Juno Temple & Jeremy Dozier Dress Up Dirty Girl
by Brad Balfour
Originally posted on October 26, 2011.
Despite a substantial effort to integrate gays into mainstream America, anti-homosexual violence continues for those who don’t conform to this country’s far-too-conservative mores. Though it’s hard to believe that it continues, bullying still spurs teen suicides in a country charged by Tea Party extremism.
So first-time director Abe Sylvia used his juvenile experiences as a gay kid growing up in 1980s Norman, Oklahoma, as a starting point to inform us about his efforts to flee such attitudes. His debut feature, Dirty Girl, details a comedic search for identity and freedom which provides a context to illustrate the effect such repression has and how it stimulates the will to escape.
As the “dirty girl” of Norman High, Danielle (Juno Temple) sluts her way through high school, but her misbehavior gets her demoted to Special Ed. There she joins up with innocent but abused closet-case Clarke (Jeremy Dozier). Together they head out on an illicit road trip to escape the repression and discover themselves through their unexpected friendship.
Coming from an English showbiz family – mom is producer Amanda Temple and dad is director Julien Temple – the younger Temple has been a schooled actress since elementary school. Relative newcomer Dozier has only done a few shorts. But he shares in Sylvia’s experience, having growing up in conservative small town Texas.
Sylvia ran off to NYC to be a Broadway hoofer, working with such talents as directors Susan Stroman, Mel Brooks and Tommy Tune. However, the grind took its toll and he turned to Los Angeles to do film, television and commercial work in 2001. After graduating from UCLA’s film school, Sylvia’s four short films have screened in over 100 international festivals. He’s also won several awards, including the Jack Nicholson Distinguished Director Award, the James Bridges Prize in Directing, and was a finalist in the 2006 Chrysler Film Project.
Thanks to Christine Vachon’s Killer Films and Paris Films, Dirty Girl got made and did the festival circuit including 2010’s Toronto International Film Festival. It is now being released theatrically this month. The following Q&A is culled from a recent roundtable with these two leads.
Much has changed in society since 1987 so what did you learn about the time period and what were your impressions?
Juno Temple: We had to do a lot of research on the music and stuff.
Jeremy Dozier: I really hadn’t listened to Melissa Manchester or anybody like that, and she’s this icon for Clarke. So I did a lot of research and watched her YouTube videos. I found it fascinating how powerful she was on stage. I also did lots of research on the time period, on the clothes and everything, which was a lot of fun. It was a time when being gay wasn’t really talked about so I think that’s changed a lot since then, thank God. We’d walk onto set and everything would be decked out in ’80s gear. It was so much fun walking into this different world.
Juno Temple: it was like walking into a new world in a puff of smoke.
Did you ask your older cast members to give you some tips or references for the ’80s?
Juno Temple: Kind of. But we’re a different generation to them in the movie, too. My parents were a big part of the ’80s rock and roll music scene, so I know quite a lot about that part of the ’80s. So this was like a whole new part of the ’80s in that we’re listening to this great power ballad, music you can’t help but move your body to.
Jeremy Dozier: What was great about working with Abe [Sylvia, the director] is that he grew up in that time period and had so many references for us. Movies like The Breakfast Club and different movies for us to watch.
Juno Temple: We watched some good movies.
Jeremy Dozier: The music plays a huge part of the movie, and he knew what songs he was going to play over which scene before we started.
Juno Temple: We were given the soundtrack before.
Jeremy Dozier: That helped us inform the scenes and get the tone [right].
You have your come-on line, which is “Are those Bugle Boy jeans?” I hadn’t heard that in so long.
Jeremy Dozier: I thought that was such a weird line. I shot the entire movie not knowing where that came from. Just last week, Abe posted the commercial on Facebook and I was like, “It all makes sense now.”
Any other references from the ’80s that you didn’t know about?
Juno Temple: There was a line that was cut out where Clarke says to Danielle, “Let’s sing ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud,'” and I’m like, “I’m more of a Whitesnake girl.” That was the kind of vibe that Danielle is more into, like hair metal. The thing I loved about Danielle was that she was kind of ’70s in this ’80s world. She got all her mum’s hand-me-downs, so she’s in these little rompers and fur coats and ’70s platform heels. She looks like even more of a misfit. She doesn’t get so ’80s until the end, with the polo neck and the camel toe shorts. It was interesting because also it’s so Abe’s world – it’s based on his childhood story. He’s written the bible for you in that situation because he knows it better than anybody else. [He‛s] a man you trust so dearly that he opens your eyes to this whole new world and you just become lost in it. So [we spent] a lot of time talking with Abe. I grew up having a really vivid imagination. So when you have a director that has this incredible vision that he’s just giving to you, it’s like walking through the Narnia closet or something, like walking through a whole new doorway. Even before we got on set, we did dance and singing rehearsals. We grew up going out dancing, and it’s like you just wriggle a bit, you don’t really have proper dance routines. So you get there and are learning how to do all these crazy moves that you haven’t seen since an ’80s music video. That was so fun, taking you to a whole new part of your brain that you haven’t really ever accessed before.