For years, Hollywood had a Madonna movie in the works. Not just a biopic of the legendary artist, but one which Madonna herself would direct. It was in full development at Universal, with Julia Garner expected to play the singer, multiple reports of ‘Madonna bootcamp’ auditions taking place, and none other than Diablo Cody – the writer behind Juno, Jennifer’s Body, Tully and more – on script duties. But ultimately, it never came to be, with Madonna instead going on a world tour. While the biopic didn’t make it to the screen, Cody says she has “no regrets” over the time she spent working on the project, which saw her spend considerable time with the star.
Speaking to Empire in a major new career-spanning interview, Cody reflected on her experience of working with a music legend. “Nobody in this world gets to say that they spent this surreal summer of 2020 basically in lockdown with one of the biggest stars in the world, sharing stories and creating,” she says of the project. “I have zero regrets about that experience. It didn’t work out for purely logistical reasons. For me, to have an experience like that, especially as a woman who grew up when I did… I still have trouble comprehending it.”
Instead, Cody’s latest film is Lisa Frankenstein – an ‘80s-set horror-comedy starring Kathryn Newton, in which teenager Lisa forms a romantic connection with the revived corpse of a Victorian aristocrat. It finds her firmly back in the genres she swirled together in 2009’s Jennifer’s Body – misunderstood and poorly marketed at the time, and since the subject of a major cultural reappraisal. “Seeing Jennifer’s Body used as a marketing tool [on Lisa Frankenstein] is the funniest thing in the world to me, because it was such a spectacular failure at the time,” Cody recalls. “If you had told me then that it would be used to market something I wrote in the future, I would have said, ‘Why? Wouldn’t you bury that information?’”
Beyond Lisa Frankenstein, Cody has a dream project in mind – the chance to go longform and create a show from scratch. “I would love the opportunity to be able to tell an ongoing story on a streaming series. To have my White Lotus,” she says. “I use that as a specific example because of the amount of creative control that Mike White has on that show. It’s something we all dream of as writers. That show is distinctly him.” From one of the most vibrant voices in Hollywood, that would be a must-see.
Read Empire’s full interview with Diablo Cody – talking Lisa Frankenstein, her catalogue of classic films, and her tumultuous experiences in Hollywood – in the Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire issue, on sale Thursday 18 January. Lisa Frankenstein comes to UK cinemas on 1 March.