Diablo Cody’s Whitesnake Mistake and Rock Star Advice

In her new film, "Ricki and the Flash" (out August 7th), the "Juno" screenwriter tackles mama drama and the rock-and-roll lifestyle (featuring frontwoman Meryl Streep). She recounts a hair metal snafu with Meryl, gives us stellar hosting advice, and then gets corrupted - forever!

Photo Credit: Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Each week you send in your questions about how to behave. And here to answer them this week is screenwriter and producer Diablo Cody. She won an Oscar for her debut screenplay “Juno.” She also wrote, created, and produced the critically acclaimed Showtime series “United States of Tara.”

Her new film is called “Ricki and the Flash.” It stars Meryl Streep as a woman who left her husband and children to become a rock musician and years later reconnects with them, it hits theaters this coming Friday. Diablo, welcome.

Diablo Cody: Hi! Thank you for having me.

Rico Gagliano: Thanks for coming. So, the film is this family, comedy drama, as you can probably tell from the description. It’s full of all these unusual details and characters, which makes it feel very personal, I have to say. What started you down the path of writing this thing?

Diablo Cody: Well, there were a couple of things that inspired me. I have children now, and I find myself obsessing over what they’re going to think of me when they get older. Because I am kind of a messy person [laughs]. And I also obviously have this kind of off the wall career that I’m very committed to.

You know, I wonder when they’re adults are they gonna think it was cool that their mom wrote movies, or are they just going to resent me for having been kind of wrapped up in all this?

 So, I just thought, I wanna write a movie about somebody who is at a place in their life where they’re looking back at the decisions they made and trying to decide, “Did I do the right thing as a mom?”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well look, there’s this great scene midway through the film where, Ricki points out Mick Jagger had many kids, and more or less he spent their childhood traipsing around, living a rock star life and no one batted an eye. Whereas she, a woman, is supposedly a terrible person for doing the same thing…

 Diablo Cody: [Laughs] Yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And, and in a way is this like the Diablo Cody thesis statement? A lot of your films feature these strong women living as they choose.

Diablo Cody: Here’s the thing. I see that scene as kind of comical because, she obviously isn’t Mick Jagger. The fact that she’s sees herself as the equivalent to Mick Jagger is funny to me.

Rick (Meryl Streep) in "Ricki and the Flash." Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures
Rick (Meryl Streep) in “Ricki and the Flash.” Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, she, she has the narcissism of Mick Jagger.

Diablo Cody: Exactly, but she also makes a good point, which is that, if a guy is off providing for his family that’s seen as a noble thing, and if a woman does the same she’s often seen as absent, or lacking in some way. So that was, in a way, yeah, I guess that was the Diablo Cody thesis statement. Which, I like that phrase. But-

Brendan Francis Newnam: You can take it.

Diablo Cody: It also — I think, it’s a complicated scene because she’s also not making her point in the best way.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, in the middle of a performance in front of a bar full of patrons.

Diablo Cody: [Laughs] Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: Speaking of which, you know Ricki is in a bar band, and this movie really seems in love with music. Over the course of it I think we see Ricki’s band play five or six entire songs. Your director is Jonathan Demme who, of course, in addition to “Silence of the Lambs,” made some of the rock documentaries ever. Was all that music your idea or his?

Streep and Springfield in "Ricki and the Flash." Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures
Streep and Springfield in “Ricki and the Flash.” Photo Credit: TriStar Pictures

Diablo Cody: I had written all those performances into the script, but it was — I had always assumed they would play out in 30 seconds, movie style.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

Diablo Cody: Whereas Jonathan Demme is like very, very passionate about music and is known for making one of the greatest concert films of all time, and–

Rico Gagliano: “Stop Making Sense.”

Diablo Cody: Yeah, and he wanted to really let those performances play out and use them as part of the narrative.

Brendan Francis Newnam: They’re mostly cover tunes, did you pick the songs?

Diablo Cody: A couple of them were in the original script, but, what was fun about the movie actually going into production was we all got to kind of collaborate on what we thought should be in there. Because when The Flash came together as a real band we had to think, “OK what are their strengths as a band? What kind of stuff do they wanna play? What does Meryl want to sing?”

You know, she would play something with the band and then decide if she was comfortable with it. And if she was, we would move forward with the song.

Rico Gagliano: What did she toss out [laughs]? What, she was like, “I’ll have nothing to do with this!”

Diablo Cody: You know what, I strongly suggested that she sing “Here I Go Again On My Own” by Whitesnake.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes!

Diablo Cody: Right? And, yeah I don’t think anybody liked that idea.

Rico Gagliano: Oh, come on!

Brendan Francis Newnam: I like that idea.

Rico Gagliano: That would have been amazing!

Diablo Cody: Yeah, I sat down and showed her the video on YouTube, and I was like, “What am I doing?!?”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, it features the model–

Diablo Cody: Tawny Kitaen…

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right. Rolling around a car in, not many clothes.

Diablo Cody: Yeah, and so you can imagine me sitting there being like, “No, you should see this!” to Meryl Streep.

Rico Gagliano: This is classy.

Diablo Cody: Yeah [laughs].

Rico Gagliano: Alright, clearly you know how to comport yourself in delicate situations. You ready to answer our listeners etiquette questions?

Diablo Cody: Yes I am!

Party playlist streaming struggles

Rico Gagliano: Here’s one from Elizabeth in Argyle, Texas. And Elizabeth asks:

“The new party status quo seems to be choose an online radio station or Spotify playlist and just let it go, commercials and all. Is it OK for people to inflict these commercials on their party guests?”

Diablo Cody: I don’t expect everybody to have a premium subscription where they’re gonna have commercial-free music. I agree that it’s annoying and it kinda kills the vibe.

However – and I’m probably like veering from the question at this point – the one thing that I really can’t stand, is you’re having a party, the music is on, and people are like grabbing the phone going, “I just heard this amazing song and you guys all need to hear it! And it’s like, “No!”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, yeah.

Diablo Cody: “Don’t DJ!”

Rico Gagliano: “There’s one DJ.”

Diablo Cody: Yeah, just let one person control the music and it should be the host.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And what would be worse for Elizabeth, would be if someone had a favorite commercial they wanted to play. That would be really–

Diablo Cody: “It’s my favorite Grubhub commercial!”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Exactly.

Diablo Cody: Yeah.

“My friend picks the worst karaoke songs…”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright, our next question comes from JR in L.A. JR writes:

“My friend picks the worst karaoke songs. They’re slow and not even ironically slow. No one’s heard of them so it’s tough to sing along. Should I suggest some alternate tunes or is that forbidden in karaoke land?”

Diablo Cody: There’s a major thing you have to take into consideration here. Are these drinking karaoke people, or are they sober karaoke people?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Good point.

Diablo Cody: Because if you, if you drink, it’s very easy to wait until you’re both like five drinks in and then bust the guys chops, and be like, “You know the songs you pick really suck, but I love you!”

You can get away with saying it, because you’re intoxicated, but they’ll still take it to heart.

Rico Gagliano: OK.

Diablo Cody: Whereas if you’re sober, I’m sorry you’re just going to have to suffer through it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right, there ya go. And if this person likes slow songs, then I think they’ll probably be open to this conversation.

Diablo Cody: Well, yeah, cause they’re just a maudlin person.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right! You, actually, could just sing it to them in a ballad.

Diablo Cody: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: [Singing] Please, turn off this music.

Crank up the cold

Here’s something from Jackie in Raleigh, North Carolina. Keep in mind, by the way, North Carolina, summertime. The question is:

“What, if anything, should I have said to my overnight guest who waited until I went to bed and then snuck out and cranked up the AC?”

Diablo Cody: You know, I’m actually at an age where, I put out clean linens and towels for people.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh yeah, you’re different level.

Diablo Cody: Yeah, I’ve gotten to that mom age where I want my guests to be very comfortable.

Rico Gagliano: Yes.

Diablo Cody: So I would be OK with this. But if you had asked me 10 years ago, I would have been like, “Ugh.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Because it could be a financial consideration…

Diablo Cody: That’s what I’m saying.

Brendan Francis Newnam: …cause your electric bill goes up. And if you’re at a point in your life where an extra $20, you know, is going to hurt you, then yes, the guest should behave.

Rico Gagliano: But guys, Raleigh, North Carolina, in the summertime. If you have the AC you should probably have it on, right?

Diablo Cody: But she didn’t say that it was off. She said they came out and cranked it up.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, they cranked it up.

Diablo Cody: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: OK.

Brendan Francis Newnam: They are the guest, and clearly they were hot. That’s why they turned it, they didn’t turn it on for kicks. You know what I mean?

Diablo Cody: They didn’t just get up and start flushing the toilet repeatedly for no reason.

How do you handle evil “curb sneakers”?

Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright, so this last question comes from Don, he sent it to us through Twitter, and Don writes:

“How should we handle curb sneakers? Those drivers that go into the right turn only lane, along side you, only in order to jump the line, and cut you off and continue straight ahead?”

Rico Gagliano: Ugh.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Now I know you live in L.A. now–

Diablo Cody: This hasn’t happened to be that much.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Really?

Rico Gagliano: What?

Diablo Cody: I mean, it has, I guess I’ve just always assumed that those people were confused. Like they wanted to make a right turn, and then went “Oh shoot! This is the wrong street!” Because that’s something that would happen to me. But you’re saying–

Brendan Francis Newnam: You were raised in the Midwest right?

Diablo Cody: Yes.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Cause that, the fact that you would assume that that person is lost instead of being an evil subhuman.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, which we all immediately assume in Los Angeles.

Diablo Cody: Yeah, no, I never thought of it as a malicious act. But if it is–

Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, it is.

Diablo Cody: That sucks. Then I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t know what to do to that person, I’m sorry.

Rico Gagliano: Well, you’re welcome Diablo. We’ve opened your eyes.

Diablo Cody: Yeah.

Brendan Francis Newnam: No, it’s not what we’ve, we ruined Diablo! She probably kept her sanity in L.A. all these years because she didn’t know that was happening.

Diablo Cody: I assume everybody is doing their best.

Rico Gagliano: Nope, you’re just… everyone’s out to get you.

Brendan Francis Newnam: You assumed wrong.

Rico Gagliano: But, Diablo Cody, thank you for being charmingly un-cynical and for telling our audience how to behave.

Diablo Cody: Well thank you for having me.