Diablo Cody sends Julianne Hough to 'Paradise'
05:00 AM, Jul 24, 2013
As the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind 2007’s Juno, Diablo Cody has proven to be a charismatic voice in Hollywood.
Now she steps behind the camera to direct her first feature film, Paradise (out Oct. 18), starring Julianne Hough as a deeply religious woman who suffers severe burns and a subsequent spiritual crisis that sends her to hedonistic Las Vegas.
For Cody, 35, directing her own screenplay was an opportunity to combine her trademark comedy with a message of hope.
“If you have ever been through something incredibly difficult such as this kind of injury, you know it’s hard to stay positive and not surrender to cynicism completely,” says Cody. “I wanted to make a non-cynical movie that would inspire positivity.”
Hough’s character Lamb grows up in rural Montana with loving but overprotective parents (Nick Offerman and Holly Hunter) in a closed community centered around her church. She’s not allowed to dance or listen to secular music and is priming herself for her ultimate goal, to attract a suitable husband. But her life careens off course after her injuries from a plane crash.
Lamb takes stock of her scarred body in the shower one night before realizing that her world has changed.
“That’s the scene that’s most shocking,” says Hough, 24, whose body was covered in prosthetic burns for the scene. “Lamb’s idea of what the future is supposed to be changes and she steps outside of the box she has been in for 21 years.”
After dramatically telling off her congregation, Lamb heads to Las Vegas, where she seeks to commit a list of long-denied “sins” in one evening. She starts at a cheesy lounge bar staffed by two bartenders (Russell Brand and Octavia Spencer) who take her under their wing.
Cody describes Lamb’s evening as “the anti-Hangover” as her mundane bucket list includes items such as having a shot of alcohol, dancing and cutting her hair for the first time even if it’s only a trim. The massive wig needed for the part was a difficult adjustment, especially on the sweltering New Orleans set.
“That was full-on, my hair went down to my butt,” says Hough. “It was not comfortable.”
But the Utah-born Hough has become accustomed to playing the parts of the wide-eyed, small-town girl in roles like last year’s Rock of Ages and the 2011 remake of Footloose.
“She is able to convey that innocence,” says Cody. “The essence of Lamb was definitely in Julianne.”
Meanwhile, Cody was six months pregnant during the spring 2012 shoot, but insisted on continuing with the production.
“I look at the pictures of me on the set and I just cringe, I look so tired and nasty,” says Cody. “It’s like, can you put a disclaimer in 50-point font that says the director was pregnant?”
With two young children (Rocco is now 1 and Marcello is 3), Cody insists she won’t have the time or energy direct again in the foreseeable future. But she came away from Paradise with a deep respect for the directing process.
“I have been writing dialogue for a long time, so I know how I want it to sound. And I have been writing characters for a long time, so I know what I want them to convey,” says Cody. “But the entire thing was intimidating and terrifying for me, to be frank.”