For Hamilton-bred filmmaker Floria Sigismondi, one of the great memories of making The Runaways came during rehearsal when star Kristen Stewart’s singing voice fooled even the true-life character she was imitating — Joan Jett.
“(Joan) said, ‘Turn my vocals down so I can hear (Kristen)’ and I was like, ‘It’s all her!’” recalled Sigismondi during a recent interview in Toronto to promote her new biopic about the legendary ’70s rock outfit.
“I knew Kristen could sing and play guitar but when I met her, there was a sense of shyness and toughness to her which Joan has … and she really was determined and committed to the character and kind of soaked everything up.”
Just as Stewart (best known for starring in the Twilight movies) mastered the gritty sound of Jett, Sigismondi absorbed the rest of teenaged rockers The Runaways — an all-girl group that was the brainchild of eccentric music producer Kim Fowley. Combing over singer Cherie Currie’s 1989 memoir, Sigismondi soon harvested a script that was as much about capturing a moody coming of age story as it was about the music.
“It was nice to do something that was a little more subtle,” said Sigismondi who cut her teeth directing influential videos for artists like Marilyn Manson and Christina Aguilera.
“Being a visual person, I’ve paid attention to (detail) and I wanted to capture that — the life backstage, the pimples at that age, the diet of potato chips and burgers on the road — I just wanted to feel what it was like.”
For The Runaways, being on the road also meant a tumultuous life of drug abuse, sex and struggling egos at an incredibly young age.
But it also meant paving the way for future female rockers during a time when bands like The Bay City Rollers ruled radio airwaves.
“I think it’s that sense of rawness and energy,” said Sigismondi regarding what catapulted The Runaways to fame in 1975.
“Nobody was really talking to young kids and they were kind of talking about and singing about their age group and about experiencing some of these things that were a little more seedy … it was kind of raw and more physical and I think it completely goes with being fifteen.”