Kristen Stewart hadn't become Bella in the "Twilight" series when she signed on to star in "The Runaways." But between the time she agreed to play rocker Joan Jett in the bio-pic about the '70s all-girl band and its box office debut, Stewart had become a movie star.
The film, released last spring, is available Tuesday on DVD.
Stewart's sudden rise to fame had her thinking about the difference between what Jett, singer Cherie Currie and the other Runaways experienced in the '70s and what she's gone through in the past few years.
"I think they sought out their fame so aggressively that it was completely different thing," she said in an interview when the film was released. "It's not like it was thrust upon them at all. ... Musicians really are themselves all the time, in a public way. We're not. We're actors. We choose movies for a million different reasons; some of them are because they ‘say' things. But not the way music does, not so directly. I can say, ‘This is really cool, I'm really lucky.' They're like, ‘We own this.'"
Dakota Fanning, who has been famous since she broke into movies at age 7, said fame in the '70s was far different from what she and Stewart experience today.
"Back then you had to do something really important to become famous. That's what you really wanted," Fanning said. "Now I feel like you can do anything and become famous."
Fanning plays Currie and even appears on screen romping through "Cherry Bomb," the Runaways' signature song, wearing a white corset, as the teenage Currie did in real life.
"I was most excited about wearing that," Fanning said. "I really loved wearing the corset. It was exactly like the one she wore. I felt the most in character in the corset because if you do know who Cherie Currie is, I think you think of her performing ‘Cherry Bomb' in that corset. It was an exciting moment for me."
Fanning's performance in the corset is just one example of the detail brought to the film by Floria Sigismondi, a first-time writer/director who has made music videos for the likes of Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Tricky, Interpol, Christina Aguilera, Sigur Ros and The White Stripes.
Working from Currie's autobiography, "Neon Angel," and the stories of Jett and manager Kim Fowley, Sigismondi crafted a story that remains true to that of the Runaways, who were all teens when the band was formed.
Doing that story, however, meant that "The Runaways" had to include the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll that earned it an R rating. That shut out many of Stewart's young fans from theaters and contributed to the film's distribution debacle, which resulted in it not playing markets like Lincoln.
"I was kind of dancing this line between a lot of things," Sigismondi said. "But if this was a PG movie, I would have been completely unfaithful to the Runaways and to those girls. The thing that made it so instrumental in their lives was how young they were. They were thrown into this world with no parental guidance, plucked away from their families, on tour. Could you imagine? Even now? You're at that age when you want to try everything. Never mind growing up in the '70s."
Jett, who served as an executive producer of the film, and Currie each spent time on the set, befriending and working with the actresses. That, however, contributed a different kind of pressure for Fanning and Stewart.
"As much as Joan wanted to give me freedom and have me be natural, I couldn't improv stuff as easily as I could on other movies, I didn't like to fill in the blanks," Stewart said. "I didn't like to answer questions. I was always just asking them. ... You should always feel like your character is real. But it's totally different when they're there and you're friends with them. This really started everything for them or for Joan, and it was important to get it right."
Regardless of its box office performance, the young actresses said making the film forever affected them.
"I definitely relate a lot of the experiences I have now to Joan and Cherie, to the movie," Fanning said. "I feel like me, Kristen, Joan and Cherie all share something that is really unique. I think that has changed me, these relationships and the experience. I won't be the same after knowing these people and portraying their story."
For Stewart, that change centers on her friendship with Jett, who has become a confidant and mentor.
"It's really hard to describe," she said. "But the fact that I have someone in my life now like Joan, I could pick up the phone at anytime and say, ‘Dude, I'm freaking out' and she's there. How it's changed me, I don't know. I'm definitely more confident."
Reach L. Kent Wolgamott at 402-473-7244 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KentWolgamott.