Diablo Cody Hates Directing 

Why the Oscar-winning screenwriter's first self-made film may be her last

Thursday, Oct 17 2013
Diablo Cody

Diablo Cody

"I don't get asked questions about stripping anymore — which is a relief," Diablo Cody beams. Understandably. She spent one year on the pole, and a whole lot longer on her knees at a Roman Catholic school, where the priests had old-world accents and made young Cody attend mass before class every morning at 8:10, and then again on Sundays.

Cody — then just prom queen Brook Busey — knew hard-core Christianity wasn't for her. "A lot of blatant sexism and bigotry were being spewed during the sermons," she says. But instead of railing against religion, as one might expect from someone who essentially rechristened herself "Devil," she's empathetic. "The country has become so divided that people who are spiritual are just automatically painted as stupid and ignorant and bigoted," Cody sighs. "I still believe in God, and I get mocked by my friends for this."

Over a diner breakfast in Studio City, where Cody and her husband, Daniel Maurio, an actor on Chelsea Lately, relocated from Laurel Canyon after the birth of their second child ("We succumbed to the siren call of the Valley. You can walk down the street and not get hit by a Porsche"), she digs into her concerns about Christianity. Tentatively.

Related Stories

"Kevin Smith got into a lot of trouble when he did Dogma," Cody says. "I'm worried about my kids, and people are crazy."

She's concerned for the moderates, the reasonable believers who have been pushed out of the national conversation. She's especially concerned for young girls raised in fundamentalist families, who haven't had their own chance to rebel.

"I respect other people's religions, but I think it's pretty obvious when it's the patriarchy operating under the guise of a religion," Cody says, pointing to the Duggars of TLC's 19 and Counting, who believe that women should be continually pregnant. Earlier this month, she tweeted to their fourth-oldest daughter, "We have a spare bedroom waiting for you in L.A., Jinger Duggar." Alas, Jinger isn't on Twitter.

But maybe she'll hear of Cody's directorial debut, Paradise, a more ambitious attempt to reach both girls like Jinger and the indie movie–loving intellectuals who write off devout women like her as brainwashed simpletons.

Paradise stars Julianne Hough as a sheltered Christian named Lamb, who disavows God after a disfiguring plane crash leaves her arms and legs severely burned.

Where's a good girl to go when she wants to start sinning? Vegas, duh, where her new friends, played by Russell Brand and Octavia Spencer, are as amazed that she's never tried booze as she is that they chug it daily.

Despite dissecting faith and God talk, which most films avoid like a plague of locusts, Paradise is a sweet — not cynical — story, which Cody prays will make people smile. "Instead of wanting to shoot themselves, which is how test audiences felt about Young Adult," she deadpans.

Hough, a pocket-sized country singer and ballroom dancer, was willing to go even darker. Raised Mormon in Utah, where her father was chairman of the Republican Party, she was booted from the church after a divorce in her family. "She understands what it's like to be judged by a religious community," Cody says. "I think the script spoke to her because of that."

While Cody struggled — and failed — to convince her producers that Lamb should have more facial scars, Hough begged to strip off her waist-length blond wig and shave her head. Laughs Cody, "She was, like, 'I think her hair would have burned off.' I said, 'Honey, I agree. But we'll never get to make that movie.' "

Brand, however, wasn't game to mess with his looks. At one point, Cody attempted to convince him to chop off his shoulder-length locks for a normal-person hairdo. "That didn't go well."

No matter. She had bigger things on her mind, like trying to finish shooting and post-production before her second son was born. "I peed constantly," she confesses. "Twenty-seven times in one day — I was counting because it became so comical."

Then her water broke before she could complete editing and reshoots, leading to a surreal moment at 5 a.m. on top of Vegas' Palms Casino, where Cody directed a tender scene between Hough and Brand while attached to a noisy breast pump. "It sounded like a Gregorian chant," she says. "Whaaaooooouuuuummmm — really ominous and super creepy."

After Juno, the big question for the Oscar-winning screenwriter was: Did she want to direct? No. And now that she has, she doesn't want to do it again.

"I never would have directed in the first place if I hadn't felt obligated to increase the number of female directors by putting myself in that position," she insists. "I have no idea how somebody makes a movie like Saving Private Ryan. Are you fucking kidding me? This was my fucking Avatar, and it killed me."

Instead she's writing a script for an older actress, a Cher or Geena Davis type, while devoting herself to getting her Sweet Valley High musical green-lit by Universal.

Whether Cody directs again, she's grudgingly aware that being a female filmmaker means being responsible for the ambitions of all womankind. "That drives me bananas," she groans. "If a guy writes a shitty movie, nobody says, 'Ugh, this is proof that guys can't write.' "

Besides, be they evangelical or rebellious, sometimes girls just want to have fun — sometimes even while they're pregnant and helming their first feature. Laughs Cody, "Certain days, I'd have my on clip-on extensions and be, like, 'When I have my long hair, that means I mean business, guys.' I don't think Scorsese does shit like that."

Reach the writer at anicholson@laweekly.com

Related Content

Now Showing

  1. Tue 19
  2. Wed 20
  3. Thu 21
  4. Fri 22
  5. Sat 23
  6. Sun 24
  7. Mon 25

    Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

    Sponsored by Fandor

Box Office Report

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, concert and dining info & more!


  • 20 Neo-Noir Films You Have to See
    The Voice's J. Hoberman was more mixed than most on Sin City when he reviewed it in 2005, but his description of the film as "hyper-noir" helps explain why this week's release of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has us thinking back on the neo-noir genre. Broadly speaking, neo-noir encompasses those films made outside of film noir's classic period -- the 1940s and '50s -- that nevertheless engage with the standard trappings of the genre. As with most generic labels, there isn't some universal yardstick that measures what constitutes a neo-noir film: Where the genre might begin in the '60s with films like Le Samourai and Point Blank for one person, another might argue that the genre didn't find its roots until 1974's Chinatown. Our list falls closer to the latter stance, mainly featuring works from the '80s, '90s, and 2000s. Though a number of the films mentioned here will no doubt be familiar to readers, it's our hope that we've also highlighted several titles that have been under-represented on lists of this nature. --Danny King

    See also:
    35 Music Documentaries Worth Seeing

    15 Documentaries That Help You Understand the World Right Now
  • Emmy-Nominated Costumes on Display
    On Saturday, the Television Academy and FIDM Museum and Galleries kicked off the Eighth Annual exhibition of "The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design" with an exclusive preview and reception party. 100 costumes are featured from over 20 shows representing the nominees of the 66th Emmy Awards. The free to the public exhibition is located downtown at FIDM and runs from today through Saturday, September 20th. All photos by Nanette Gonzales.
  • Cowabunga! 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    The COWABUNGA! - 30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tribute show opened Friday night at Iam8bit. Guests donned their beloved turtle graphic tees, onesies and a couple April O'Neils were there to report on all the mean, green, fighting machine action. Artist included Jude Buffum, Tony Mora, Nan Lawson, leesasaur, Jim Rucc, Mitch Ansara, Guin Thompson, Stratman, Gabe Swarr, Joseph Harmon, Alex Solis, Allison Hoffman, Jose Emroca Flores, Jack Teagle and more. All photos by Shannon Cottrell.

Now Trending