over the moon. There's no more noble a job in the
world than being a doctor, but I don't think there's enough magic in it for
you. I think you're a storyteller. I think you have to follow your heart.'
And it was really that conversation that gave me the confidence to come back
to Los Angeles and take a shot at making films. And fortunately it was--this
was the years after kind of the boom out of Sundance and the film festivals.
So there was this democratic system there with which I could try to became a
filmmaker. And I made a series of short films and they progressively got
better. And finally I made one that really cracked and did very well, played
internationally, won many awards and got me the gig to write "Thank You for
Smoking," and it got me directing commercials.

GROSS: When your father said to you that, you know, he didn't think that
being a doctor had enough magic for you either and that, you know, he knew
that your heart was in storytelling, that you were a storyteller at heart, did
you know that about yourself that you were a storyteller at heart? Did you
know that? Did you believe it?

Mr. REITMAN: Yeah. I mean, I'm a guy who's always loved telling stories. I
love telling jokes. I love telling stories. And I had started making videos
and things like that back in high school. I'd been writing stories and making
videos. And I really, at the time, walked away from the idea of becoming a
filmmaker completely out of fear.

GROSS: So when it came time to make your first feature film...

Mr. REITMAN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: ...was that fear still with you?

Mr. REITMAN: I had been trying to make "Thank You for Smoking" for about six
years at that point. I'd been turning down a lot of broad comedies, films
that I thought weren't the kind of work I wanted to be known for. And I
believed wholeheartedly in "Thank You for Smoking." I'd had a lot of success
in my short films. I had a lot of success in my commercials. And at that
point I was so desperate to make the movie that, you know, I don't think I had
the wherewithal to be scared.

You know, there was a certain amount of fear directing prominent actors for
the first time. You know, I had gone from making commercials and short films
with my friends to here I was on set with Aaron Eckhart and Robert Duvall and
Maria Bello and William H. Macy and Sam Elliott, actors who had established
how great they were and had, you know, many years and many films of
experience. So there's something intimidating about, you know, walking on
set, walking up to Robert Duvall and giving him a direction. I mean, you
know, what could I possibly have to tell Robert Duvall, someone who has been
not only recognized as an actor but as a writer and a director.

GROSS: So what did you tell Robert Duvall?

Mr. REITMAN: You know, this is what happens. At first you're scared, and
you think there's nothing I'll be able to do today. I'll just say action and
cut. And you watch a take and you get an idea. `You know what would be nice
is if you'd try this,' and then you're directing. I think directing in large
part is reacting. And I'm not sure if that's blasphemy to say as a director,
but I feel that in my gut, that it's not as much creation as much as you read
a script, you watch a performance, you watch an edit. And if you react, you
react to it, does it work, does it not. And if it doesn't for what reason,
how can you make it work.

GROSS: Are there things that you feel you learned as a director from watching
your father?

Mr. REITMAN: The most important advice my father gave me, he called me up
and he said, `You know, Jason, don't worry about making the scene funny or
more dramatic. It's almost impossible. And your barometer for comedy and
drama will never be your barometer for truth. When you're watching the scene
ask yourself, "Does this feel honest?" Because that's really your job there,
to make what feels real. You have to trust your screenplay. You jumped onto
the screenplay because you thought it was funny, you thought it moved you, and
at this point it's just a question of are the actors being real? Listen to
what they say, how they're saying it, what they're doing while they're saying
it. And if anything feels inauthentic, you should jump on that.'

GROSS: That sounds like really good advice.

Mr. REITMAN: It's amazing advice, the kind of advice you wished you'd get in
film school, the kind of advice that you think would be passed around often.
But my father's the only person I've ever heard give that, and now I try to
spread that as much as possible.

GROSS: Has he ever been on the set with you?

Mr. REITMAN: You know, it's funny. He reads all my screenplays. I remember
that when he read "Juno" he just fell in love with it. And he said, `Yeah,
you've got to go do this.' And he watches edits and he gives me advice on
that. He sometimes shows up on my set, but it proves tragic because once he
shows up on the set it's like you can't have two directors in the same place.
It's like atoms or something like that, you know, just an explosion happens.
People actually just stop listening to me. It's like they see him there and
then they see a real director, and then all of a sudden it's like as if I
don't exist.

GROSS: I could see that being awkward. Sometimes you lose your own compass
when somebody really close to you is there with a compass of their own.

Mr. REITMAN: I think that's a wonderful analogy.

GROSS: Now, your first film was--your first feature length film was "Thank
You for Smoking" which is adapted from the Christopher Buckley novel, a satire
about spin, basically, about the tobacco PR people who sold the idea that, you
know, smoking's great. And Aaron Eckhart played the person who is just like a
genius of spin in PR. What interested you in that?

Mr. REITMAN: The first time I read "Thank You for Smoking" I thought I'd
read a book that was written directly for me. It spoke to my sense of humor.
It spoke to my politics. I really wasn't familiar with libertarian politics
until I read "Thank You for Smoking." I read it while I was in high school.
And it just made me laugh like nothing I'd ever read. And I thought, why
isn't this a movie. This is the perfect movie. And as I set out to establish
what kind of director I wanted to be, I couldn't think of a better piece of
material to say this is who I am as a director, these are the kind of films I
want to make.

And this was very important to me because I started making short films at 19
years old, and because of that, because I was young and was doing comedy, all
the work that was being sent to me was mediocre, broad romantic comedy, the
kind of work I never wanted to do. So it was very important that with movie
one I say this is who I am. And when I finally made a short film that was
good enough to kind of get an agent and go after work, my agent said, `So what
kind of films do you want to make?' And I think he meant, you know, what
genre, and I said I want to make "Thank You for Smoking." And I was as
specific as that.

And he looked into it and he said well, `This is going to be tough. Mel
Gibson owns the rights to "Thank You for Smoking." He's had them for many
years, they've spent a lot of money on it.' And I went to meet his company and
I pitched my heart out and I actually wrote the first act of "Thank You for
Smoking" on spec over a weekend. It just wrote 25 pages and I sent it to them
and said this is what it should be. And they agreed. They hired me for scale
and I wrote the screenplay and then it took five years to make the movie.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Jason Reitman, the
director of the new film "Juno," and Diablo Cody, who wrote the screenplay.
Reitman also directed the film "Thank You for Smoking." Cody is also the
author of the memoir chronicling her year as a stripper.

"Juno" stars Ellen Page as a 16-year-old who gets pregnant, decides against an
abortion and looks for a worthy couple to adopt the baby. She finds the
couple through an ad in the local PennySaver. In this scene, Juno and her
father, played by J.K. Simmons, make their first visit to the couple's
luxurious suburban home, which is quite a contrast to the house Juno's family
lives in. The would-be adoptive parents, Mark and Vanessa Loring, are played
by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. Vanessa opens the door and greets Juno
and her father.

(Soundbite from "Juno")

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. JENNIFER GARNER: (As Vanessa Loring) Hi. I'm Vanessa. You must be
Juno. Mr. McGuff, hi. Vanessa Loring.

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) So, Vanessa, right? Is that...

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac) Thanks for having me and my irresponsible child over
to your house.

Ms. GARNER: (As Vanessa Loring) Oh, no, thank you. Thank you. Come on in.
Can I take your coat or your hat?

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac) Sure.

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) Oh, yeah, sure, thanks. A wicked pic in the PennySaver,
by the way, super classy. Not like those people with fake woods in the
background. Honestly, who do they think they're fooling?

Ms. GARNER: (As Vanessa Loring) You found us in the PennySaver?

Mr. JASON BATEMAN: (As Mark Loring) Hi. Mark Loring. I'm the husband.

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac) How you doing? Mac McGuff.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Mark Loring) Nice to meet you. Hi.

Ms. GARNER: (As Vanessa Loring) This is Gerta Rauss, our attorney.

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) Gerta Rauss!

Ms. EILEEN PEDDE: (As Gerta Rauss) Hi. Nice to meet you.

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac) And this, of course, is Juno.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Mark Loring) Like the city in Alaska.

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) No.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Mark Loring) No? Should we sit down and get to know one

Ms. GARNER: (As Vanessa Loring) I thought I'd get some drinks. What would
anyone like? I have Pellegrino or vitamin water or orange juice with folic

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) I'll have a maker's mark, please. Uh...

Mr. SIMMONS: (As Mac) She's kidding. June Bug has a wonderful sense of
humor, just one of her many genetic gifts.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's a scene from the new movie "Juno," and my guests are the
director Jason Reitman and the screenwriter Diablo Cody.

Diablo, I have a few questions for you about your life and how you got started
writing. Well, you came from such a different background from Jason. I mean,
he wanted to become independent from the family name, to feel like he could
make it on his own because his father was so well known in the movie world,
whereas you came from a family that had no background at all that I know of in
show business.

Ms. CODY: No. I did not come from a family of creative people at all. They
are wonderful people and they are very warm, supportive people, but they had
no interest in the arts and didn't really attempt to cultivate that in their

GROSS: Well, clearly from "Juno" you've always been like steeped in like
music and movies and pop culture of all sorts. Were you considered odd for

Ms. CODY: No. I mean, I've always been sort of known as sort of the go-to
pop culture trivia wizard, and I've always been kind of a, you know, voracious
consumer of pop culture. And I definitely think that is reflected in a lot of
the things that I write. You know, I think you have to be careful not to like
just completely overuse those kind of references, but at the same time I think
it's going to be probably a trademark of my work, if they ever let me, you
know, continue to write movies.

GROSS: Now, I read that the person who I believe is now your husband, you met
them on a Beach Boys Web site?

Ms. CODY: Yeah, I actually am a huge Beach Boys fan, and I was just surfing
the Internet one day and I found this Web site like devoted to like super hard
core like Beach Boys psychedelic surf rock geeks. And I met him there, and we
wound up corresponding via e-mail, and then I moved to Minneapolis. I'm
actually divorced. I'm getting divorced.


Ms. CODY: But you can--you know, we can talk. It's all right. I'm actually
in a phase were I'm really, really into talking about it.

GROSS: Well, I don't want to...

Ms. CODY: It's all right.

GROSS: ...pry into your personal life about that, but so rather than prying
into your personal life about that, I'll ask you about stripping.

Ms. CODY: Yeah, please do.

GROSS: Because I should mention...

Ms. CODY: I love...

GROSS: ...if that sounds confusing to people...

Ms. CODY: Actually using...

GROSS: Yeah, that Diablo Cody got her start professionally, in a way, as a
stripper because her memoir, which preceded her screenplay...

Ms. CODY: Right.

GROSS: ...for "Juno" is about the time that she spent stripping.

Ms. CODY: That's what's so strange to me, is of all the interesting things
that I've done in my life, I never would have guessed that the stripping would
be sort of the springboard to respectability.

GROSS: Yeah, well, how did you end up doing that in the first place?

Ms. CODY: You know, I think I did it because I could. It had never occurred
to me up until that point in my life when I was 25, that you can actually just
do things. Like even now, even in a totally sort of mundane, desexualized
way, if I wanted to, I could drive my car to downtown LA after this interview
and apply for a job as a waitress. And I could just do it, for no reason
whatsoever, just to have that experience. And, like, I think I had never
realized that I could do something other than what had been prescribed to me
since birth, which was basically to pursue mediocrity. So I guess some
people, their way of reacting to the mundanity of a suburban existence is to
reach for the stars and be really ultra-ambitious. I'm the opposite. Like,
you know, I sort of leapt into a moral vacuum deliberately just so I could
experience that side of life.

GROSS: Had you seen yourself as a performer, a dancer or an exhibitionist
before you became a stripper?

Ms. CODY: No. I mean, I'm actually a really bad dancer. I never really was
much of like an entertainer, I've never really been very comfortable in my own
skin, I'm not athletic. You know, I actually always felt kind of betrayed by
my body because it didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. But I feel
different about that now, obviously. I think it's just important to be

But I guess I do recognize now that I have major exhibitionist tendencies. It
kind of took stripping to reveal that. Because I realized as a stripper that
it wasn't so much that I wanted to be eroticized or like seduce the crowd, I
liked getting a reaction from the crowd. So I would go up there and do really
absurd stuff, and like looking back, it was almost like improv.

GROSS: What was your specialty?

Ms. CODY: I don't really know if I had a speciality, but I would just kind
of, you know, throw some unusual stuff in there. I would, you know, mock
people, mock customers, which is not a good way to make money. But...

GROSS: Verbally?

Ms. CODY: Yeah, of course.

GROSS: So did stripping make you feel like humiliated or empowered or
somewheres in between?

Ms. CODY: It's interesting. It's such a heady combination of both. That's
what's so interesting about stripping, is because the dynamic of power is
constantly shifting. Sometimes you're in complete control of the guys, and
sometimes they are in complete control of you. And you can actually both kind
of toy with each other's self-esteem in equal measure. And I think it was
liberating in the sense that I knew it was something that wasn't--it was an
event in my life that wasn't prescribed, and I was completely in control of it
and I was making my own hours--which sounds stupid, but that was actually, as
an artist and as somebody who was writing more and more at the time, it was
actually really cool to have the day to myself to be able to write. So that
was empowering. But it's also kind of repulsive to have a price on your head,
which is what happens when you are a stripper. You really become like a
product, like physically you become a product, your sexuality becomes a
product, and, you know, most women are not raised to believe that that is a
comfortable feeling.

GROSS: Since you know so much about music, what records did you dance to?

Ms. CODY: You know, I went with like the classics, like most of the girls
who I worked with were younger than me. The average stripper is probably 19
or 20. I don't know if there's ever been a formal poll conducted. I was 25
or 26 at the time that I was doing it. And so I was sort of the elder
statesman of this naked tribe. And I used to listen to stuff that I
remembered from the '80s that I loved. You know, I would listen to Guns 'N
Roses, and I would listen to Motley Crue. I listened to a lot of like hair
metal, the kind of stuff that made the whole thing seem like a party as
opposed to, you know, a sort of tragic spectacle.

GROSS: How did it affect how it saw your body?

Ms. CODY: Positively, which is so interesting because you get so much
rejection as a stripper that you would think it would bring your self-esteem
down to like, you know, crisis levels. But it was the opposite because I'd
always been the kind of person who was, I didn't even like to change in front
of my friends. I was always really self-conscience about my body, and for
some reason, having that experience where day in and day out I was completely
naked on a stage in front of a group of people made me very comfortable. And
I realized for the first time, you know, I had this Catholic upbringing, and
I'd always been raised to believe that my body was like, you know, this
shameful, dirty instrument. And stripping, I just felt like a human being,
you know, composed of flesh and blood, and that had a positive effect on my

GROSS: You know, I guess I'm surprised to hear you talk about all the
rejection that strippers face, because I always figure, like, if you're a
stripper, you're a naked woman, men are coming to see naked women, they see a
naked woman, they're happy to see her. Like, I don't--I guess I'm surprised
to hear about rejection. I just figured, you know...

Ms. CODY: You know, and that was a surprise to me, too. I actually thought,
`Gee, these guys'--you know, for instance, if you walk down the street wearing
a tight-fitting sweater, a lot of the time you'll evoke appreciation from like
a bystander. That's the real world. But in a strip club, you can be
completely naked, writhing around on stage, and there can be 20 guys not
looking at you. You know, they're looking at one of the other 20 naked women
in the room. It's very interesting.

GROSS: I see, so it's a kind of relative thing.

Ms. CODY: Yes. It's completely relative. That's what's...

GROSS: So you're always competing.

Ms. CODY: That's right. And that's what people forget. So, yeah, you're
not instantly appreciated just because your clothes are off, whereas,
ironically, if you were 20 feet away out on the sidewalk and you were showing,
you know, a little leg, every guy would be ogling you.

GROSS: Now, you not only like did the pole and the stripping, you did phone
sex, and you are so verbal. So the phone sex thing must have been completely
different for you.

Ms. CODY: I was actually really good at phone sex. In fact, I typically
fail at most jobs, but that job, when I quit, they begged me to stay, which
I'm very proud of. I would just sort of make up these epic stories and invent
these characters, and, yeah, it was sort of a natural precursor to
screenwriting in a strange way. It was really a fascinating job. I kind of
wish I had done it longer now.

GROSS: My guests are Diablo Cody, the screenwriter of the new film "Juno,"
and Jason Reitman, the director of the film. We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guests are Jason Reitman, the director of the new film "Juno," and
Diablo Cody, who wrote the screenplay. When we left off, Diablo Cody was
talking about her previous career working as a stripper.

Now, your screenplay for "Juno" evolved out of the fact that you had a memoir
about stripping which evolved out of the fact that you had a blog about
stripping, and a talent agent saw the blog and asked you what else you had

Ms. CODY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: So when you started that blog, were you already interested in writing?

Ms. CODY: I'd always loved to write, but I never thought of it as a
realistic career choice. So I just wrote for pleasure. And I don't take
rejection very well. I've become more thick skinned now that I work in
Hollywood, but I was never the type who was out there, you know, submitting my
stories to journals or publishers, because, honestly, it seemed like too much
work and I didn't really want to deal with the rejection. I didn't want to
live the writer's life of always wondering, you know, when the next piece was
going to be published. And so writing for me was just a luxurious,
pleasurable exercise.

GROSS: So when you decided to write a blog about stripping, how did anybody
find the blog? I mean, that's what I don't understand blogging unless you're
affiliated with a group that's well known or your name is well known, how do
people even find you?

Ms. CODY: In my case, nobody would have found me if I hadn't started writing
specifically about the sex industry. That is a topic of endless interest to
people. And...

GROSS: So people would google various sexual words...

Ms. CODY: Exactly.

GROSS: ...and your blog would come out?

Ms. CODY: Yeah. Like, you know, at the time--I mean, there were blogs out
there, but there weren't as many as there were now. Like, for instance, there
are many, many blogs by strippers and sex workers now. But at the time, if
there were, they were sort of solicitous or they were really more

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Ms. CODY: Or they were intended more to drum up interest or attention in the
performer in question, put it that way. Whereas with me, it was, even though
I did put up, you know, provocative photos and stuff, it was quite literary.
I was mostly just telling stories.

GROSS: Was it hard for you to go from the stripping world to the Hollywood
meeting agents kind of world?

Ms. CODY: No. It was wonderful. Do you know how nice that was? I
honestly, I felt like I'd stepped into a dream, and I still feel that way.
You know, I never realized I had a hard life before until after, if that makes
any sense.

GROSS: Well, I want to bring Jason Reitman back into the conversation, and he
directed "Juno," which my guest Diablo Cody wrote.

And, Diablo, the question for you is, were you on the set while Jason was
directing your screenplay?

Ms. CODY: Yes, I was lucky enough to be on the set, which was incredible.


Ms. CODY: And that was Jason's decision, which I really, really am grateful
for that.

GROSS: And, Jason, I know that a lot of directors like to keep the writer off
the set so that they don't interfere or so that they don't feel wounded when
parts of the screenplay are changed. So why did you want Diablo on the set,
and how did that work out for you?

Mr. REITMAN: I wanted her there...

GROSS: Say the right thing, or else she'll insult you.

Mr. REITMAN: Yeah, I know. No, believe me, she could kick my butt, and she
actually--I couldn't even make it to the door without getting by her, just by
the angle of the studio, so I will say the right thing. Fortunately, the
right thing is the truth. I never had any pretension that "Juno" was my
story. And I'm grateful that Diablo's been there throughout the entire
process and didn't abandon us because she informed us on how to make this film
every day, whether it was a line of dialogue or even one instance coming up
with an entire scene on set. To the smallest of detail, to what music would
Juno like? What would she have up on her wall? Is this a better bedspread
for Juno? Things that, sure, I could take wild stabs at, but I'm never going
to understand this character as well as Diablo does, and I was thankful to
have her there.

You're right. There is a long-standing case in Hollywood and writers and
directors almost being in fear of each other. I think directors are always so
clearly trying to establish who they were and, you know, establish their mark
on a film that they're scared to have a writer on set, and I'm not sure if
it's because I'm a writer/director myself and I've already done a film that I
wrote, or the fact that Diablo and I kind of have no ego with each other. But
this was one of those relationships of perfect harmony that started from the
moment we met each other.

GROSS: Jason, can you give us an example of something that Diablo added on
the set?

Mr. REITMAN: Certainly. At one point, I mentioned to Diablo, `You know, we
really should make mention the amount of adoption coming out of China now,'
and almost instantaneously, I got back the following line of dialogue. It's
Juno talking to the Loring, and she says, `You know, you really should have
gone to China. They're basically giving away babies like free iPods out
there. They're putting them in T-shirt guns and shooting them out at
stadiums.' It's just the perfect line of dialogue. It was so funny, so
evocative, so original, and something that I never could have come up with, I
don't know a person I could have spoken to to come up with that line of
dialog. It is so clearly her, and had she not been on set, we would have
ended up with some goofy line like, `You should have gone to China. I heard
the food's great there' or something. I don't know.

Ms. CODY: It would have been that bad?

Mr. REITMAN: It would have been like that.

GROSS: Well, that scene that you mentioned happens to be on the clip reel for
"Juno" so I can play it for our listeners. Let's hear it.

(Soundbite from "Juno")

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) Wow, what kind of swag did you score?

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Mark Loring) Mall madness, huh?

Ms. GARNER: (As Vanessa Loring) It's just some stuff I picked up for the

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) Wait, don't you usually get all that stuff at like a
baby shower? Because my stepmom, she was pregnant with my little sister, and
she got a million gifts, you know. But I wasn't jealous because they were all
super lame.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Mark Loring) I doubt anyone's going to throw us a shower.

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) Why wouldn't they throw you a baby shower?

Ms. GARNER: (As Vanessa Loring) Well, I don't think people know how to feel
about the situation because it's not set in stone.

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) What isn't set--no, no, no, no, no. You don't think
that I'm going to flake out on you.

Ms. GARNER: (As Vanessa Loring) No, I don't, Juno. We went through a
situation before where it didn't work out.

Mr. BATEMAN: (As Mark Loring) Yeah. Cold feet.

Ms. PAGE: (As Juno) Oh. You should've gone to China, you know, because I
hear that they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much
just put them in those T-shirt guns...(imitates sound of gun firing)...and
shoot them out at sporting events.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's a scene from the new movie "Juno" and my guests are the
director, Jason Reitman, and the screenwriter, Diablo Cody.

Jason, you kind of grew up on your father's set. Now that you have a baby...

Mr. REITMAN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: you plan on taking your baby with you on your sets when the baby
gets a little bit older?

Mr. REITMAN: Yeah. My baby's actually already been on my set. Having a
baby actually had an enormous impact on making this film. I can't tell you
what it's like to watch my own daughter be born and then just a few months
later be on a set directing Ellen Page on how to give birth to a child. So my
daughter is perhaps the inspiration for me on this film.

And when I was 11 days old, I was on the set of "Animal House," and there's a
photo. It's one of my favorite photos of myself, even though I'm only just a
few weeks old, and it's my mother and father holding me on the set of "Animal
House," and I'm just crying. I'm freaking out in their hands, and they're
trying to hold a smile. It's my dad's first real film, and my wife and I
recreated that photo on the set of "Juno" with our baby.

GROSS: Oh, God, that's so sweet.

Mr. REITMAN: Yeah.

Ms. CODY: How did you make her scream?

Mr. REITMAN: No, that's the thing...

Ms. CODY: I'm kidding.

Mr. REITMAN: My daughter's a sweetheart, and she never screams. So...

Ms. CODY: I've never seen her cry even.

Mr. REITMAN: Yeah. I know. No, she's not her father's daughter.

GROSS: Well, I want to thank you both very much for talking with us.

Ms. CODY: Thank you.

Mr. REITMAN: Thank you.

GROSS: Jason Reitman directed the new film "Juno." Diablo Cody wrote it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Gene Watson is a country singer who had a strong run of hits in the late '70s
and early '80s, but he hasn't been heard much since then. Now he's back with
a new album called "In a Perfect World." Rock critic Ken Tucker says it's more
than just another comeback record.

(Soundbite from "She's Already Gone")

Mr. GENE WATSON: (Singing) She still wears her wedding band
I've never seen it off her hand
And she's there every day when I get home
She still kisses me goodnight
But when I look into her eyes
I know that she's already gone

(End of soundbite)

Mr. KEN TUCKER: There's an entire generation of country singers who stand on
the verge of institutional extinction. While the current marketplace anoints
"American Idol" contestants as country superstars and pays lip service to well
known greats like George Jones and Dolly Parton, there are many singers from
the '70s and '80s whose reputations got lost in the transition from LPs to CDs
and the iPod. These singers got a few wrinkles, perhaps, and put on a bit of
well deserved middle age weight, and thus lost out on the industry's youth
obsession. Whatever the reasons, count among the lost Gene Watson, but now
he's lost and found.

(Soundbite from "Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me?"

Mr. WATSON: (Singing) You make my eyes run over all the time
You're happy when I'm out of my mind
You don't love me, but you won't let me be
Don't you ever get tired of hurting me?

You must think...

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: That's from Gene Watson's fine new album, "In a Perfect World,"
demonstrating that he still has the pipes to deliver a subtle honky tonk

Watson had his first hit singles in the last '70s, songs like "Fourteen Carat
Mind" and "Sometimes I Get Lucky and Forget." Born in Palestine, Texas, he
worked in an auto body repair shop until his career took off, and he was never
a pretty boy crooner. His voice still has a chipped, metallic edge, as hard
as the cars he used to work on.

(Soundbite from "In a Perfect World")

Mr. WATSON: (Singing) In a perfect world
I'd never wake up dragging
There's no doubt I'd still be on the wagon
I'd be out on the highway
On my way to the job
At bedtime, I'd still say a prayer to God

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: On "In a Perfect World," guest stars appear, such as Mark
Chesnutt, Vince Gill, and on the title track I just played, Joe Nichols.
Mostly they sing backup choruses, rather than proper duets, avoiding the usual
business strategy: pair up the 60-something guy with a few younger bucks and
hope country radio will play the senior citizen's music.

One exception to this is a finely detailed duet with Rhonda Vincent, on the
George Jones/Tammy Wynette hit "Together Again."

(Soundbite from "Together Again")

Mr. WATSON and Ms. RHONDA VINCENT: (Singing) Together again
My tears have stopped falling
The long, lonely nights
Are now at an end
The key to my heart
You hold in your hand
And nothing else matters
We're together again

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: I referred earlier to a lost generation of country singers,
guys--mostly guys--who weren't cool outlaws or crossover singer/songwriters.
Who now listens to the likes of Moe Bandy or Gary Stewart or Don Williams?
All the more reason to revel in the work of a contemporary of theirs like Gene
Watson. He complicates the cliche that you can't go home again by going home
and finding that too-often-idealized place. He knows what a love-filled
paradise and a tension-fraught battlefield home can be.

GROSS: Ken Tucker is editor at large for Entertainment Weekly. He reviewed
"In a Perfect World" by Gene Watson.

You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site,


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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