Holiday Movies

Diablo Cody: From Ex-Stripper to A-Lister

Meet the sharp-minded Hollywood outsider whose tender adoption comedy ''Juno'' is being called this year's ''Little Miss Sunshine''

Diablo Cody | DIABLO CODY The Juno screenwriter took her name from ''El Diablo,'' a song she heard while passing through Cody, Wyo., after her Vegas wedding
Image credit: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT MAXWELL
DIABLO CODY The Juno screenwriter took her name from ''El Diablo,'' a song she heard while passing through Cody, Wyo., after her Vegas wedding

Before her screenwriting debut Juno received a rapturous standing ovation at this year's Toronto Film Festival, before Steven Spielberg called, before she found herself in a world where people cancel meetings because they have a 2 o'clock with the Dalai Lama, Diablo Cody was giving halfhearted lap dances to greasy men at a Minneapolis strip club.

That was when she still went by her birth name, Brook Busey. Fed up with a dull copy-typist job at an ad agency, she decided to give the finger to her middle-class, suburban, Catholic-school upbringing and get naked. She spent a year strutting for tips and gawking at the seedy suckers waving their dollar bills, though while her colleagues were undulating around the stage like drugged eels, she punctuated her routines with screeching ninja kicks. When she started chronicling the experience on her divinely crude blog, The P---y Ranch, she decided to ditch her real name. ''I'm writing on the Internet,'' she says. ''I'm writing about sex work. I wanted to maintain some anonymity so I didn't get f---ing killed.''

Nothing about this 29-year-old woman, who changes the color of her hair every week and likes to wear a ''broke-ass weave,'' is boring, and neither is the story behind her name: On a road trip out west with her graphic-designer husband, Jonny — whom she met on the Internet and married on the Star Trek ship at the Las Vegas Hilton, surrounded by aliens — they passed through Cody, Wyo., while listening over and over to ''El Diablo'' by the Duran Duran side project Arcadia. ''I think when we get back home,'' she told Jonny, ''I need to invent a new persona. So from now on I am Diablo Cody.''

Mason Novick, a talent manager/producer from Benderspink, was surfing the Internet one day when he stumbled onto her blog. ''She was distinctively funny, and her tone was so great, and she's so current,'' Novick says. He reached out to her, and she dismissed him as a creep. ''Some random guy from L.A. is e-mailing me,'' recalls Cody. ''I'm not going to take the bait.''

For eight months Novick courted her, eventually hooking her up with a New York book agent who scored Cody a deal for her memoir about her state of undress. While Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper was in the works, Novick encouraged her to produce a screenwriting sample so he could persuade a studio to let her adapt the book. She sent him Juno, about a wiseacre 16-year-old who gets pregnant and decides to give her baby up for adoption. ''She pitched me this quirky little comedy that sounded like it could be a Lifetime movie," says Novick. "But from the second I got the script, I was like, 'Oh, my God, this is the best thing I've ever read.'''

NEXT PAGE: ''When you live in the center of the entertainment industry, it's difficult to maintain perspective. It's not the same as sitting in Target in suburban Minnesota, which is where I wrote Juno. People there just thought I was schizophrenic.''

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