AUSTIN, Texas — If Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning's "The Runaways" accomplishes anything, hopefully it will raise awareness of the hugely influential all-girl group, who burned brightly, then faded away in the late '70s.
"They existed only for a short period of time, but to when you talk to Joan [Jett, who played guitar and eventually fronted the band] about it, it's clear they're still living it," Stewart — who plays Jett in the film — told MTV News on Friday (March 19) at South by Southwest. "Their music influenced so many bands, and they're not always mentioned in the conversation. So that's what drew me to this film."
"I didn't know anything about the Runaways before I started. I knew Joan but not the Runaways, and I think a lot of people my age don't know them," added Fanning, who plays Jett's foil, Cherie Currie. "And especially Cherie. I don't think a lot of people know her story. And that's why I wanted to do it."
While it's true that the Runaways' bratty, sneering brand of rock can still be heard today — in bands like the Donnas and Paramore, to name just a few — what's even more important about the group is what they represented. They were the first all-girl rock group to achieve (relative) mainstream success, and in doing so, they broke not only the so-called glass ceiling, but a whole lot of taboos too.
"A lot of girls in my generation don't realize there was a time when you couldn't actually do something. And what the Runaways did at the time was actually not OK, not acceptable, not accepted," Fanning said. "Because I've grown up thinking I could do and be whatever I want, and I've never thought for a second that I couldn't because I'm a girl. So to do this movie, and see that it was not accepted at all, was really interesting."
"Joan was a punk before 'punk' was a word. She loved it once it started. She went to London and hung out with the Sex Pistols," Stewart said. "And that attitude is important, because it inspired girls. Courtney Love, riot-grrrl bands like Bikini Kill and Girl in a Coma, they were all hugely influenced by her. And, really, so was any girl that wanted to pick up a guitar and play rock music."
So while box-office numbers are important to some, they don't matter one bit to Stewart and Fanning. They're just happy the film is finally out and that the story of the Runaways will finally be told. Because, much like 30 years ago, the Runaways are needed today.
"I don't think there are a whole lot of bands like them right now. As much as they changed rock and roll for girls, I think they're sort of unique in their desire to make music like that and be that aggressive," Stewart said. "So the best thing about this movie is to let people see that. And we got to be friends with Joan and Cherie. And they're thrilled that their story is getting out there."
MTV News is at SXSW all weekend long, so check back for more show reports, interviews and blog posts on what's going down in Austin.
Check out everything we've got on "The Runaways."
For young Hollywood news, fashion and "Twilight" updates around the clock, visit HollywoodCrush.MTV.com.
Kristen Stewart Talks About Her ‘Eclipse’ WigBearded Theory Festival 2010 offers up ‘busk stops’