The first time she met Joan Jett about portraying her in The Runaways, Kristen Stewart was petrified that the rock legend wouldn’t take her seriously because she still looked like Bella Swan.
“It was so scary because it felt like this is the meeting that either fires me or keeps me on,” Stewart remembers. “My hair was still long, I was about to do New Moon. I felt like she was going to look at me and go, ‘What makes you think you could play me?’”
It turns out the hair was a factor, but one that worked to Stewart’s favour, according to Jett: “I asked her, ‘Are you going to cut your hair?’ And when she said yes, it really gave me a sense of comfort, that she was very committed to becoming me,” Jett says.
But hairstyles aside, Jett immediately took to her younger doppelganger. “I liked her right away,” she says of their first meeting — at a Denny’s in the San Fernando Valley. “I thought she was really great. Probably took a minute for us to get comfortable.”
For Jett, the creative force behind 1970s all-girl punk band the Runaways and hits like I Love Rock and Roll and their legendary cover of Crimson and Clover, watching her youth come alive on screen was more than a little surreal, especially since the film chronicles such an important part of her life — filled with some painful memories.
“To see the reaction be so harsh and so mean-spirited because we’re playing music? The disparity just was weird, and I didn’t get it, and it made me really angry,” she says of early reactions the band received. “Why people are so threatened for girls to play rock and roll, I just don’t get. I still don’t get it. To be told, ‘You can’t play rock and roll.’”
The film covers some rather mature subject matter, something Jett was proud to see the filmmakers not shy away from.
“Teenagers are sexual. Teenage girls are sexual,” she says. “Sorry. It’s the reality. And to dismiss it like it should not have a voice is very insulting to teenagers.”
Luckily for Stewart, her parents have gotten used to the young actress dealing with mature themes.
“I was more nervous about it when I was younger.”