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"Cherie Currie of 'The Runaways' talks career, film and Dakota Fanning"

By Bob Zerull, Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online

Cherie Currie was the front woman of the ground breaking all girl group from the mid-seventies called The Runaways. The band featured Cherie, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West and Jackie Fox. Cherie wrote a book titled “Neon Angel: Memoir of a Runaway,” which has been adapted into a feature length motion picture starring Dakota Fanning as Cherie; Kristen Stewart and Joan; and Scout Taylor Compton as Lita. The film is due out in March. For now, here is my interview with the great Cherie Currie.

Q - What was it like being part of the ground breaking rock group The Runaways?

A - Wonderful, exhilarating, terrifying and hard. I guess anything that is worth something is all of those things.

Q - The group came out during the punk movement, how did that era influence The Runaways sound and career?

A - Well actually, that’s not so true, because the punk movement hadn’t happened out here when The Runaways started. We always considered ourselves rock n roll. It wasn’t until we got to Europe that the punk movement was very alive and well. It scared the hell out of us. I mean these kids had pins through their faces, spiked hair; it was all new to us. Punk is really not what The Runaways were at all.

Q - After the band split you were featured in a few movies with some big time actors?

A - Well I had done a show in Huntington Beach and a guy named Dennis Brody, who was with the William Morris Agency, was there and he just asked me, ‘would you be interested in acting?’ I consider myself an entertainer so I said, ‘why not?’ The second thing I went out on was “Foxes” (Jodie Foster) and I got. It was like that train that kept chugging along. I jumped on it and it was a real wonderful thing to do. Working with Jodie Foster was incredible. I was very blessed to have that as a first role.

Q - The movie “The Runaways,” which comes out in March 2010, is based on your memoir “Neon Angel.” How did that get picked up as a feature film?

A - I had rewritten the book. The book actually came out in 1989. When my son was reaching his teenaged years I just had this burning feeling that I wanted to rewrite the book and tell the stories I couldn’t tell in the young adult book. I don’t know what propelled me to do it, but that is what I did. Kenny Laguna, Joan Jett’s manager, felt that the book was really good. So he started shopping it in early 2000. He was getting resistance from publishers, but he was getting some interest from movie makers and that is how it happened.

Q - What did it mean for you to have you book picked up as a big screen movie?

A - It’s just the greatest thing on the planet. The fact that The Runaways were being recognized after all the hell we went through in our teens to really be the first young girls together to even attempt such a thing. It was really gratifying the fact that my son was the same age I was and a musician, he’s a musician, just made it even more important for this story to be out there. Show people that you can follow your dreams and that you can make it happen. There is no star that is too far out of reach, if you can do it, you can do it. To me it’s a great thing to be saying nowadays.

Q - Your former band mates Joan Jett and Lita Ford have made quite a career for themselves after The Runaways. Have you had a chance to keep in touch with them?

A - Joan and I started. Lita? Not really, no. Twelve years ago we were talking about a reunion. Lita had contacted me about that, but in the end she decided it’s something that she didn’t want to do. Joan, just as of late, the last few years, started talking about what it was like. I always go to her shows. So Joan and I have kept in touch for the last few years.

Q - Do you know what the reaction the rest of the band has had to your book and the film?

A – Well, I know the original book had good reaction from all the girls. Of course this book, none of them have read it yet. I think Joan has read some portions of it. She actually called me a couple of weeks ago to say that it was really interesting to be able to get to know me better. When we were in The Runaways we were just kids. We hadn’t even lived life. We lived life together from age 15 to 18. That was our time and we were so young. It’s just great to have Joan back in my life, that’s for sure.

Q - Have you seen the film?

A - Yes, I have.

Q - What did you think of it?

A - Well I think the acting is just incredible. Dakota, Kristen, Scout and Michael Shannon, everyone that worked on this film did a fantastic job. When you’re that close to it, there are some things where they took some creative liberties that I had to digest for awhile. All in all it is a really, really great movie. It’s very entertaining, and the acting is so good. The music is great by the way (laughs), of course it’s The Runaways.

Q - What did you think of Dakota Fanning playing you?

A - Well I heard about it through Sam Rubin on the “Channel 5 News” and my knees buckled. She is my favorite actress of all time. It’s the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me, besides the birth of my son. She did a phenomenal job.

Q - What was your involvement with the film if any?

A - I was there for Dakota. I and Dakota worked very closely together, in the studio and on the set. She’d come to my home and we’d sing the songs, the lines back and forth. She worked very hard to depict me the way that it happened. The way I was at the time. I was there for her. She could call anytime day or night.

Q - What message or theme do you want to send to the readers of “Neon Angel?”

A - That you can survive anything. That life is really wonderful. We all have really, really dark moments in our lives, but you can survive anything and come out of it on top of the world.

Q - Why aren’t The Runaways in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame?

A- I don’t know, you’re going to have to ask The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame (laughs).

Q - How much would that mean, getting in?

A - It would mean as much as this film has meant and this book has meant. It would mean, thank you very much for recognizing that we came into the music business when it was a completely male dominated world, except for Suzi Quatro and Fanny, but those were the only two. Again, the all girl band hadn’t been done yet, and it would be great to be recognized for the achievement of even attempting it. I would be much honored.

Q - How do you think the music industry has changed?

A - You couldn’t get away with putting teenaged girls on the road with no supervision now, could you? Thank God that has changed for the better. Hopefully this story, because there are a lot of talented people out there, will open people’s eyes to things that can happen and I guess that’s it.

Q - Who are you listening to right now?

A - My son. My son is a phenomenal musician and singer and he’s going to be touring with me this summer; he’ll be playing with me. Otherwise I listen to classic rock, because it’s the best music, the music I grew up with.