- Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (“Juno”) teams with director Jason Reitman for a third time to make the Charlize Theron-starring drama “Tully.”
- Cody talked to Business Insider about how the challenges of raising a third child inspired the script.
Since her meteoric rise after the success of the 2007 movie “Juno,” which earned her an Oscar for best original screenplay, Diablo Cody has taken audiences on an entertaining and emotional journey of women going through real-world situations.
In “Juno,” it’s navigating an unplanned teen pregnancy. “Young Adult” shows a woman trying to find her footing after a divorce. And her latest, “Tully” (in theaters Friday), dissects the claustrophobic feeling of being a middle-aged mom who feels helpless in her situation.
Though “Juno,” Young Adult,” and “Tully” are all directed by Jason Reitman, he is in many ways just those movies’ vessel. The heart and soul of these titles is Cody.
From stripper to Oscar winner
Cody, whose real name is Brook Busey-Maurio, came to notoriety during the blog craze of the early 2000s. Ditching a career path down the corporate world after graduating college, she started writing fictional blogs under pen names and on a whim began stripping. She used that colorful world to write her first book under the name Diablo Cody at the age of 27, the memoir “Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper.”
- Fox Searchlight
Two years later, “Juno” was in theaters and soon after that Cody was on stage holding an Oscar thanks to her witty dialogue and a fresh storytelling approach.
Since then, Cody has become a fixture in Hollywood. She’s the creator behind TV series “United States of Tara” and co-creator of “One Mississippi,” but her work on the big screen is where we know her best. Along with “Tully,” marking her third collaboration with Reitman, it’s their second with actress Charlize Theron (she was the star in “Young Adult”).
But are audiences still interested in going to the movies for Cody’s stories?
Ignoring the latest trends
In today’s market most dramas, outside of prestige year-end releases for Oscar consideration, are being told as cable limited series or on streaming, leaving massive superhero blockbusters to clog up the movie theaters.
Cody admitted she didn’t give that much thought when writing the script for “Tully,” but realized the gamble.
“There was no moment where I sat down and thought, ‘Well, maybe this is for Hulu,'” Cody told Business Insider. “And to be honest, it probably would have been a better commercial impulse to do something like that because the smaller more intimate stories are being told on cable and streaming right now.”
The movie’s distributor, Focus Features, is certainly not looking for “Infinity War”-sized box office returns, instead taking a long-tail approach. The hope is to attract audiences that aren’t into the MCU and other blockbusters in the weeks to come and are looking for something with a little more real-world substance. “Tully” is sporting a 94% Rotten Tomatoes score, so that helps, too.
Finding therapy in the work
In “Tully,” Theron plays Marlo, a mother of three – including a newborn – who is just trying to get through every day without completely losing it. She’s overwhelmed from making all the meals, dropping off and picking up from school, and also having a special needs child. So to the rescue comes her brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), who gives her the number of Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a “night nanny” who will clean and take care of her newborn while Marlo gets some much needed sleep.
Marlo and Tully soon build a strong bond. This is a welcomed new addition seeing as Marlo’s relationship with her husband Drew (Ron Livingston) has stalled. But things begin to unravel in the third act, which leads to an incredible revelation.
- Focus Features
Like a lot of Cody’s work, “Tully” comes from her own experiences.
“Right after I had my third son I was feeling way more overwhelmed than I ever had as a parent,” Cody said. “I was kind of under a lot of professional pressure at the time, too. I had this big script I was supposed to deliver to a studio, and I was failing. I was obviously sleep deprived. I just started writing ‘Tully.’ And it felt good. It was a therapeutic exercise.”
From the morning rituals that need to be done with a special needs child, cooking a frozen pizza for dinner because you’re too tired to make a meal, and even accidentally dropping your phone on your baby while getting in the car, “Tully” doesn’t hold back on anything and delivers a powerful story. But it will give parents in the audience major PTSD.
“I’ve always been all about laying it out there,” Cody said when asked if she regretted putting anything in the movie.
And Cody hopes that warts-and-all approach will lead to audiences being interested in coming to theaters to see the movie and not waiting for it to be available at their homes.
“Writing a smaller movie like ‘Tully’ and putting it in theaters is risky,” she said. “But I was willing to take that risk.”