Joan Jett’s Wild Life Hits the Screen
On the Runaways biopic and being played by Kristen Stewart
The story of the runaways, five messed-up teenagers who became the toughest all-girl band in rock & roll, debuts this month in The Runaways, directed by Floria Sigismondi. Dakota Fanning stars as blond bombshell Cherie Currie, and Kristen Stewart plays the band’s guitarist, Joan Jett, who also served as a producer and adviser to Stewart. It worked: “It was surreal,” says Jett. “She nailed my moves. She really embodied them.” We spoke with Jett about watching her own life play out onscreen.
In the movie, your guitar teacher tells you that girls shouldn’t play rock & roll. Did that really happen?
When I was 11 or 12, I was listening to ”˜Bang a Gong’ and ”˜All Right Now’ on the radio. I really wanted to make those sounds. At my first lesson, he took out the sheet music for ”˜On Top of Old Smokey.’ So I left. And I taught myself to play.
Kristen Stewart says you taught her to put sexuality into her guitar playing.
Well, the guitar sits right on your pubic bone, and when you hit a chord, it just vibrates right through your body. It’s a powerful feeling. So when Kristen would play, I’d say, “Pussy to the wood! Fuck the guitar!”
Do you think she played you well?
Yeah. I asked the studio to send me a mix of her singing ”˜I Love Playing With Fire,’ but when I listened, I could only hear my own voice. I was like, “You sent me the wrong one. I want to hear Kristen.” They were like, “That is Kristen.” It was perfect ”“ no Auto-Tune.
There’s a scene in the movie where you and Runaways singer Cherie Currie hook up. Did you see that moment as a romantic thing?
I don’t see it as romantic at all. Teenage girls just bond ”“ you see them hugging and holding hands all the time. But experimentation with sex and drugs was part of the appeal of the Seventies to me. You could try new things ”“ but not be judged for it.
What do you say to people who think there are no women in rock anymore?
I can tell you for sure: They’re out there. When we did Warped Tour, there were girl bands in every city. And if the Runaways did anything to inspire them to pick up an instrument, I’ve done my job.