According to her, Cherie Currie is currently living on cloud nine. She has Dakota Fanning playing her in The Runaways, which is all about her early days in rock and roll, and she also rocks artistic carvings with a motorized blade as Chainsaw Chick. That's a long way since being the young girl who lost her innocence at a very early age. The Runaways exists because of the memoir Neon Angel she wrote, and while the movie doesn't exactly tell the true story, she's happy with the results.
We spoke to Cherie at Sundance this year, and she went into detail about an early childhood tragedy that pushed her into the world of rock, what it was like working with Dakota, why she wields a chainsaw, and her real relationship with Joan Jett. Read on for the full interview just after the break.
CInematical: So, is it strange having Dakota Fanning play you in a film?
Cherie Currie: Literally, it's like I am in a dream and I am not waking up. It is that surreal and that out of this world. I am literally living a dream. I feel like I'm dreaming right now. I keep waiting to wake up and I am not waking up. It's truly that unbelievable. I just can't comprehend it.
How did it start? How long was it after your book came out before this thing started to kind of pick up steam and get this far?
Well, the book came out in 1989. And then when the publisher Prister & Sloan switched hands, they had lost interest in the book. So I ended up buying all my books back from them. It was out of the market. And in 2000, I decided, hmm, this is a young adult book. I just am just not a young adult anymore. I want to write an adult book. I want to tell the stories that Prister & Sloan did not feel comfortable with in this young adult book. So that is what I did in 2000. And Kenny Laguna, the amazing guy that he is, took interest in it and felt that there was a story to tell again. So he started shopping the book and he was getting some resistance from the book companies, but he was getting interest in people who make movies. And so that's what has happened. And he just fought for years, and then all of a sudden ran into, I guess, John and Art Linson. They became interested and it took off from there.
Whenever a real story is turned into a film, liberties are taken ...
Oh, heck yeah.
Did they do that with this story? Did you feel that hit the major marks?
Well first of all, you have got to buy my book, because you will really see the liberties they took. [laughs]
Is it being republished?
Yes. Actually, Harper Collins is putting it out. It was very difficult when I first saw it, because, you know, it is just far too close. It is very hard for me to be objective. Because, and you know, I see it and it is like, "No, no. No, nah! It didn't happen like that! We really had fun on the road!" And also, the fact, you know, in the beginning scene where, you know, Dakota is picked up by Marie's boyfriend and she tells him, "My sister is about to become a woman." Well this guy ... he decided to rape me because he was into virgins. And then, that is where the haircutting came in, because I was just ... I was saving myself. Believe it or not, I was really a good little surfer girl, a good valley girl, and I wad devastated that this man would come in and do that to me.
So that kind of threw me into the whole Bowie thing, because I wanted to get out of myself. I wasn't comfortable in my own skin. And that movie doesn't talk about that. They didn't want me to lose my innocence so early on in the film. I thought that was an important thing, because, you know, how many rapes happen every few minutes? How many kids don't survive that, something that happened to me twice? But, you know, how do you throw two and a half years into an hour and a half, too? So you have to be a little understanding about it. All I can say is that the actresses did an incredible job. I couldn't be happier with the performances, and I love the soundtrack.
Was there ever a moment when they were going to have Dakota play both you and your sister, because your sister is identical in real life?
You know, I don't know. Yes, we are mirror twins. So actually, it is very close. They look very, very much alike, Riley (Keough) and Dakota. I don't think that they were planning on us being fraternal twins. That's how much they were going to take liberty in changing it a bit.
What was your reaction seeing Michael Shannon?
I thought he was brilliant. You know, he was Kim Fowley ready to explode. And Kim ... have you ever met Kim Fowley? I hope you do, because you will never forget it. He just couldn't have done a better job. And the first time he met Kim was actually after Kristen's first day of shooting. I really kind of hoped he would have been able to meet him before, but it didn't matter, because Michael is just a phenomenal actor out the gate. Unbelievable.
When you met Dakota for the first time, what was the first thing you said to her? What was the first thing she said to you?
Well, the first time I met her, she actually came to watch me perform "Cherry Bomb" at a fundraiser. And she was sick, too. Poor little thing. She had like a 103 degree temperature but she was there anyway. The first chance I got to talk to Dakota was when we went and had lunch together, just her and I. And I asked her, "How did this happen?" And she said, "You are not going to believe it." Because I wanted to know. How did the great Dakota Fanning get to play in this rock and roll film? And she said, "You won't believe it. My girlfriend at school brought some temporary tattoos and I picked a single cherry and put it on my arm.
And when I went home, my mom was holding the script saying you are not going to believe this, but they want you to play a girl with a single cherry tattoo." And she said she read it and she turned around to her mom and said, "There is no one else that can play this but me." And I said, "Well why did you think that?" She goes, "Because what are they going to do, cast a 26 year old to play this part?" My knees buckled. I learned she was playing me from Sam Rubin on the channel 5 news. That's how I learned it. And literally, I almost passed out, because she is my favorite actress out there, and has been since I Am Sam. So now you see why I am in a dream all the time. I can't wake up.
What about the first time you heard her sing? Were you there when they recorded?
I was there all the time. She came to my home and we would run lines back and forth. I would sing a line and then she would sing it back to try to get my mannerisms as a vocalist. And I had not seen Hound Dog. That was my mistake, because I became very protective of her. And I was saying, you know, they should put up a barrier like they did when I was in The Runaways so no one has to watch her when she is singing, and I am doing this song and dance. Then I saw Hound Dog after the shoot was over, and I thought, "You idiot!" You know, this gal had it so together. She didn't need my help.
This was a surprise in the press notes, but apparently you like to sculpt things with a chainsaw.
Come to my house. I'll show you anytime.
How did you get into that?
Well, my son is an amazing artist. He is a tattoo artist, actually, a professional tattoo artist. He will be 19 next month. I started off drawing when I was a drug counselor, because I had two hours I had to sit in class with kids. So I started sketching. And I started painting, and then I just felt like I wanted to do something more three dimensional. Did some relief carving and then happened to be driving to the beach and saw a couple guys chainsaw carving on the side of the road. Walked in their gallery and saw these mermaids, and tikis, and bears, and this voice ... you know that voice we all have and always deny we have? It said, "You could do this." And I knew I could. My third piece was accepted into the Malibu Art Expo, which is one of the toughest art shows to get into. And I started competing. And I placed in two out of three competitions in a year.
Is it kind of a release for you like rock was?
Oh, it is. And I just don't get it with me. I really don't. It wasn't something I decided to do because it was different. It just happened. No great thing. But, you know, I was pretty scared. It is very, very dangerous machine. I don't know why God has me here, but, you know, I have pretty much no fear.
The clothes in the movie are very vibrant, did you make those yourself back in the day?
You know, back then it was so different. And you are very young. I just turned 50, so trust me. Back then it was very different. I mean we got what our parents bought us. And we would accessorize or steal, or whatever we had to do. We'd get a Bowie t-shirt and wear it every day for a week. I mean it was just that kind of thing. My twin sister and I, we shared clothes, and we really didn't have a whole lot of clothes. So we borrowed clothes from friends...I mean, you know, it just wasn't the way it is today.
Like the red jumpsuit you wear. Where did you find that piece?
It was my sister's. They were a big craze back then in the middle '70s. They were black, and red, and white and they just were like a flash in the pan type of a thing that came and went. I gotta get one. I want a black one this time. I lived in that red jumpsuit. I loved it.
Did you save any of your outfits or your costumes when you were performing?
I tell ya, that is why I wish I never drank, because, you know, a few cocktails and, "Hey, you want to have my jumpsuit that I wore in The Runaways?!" [laughs] Yeah, I have a couple pairs of boots, I think, but that's about it. I gave everything else away. I still can't hold onto that stuff. I just can't think, "Well, it's going to come back." But you are right. It does.
There is a big moment of raw sexuality between the actresses in the film. How much was that a part of you and Joan's relationship?
Well, you know, again, they embellish quite a bit on that. And, no. First of all, in the mid '70s, I mean that was when Bowie came out, Elton John, Steven Tyler, or whoever. I mean we were so vulnerable and we were so interested that, you know, it was like the thing to do, like doing cocaine or doing ludes. It was the thing to do. And we just had fun. That's all. We were really good friends. No, we were not in love with each other. We loved each other, though. And she was my rock. And without Joan, I would have gone crazy, because that is very much into my family. She had this vision and she stuck with that vision. And that is why she became the godmother of rock and roll. I was just missing my family an awful lot. So she was great. And we had fun. That was it. No big deal. It is never any big deal, really. It is just, you know, experimenting. That's it.
What is your take on the current state of the music industry, particularly rock and roll?
I don't listen to it. I think that the '70s was my favorite kind of music. Elton John, you know, of course Bowie, Foreigner. I loved Brett, too. I loved Barry Manilow. I think like Nickelback is really cool. But to me, I think a big interest is gone, for me anyway. I listen to the news. I am more interested in what is happening in the world. There is more to life, to me, than music now. I got a kid. I've got a kid that is, you know, going to be 19 years old and he is in a world that is really very scary. That takes my energy far more. I can't really recall the last time I really listened to music, to be honest with you.
Well how were you exposed to music back then? These days kids have iPods and they will say, "Oh, check out this song." But what did you do?
Oh, my son does that. Yeah. But for me it was always on the radio. Charlie Tuna. We just listened to hit radio. There were only a couple of them and whatever they played is what we listened to.
Thank you very much.
Oh, you are very welcome!
Note: This interview was part of a roundtable that Cinematical took part in at Sundance 2010 with a handful of other writers. Not all of the questions were asked by us.