PASADENA, Calif. — Screenwriter Diablo Cody doesn’t harbor different personalities like her character in Showtime’s “United States of Tara,” but she hosts a slew of different lives.
She was a college graduate working in an entry-level job for an ad agency in Chicago when she suddenly picked up and followed a boyfriend to Minneapolis. That wasn’t all.
“I still can’t explain it — that was when I quit my job and started stripping,” she says in an anteroom of a hotel here.
“That was years ago now so I have a lot of distance from it, and I didn’t really understand why I did that. People say that I can’t be stopped. I guess I’m more headstrong than I think. They said, ‘We couldn’t have stopped you if we tried.’ I say, ‘OK. I guess I didn’t know I’m that stubborn.’”
Falling into a new subculture gave her something to blog about. “I brought my computer every day, would sit in the corner. I’d find a nice couch and sit and write while other girls were giving lap dances.”
Stripping didn’t pay much. “But I made enough to stay alive and suddenly I had something to write about. So every day I would hit the computer and write about the ridiculous day that I had and the girls that were around me and their lives. And that was the blog that got the attention. It’s unfortunate that people only care about sex because if I’d been writing a blog about working in a pet store, I would not be sitting here right now,” she smiles.
Her folks had no clue what she was doing. Her mom, an office manager, and her dad, a government employee in Illinois, thought she was waitressing. “The very bizarre life change almost had like a paranormal, like a supernatural effect on my life,” says Cody, 31, who’s wearing a red dress and a cluster of tattoos on her right arm.
“It was the first time I’d ever done something that was a complete deviation from the norm. It made me realize that you can fall pretty hard and come back. It was a lesson for me. It’s OK to venture outside of who you are and explore, and you can come back,” she says.
“Some girls do that kind of thing and wind up on drugs, and they do this and that. And that never happened to me. I never really strayed morally. So I thought, ‘All right, I guess there’s something in here. I don’t know what. Like maybe I’m a person of substance, maybe I’m just lucky.’”
She was lucky all right. Somebody saw her blogs and encouraged her to try more. To this day she’s not sure she can write. “I doubt myself every single day. I don’t know what makes a great writer. I don’t know if I ever would’ve become a writer if somebody hadn’t approached me and said I’m an admirer of your writing, you need to keep at it. So I was lucky enough to have a mentor.”
Their teamwork turned into the screenplay for “Juno,” a hit comedy about a moxie teenager for which Cody won an Oscar. Once that happened, Cody (whose real name is Brook Busey) was thrust into yet another life — one she wasn’t prepared for.
“The scariest part was the sudden visibility. I thought even though I’m the most famous screenwriter in the world, people are not going to know what I look like. They’re not going to take my picture. I’ve never seen that happen to a writer. They typically get to have anonymity. And for some reason at the time, the press really latched on to my back-story and my personality. Why I don’t know. I do not consider myself a fascinating person, but I was getting a lot of attention for a second there, and it was WAY more than I’m equipped to handle,” she says, shaking her head.
“It’s terrifying. I just absolutely could not believe that anyone would want to comment on what I was wearing or how much I weighed. I was just not ready for that kind of scrutiny.”
Settling deeper into her chair, she says, “I wouldn’t wish that kind of success on anyone because it was actually overwhelming and awful ... For me it was like a semi-truck. I didn’t see it coming at all and I wasn’t emotionally prepared for it. I had to go through so much therapy,” she laughs, “and I realize this is the dumbest thing in the world to be complaining about because so many people would love to have that happen ... I’m much happier now. I feel like things are stabilized and I can actually go, ‘OK, well, who am I? What is my role in this business? What kind of stuff do I write?’ Now I can figure that out. At the time I just didn’t have time.”
Married for eight months to her second husband, she says he’s helped her gain her footing. “He is one of first people I met post-success but had no interest in any of it. He doesn’t read the trades, doesn’t look online, doesn’t care about reviews. He’s supportive of what I do, but isn’t affected by it in any way. He’s an editor on a TV show.”
She says she doesn’t seek others’ opinions anymore. “Because I realize how erratic they can be. One minute people love you, the next minute they hate you ... You start to feel like stock going up and down. I don’t want to feel that way. I want to feel like a human being.”
Michael Rosenbaum, who was so good as Lex Luthor in “Smallville,” has written a script for a half-hour comedy that has been snatched up by the Syfy Channel. The show, still untitled, will star Rosenbaum and Jonathan Silverman (“Weekend at Bernie’s”) as two former actors on a science-fiction show who have to get their lives straightened out after their sci-fi gig is over. No airdate yet.
“Masterpiece Classic” on PBS will sport a new version of “The Diary of Anne Frank” on April 11, starring Ellie Kendrick. Kendrick, a first-year student at Cambridge University, reports that playing Anne was no breeze. “Because she does have these kinds of two levels. On one level, she is just a normal teenage girl. She is a giggly 13-year-old when she starts writing the diary, and she can be very stoppy and feisty, and she does talk about boys a lot. The transition was quite difficult because ... she was 15 by the time the diary’s finished. And she began to speak almost — to attempt to speak for Jewish people and teenagers on a whole, on a very broad level ... she became a very profound thinker. So it was quite difficult to maintain that duality of a very vivacious young girl and this very inspired, almost philosophical thinker ... “
It will be deja vu all over again when BBC America transports a new “Doctor Who” on April 17 starring Matt Smith and spearheaded by prize-winning writer Steven Moffat. The good doctor will have a new co-conspirator in the form of Amy Pound (Karen Gillan). The two will explore the 16th century canals of Venice, France of the 1890s and England in a future far, far away. The good new is that the initial broadcast will air with limited commercials.
// Channel Surfing
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