Running with Diablo

Hollywood's hottest screenwriter talks about the price of fame, life in the film biz, and her early days at City Pages

Minnesotans might be forgiven for thinking that the year in film revolved around Diablo Cody. The former City Pages editor and current screenwriting star was everywhere, promoting her first film, Juno, in virtually every local publication except Apartment Finder—not to mention The New York Times, Washington Post, and NPR.

City Pages was literally her last interview on the international Juno PR tour. Following her Golden Globe screenwriting nomination earlier in the day and a media marathon around town, Cody arrived a little worn out but game. Within minutes she was on a roll and ready to talk about the upside and downside of sudden fame, her second thoughts about calling herself "Diablo," and why she showed up drunk to her first meeting at City Pages.

City Pages: So, Minneapolis: the last stop on your promotional tour. What kind of mood are you in right about now?

Diablo Cody
Nick Vlcek
Diablo Cody

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Want more? See our slideshow gallery with photos (and notes from the shoot!) by Nick Vlcek. Also, hear an excerpt from Matthew Smith's interview with Diablo, as she reflects on her time at City Pages, here (MP3).

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Diablo Cody: I'm pretty bushed. I'm tired, I've got to be honest with you. I don't want to sound like an ingrate, because I'm having a wonderful time, and it's such a privilege to talk at length about something you've created. But at the same time I'm feeling a little bit drained emotionally right now. We've been doing this for weeks. A city a day. It's been wonderful, though, getting to go around the country, go to Europe. These are not the sorts of things I anticipated I would be doing in my life. Not at all.

CP: What did you think you'd be doing?

Cody: Nothing. I never thought I would have an extraordinary life. It's all come as a surprise. That's why it's amusing to be referred to as shrewd or crafty, because I've never been good at strategy in my life.

CP: It might be a little hard to strategize what's happened to you, and then to pull it off.

Cody: No, I think it would be impossible, in fact. I can't even imagine someone managing to engineer the sequence of events. It's not possible.

CP: Just to recap: You worked as a stripper. You started your blog, Pussy Ranch. That led to an offer to write your memoir, Candy Girl. David Letterman asked you to be on his show. Then you wrote your first movie script. It got sold. It was produced. It's gotten rave reviews. There's Oscar talk. Now you're writing a TV series for Steven Spielberg. You have two or three movies in development. Either you're a very talented writer or you've sold your soul to the devil.

Cody: [Laughing] Not in the least. I'm one of the good guys. But yeah, I've been exceptionally lucky, and I would never be so pompous as to credit it all to talent. I have had a knack for being in the right place at the right time.

CP: At what point did you first know you wouldn't have to work as a secretary again?

Cody: Actually, you know, in one of my last sort of straight jobs I was working as an insurance claims adjuster, and Steve Perry [former editor of City Pages] contacted me. He asked me if I wanted to come and work at City Pages, and that was actually, honestly, one of the most exciting phone calls of my entire life, including all the stuff that has happened afterward. Because that was when I made the transition to professional writer.

And I was so terrified before my first Monday-morning meeting at City Pages that I got drunk in my office. Melissa Maerz [the former music editor] had left behind some airplane bottles of liquor, and I poured them into a glass and added some Capri Sun, because that was all I had to drink, mixed it around, created this incredibly toxic bug-juice-type cocktail, downed it, and came into the meeting drunk. I was so petrified, and I have not been that scared since in an artistic situation.

That was the turning point for me. I'd gone from an office drone to a stripper back temporarily to office dronage, and then suddenly I was a writer, and it was amazing. And I thought, I get to get up in the morning and write. It's never mattered to me if I was writing about the local band in Minneapolis or writing a pilot for Steven Spielberg. To me, it's a miracle either way.

CP: Of everything that's happened to you in the last two or three years, what's been the most satisfying?

Cody: You know what I'm proud of? It's one thing to write something like Juno and you hear the resounding cries of "Fluke!" You know, like, "Oh, she wrote one good script." But then the fact that I wrote subsequent scripts that were well received, even though they are still in development. To me, that's the hardest jump to make, from beginner's luck to, "All right, I am actually going to do this."

Obviously we don't know for sure if I've pulled it off because none of these things have been revealed to the world yet, but I do know that some people I really admire believe in them already, and to me that is an accomplishment.

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