Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart attend 'Runaways' school of rock
For anyone clinging to the image of Dakota Fanning as the lovable moppet in such movies as “Charlotte’s Web” or “The Cat in the Hat” (in which she utters lovably moppet-ish lines like “I wanna make cupcakes!” and “You better clean this mess up!”), her appearance in the rock-surged coming-of-age-drama “The Runaways” will come as a revelation (even for those who saw Fanning's tough-to-take "Hounddog").
“Hello Daddy/Hello Mom/I’m your ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb!” she snarls in character as the all-girl teenage rock group’s wild child singer Cherie Currie. As is detailed in this story (which will appear in Sunday’s Calendar section), in other scenes Fanning passionately makes out with co-star Kristen Stewart (as the movie’s Joan Jett), snorts all kinds of Class A drugs and whips fans into a frenzy by appearing in fishnet stockings and a revealing bodice.
G-rated family fun, “The Runaways” most certainly is not. Audiences will be able to see for themselves at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 24 where the film premieres before reaching theaters in March.
According to the movie’s director Floria Sigismondi, Fanning and Stewart (who shared screen in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon") subjected themselves to a kind of rock ‘n' roll boot camp to more convincingly embody two still very much alive musical icons – members of a pioneering group that went on to inspire such all-female rock bands as L7, the Go-Gos, Sahara Hotnights and the Donnas.
Step 1: Having Fanning practice with the hard rocking band Living Things, which is not coincidentally fronted by Sigismondi’s hubby, Lillian Berlin.
“I put Dakota in with my husband’s band so she could feel what it’s like to have big drums and amps behind her – so she could feel what it’s like to be a singer having to fight for the sounds,” Sigismondi said on the movie’s set last summer. “You have to use your body for that. I wanted to give her that experience.”
For a month before production began, Sigismondi also had Fanning and Stewart, with costar band mates Scout Taylor-Compton, Stella Maeve and Alia Shawkat, rehearse performing together as the incendiary girl group to coax more naturalistic rock star performances from them. Then Stewart and Fanning lay down vocal tracks singing the Runaways’ songs featured in the movie.
“We rehearsed for a long time, which was a great advantage,” the director said. “We got the girls in the recording studio, got the recordings right. Then by the time we filmed it, it wasn’t lip-syncing. Because they were the ones who had done it.”
Likewise, Stewart is utterly convincing both physically -- with her black fringed shag hairdo, spiked leather bracelet and rock chic leather outfits -- as well as doing an impressive approximation of Jett’s singing voice. Which makes more than a little sense; the rock icon executive produced “The Runaways” and visited its set frequently where Jett conferred with the actress about her portrayal.
During a break in filming on the movie’s set, Fanning gushed about her front-woman duties.
“I had never experienced being a lead singer before,” Fanning said. “It was something very new, very interesting. Unlike any feeling I’ve ever had.”
“It’s like a dream to be a rock star!”
-- Chris Lee
Photo: Dakota Fanning (left) and Kristen Stewart in 'The Runaways' from Apparition.