The life, death, and rebirth of Jennifer’s Body, according to screenwriter Diablo Cody

“I knew ahead of the reviews and everything that this was not going to be a movie that endeared itself to a mass audience.”

Even as someone who more or less liked the cult horror film Jennifer’s Body when it came out back in 2009, I don’t know that I would have ever predicted the groundswell of support it’s received this year, when the critically derided movie has been reclaimed as a deeply feminist horror film, emblematic of the #MeToo movement.

At the time, the movie hit a perfect storm of difficult buzz. It was the first new screenplay by Diablo Cody, whose career had shot into the stratosphere when her first screenplay, Juno, not only became a huge hit but won her an Academy Award. Cody, who was young and snarky and wrote under a pen name that sounded a little like the heroine of a 1940s comic strip (her real name is Brooke Busey), had become about as famous as a screenwriter could be, which meant the backlash was primed to hit before the movie opened.

The same was also true for one of the film’s stars, Megan Fox, who was reaching the zenith of her considerable fame after the second Transformers movie dominated that summer’s box office. So when Jennifer’s Body came out that fall, it was hard for a mostly male critical establishment to see past the movie’s marketing, which focused heavily on how hot Fox was — let alone the burbling Cody backlash — to see what the movie actually was, as my colleague Constance Grady has written about.

But Cody joined me for the latest episode of my podcast, I Think You’re Interesting, and in between talking about her latest screenplay — for the terrific, motherhood-themed dramedy Tully, which came out in the spring, and which all new parents should see — and all of my other favorite movies of hers (including Young Adult and Ricki and the Flash), I wanted to see what she made of the Jennifer’s Body surge.

That portion of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.



Premiere Of Focus Features’ ‘Tully’ - After Party

Diablo Cody (left), with Charlize Theron and Jason Reitman, at the premiere of Tully in April.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Todd VanDerWerff

Jennifer’s Body, this year, it feels to me like there’s been a groundswell of support for that movie.

Diablo Cody

Which is so random and weird!

Todd VanDerWerff

What do you make of that?

Diablo Cody

I definitely didn’t see that coming. I have been contacted so many times recently about that movie. Articles have been written about it, and someone did a musical about it in LA. I definitely didn’t expect that movie to get a second wind, but it makes me happy that it did. I stand by that movie. I love that movie. I love Karyn Kusama [the director].

Todd VanDerWerff

When you were working on Jennifer’s Body, I remember at the time, some of the reviews were not kind.

Diablo Cody

That’s unsurprising to me, though.

Todd VanDerWerff

That happens a lot with horror, where the initial reviews are often, like, “I don’t get this,” and then 10 years later, people are, like, “No! This is elemental!” So what was the stew that movie came out of? Are you a big horror fan?

Diablo Cody

I’m a huge horror fan. Juno hadn’t come out yet, but it was about to, and it was being buzzed about, and it was positive. And suddenly, I had this opportunity to do what I wanted, which is a very exciting and high-pressure situation to be in. I was in a situation where I could write literally any movie that I wanted.

I love horror. I always wanted to do something like that — a horror movie with a female protagonist and a female villain. And that was what I wrote. People were enthusiastic about it. Nobody said to me, “Oh, I don’t know, after Juno, maybe you should do another high school comedy” or “Maybe this is not the right project for you.” People were supportive.

Once we actually started shooting it and particularly once we started cutting it, I was, like, “Oh, I love this movie, but this is specific.” I knew ahead of the reviews and everything that this was not going to be a movie that endeared itself to a mass audience in the way that Juno had.

Todd VanDerWerff

How did you know that? I’m always curious about that in my own work.

Diablo Cody

It is hard to be objective. But I remember seeing a cut, and I just knew.

I did have to sort of steel myself going into that experience. That was the moment, actually, the fall of 2009, that I completely stopped engaging with criticism or any of that stuff. I think the last time I Googled myself was probably the day that movie came out. That was a long time ago.

It was a challenging time, but at the same time, there’s nothing I would change about the movie, and I have zero regrets about the experience, so I don’t know what else I could say.

Todd VanDerWerff

Sometimes, we just need to grow into movies or books that society isn’t just ready for yet. Do you feel like that was the case here?

Diablo Cody

Maybe. I think the advance feeling about the movie was tainted by the fact that there was this weird thing going on where Megan Fox had talked about Michael Bay in a couple of interviews, which to me seems [strange]. Is Michael Bay a sacred cow we can’t make fun of? I don’t know why people got so upset.

It was almost like the audacity of this starlet saying something negative about the guy who made her career, and people were really shitty about it. It’s weird, because you might think now, “Oh, that was a minor story.” The tone of the coverage of our movie was almost 80 percent about her feud with Michael Bay!

Also — and I know it’s so cheap to blame things on external shit — but the movie was marketed all wrong. I’m not usually an argumentative person. In fact, I’m really passive. But that was like the one time I’ve gotten in a fight, because I was so furious. They said, “We want to market this movie to boys who like Megan Fox. That’s who’s going to go see it.” And I was, like, “No! This movie is for girls [too]!” That audience, they did not attempt to reach.


‘Jennifer’s Body’ Hot Topic Fan Event

Cody, with Jennifer’s Body director Karyn Kusama and star Megan Fox.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Todd VanDerWerff

This is me forcing my interpretation on it, but for me, Jennifer’s Body works well if you’re in Amanda Seyfried’s shoes, and making so much of the marketing about Megan Fox skewed the perceptions of what that movie was.

Diablo Cody

That too! I mean, the poster is Megan Fox.

Todd VanDerWerff

She’s great!

Diablo Cody

No, she’s awesome. I’m still defending her against the Michael Bay criticism in 2018, so …

Todd VanDerWerff

I think she’s won that argument now, given time. I hope.

Diablo Cody

I think she has. I find it interesting that he’s the person who’s still working with her. She did the Ninja Turtles.

Todd VanDerWerff

She was in a couple seasons of New Girl and was fantastic.

Diablo Cody

She’s funny!

Todd VanDerWerff

One of the other things that’s come up in the current coverage of Jennifer’s Body is that people are writing about it through the lens of #MeToo, through the lens of talking about sexual harassment in Hollywood.

That’s a thing that some people obviously feel like is a new story, but beside even Jennifer’s Body, there are so many movies throughout history written by women, or directed by women, or just starring women that are about this topic. And people are acting like we’re just discovering it now, in a way, and I think that’s weird. Have you had those thoughts about Jennifer’s Body?

Diablo Cody

Yeah, I have. The interesting thing about #MeToo as a “new” phenomenon is that for those of us who’ve been living that, it’s strange, because it’s not new, obviously. That movie was very much about the issues that women face and about the feeling of being powerless and about the feeling of wanting to turn the tables.

I’ve been hearing about people talking about #MeToo in relation to the new Halloween as well, which is interesting. Having heard that, I watched it, and I have to admit I was assuming it was going to be very on the nose in that way, and it’s not.

But it is about someone getting their revenge decades later on someone who violated them. [Laughs.] It’s interesting.


For so much more with Cody, including her thoughts on her latest project, a stage musical adaptation of the Alanis Morissette album Jagged Little Pill, as well as why her children have no idea who “Diablo Cody” is, listen to the full episode.

To hear interviews with more fascinating people from the world of arts and culture — from powerful showrunners to web series creators to documentary filmmakers — check out the I Think You’re Interesting archives.

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‘Jennifer’s Body’ Hot Topic Fan Event

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