LOS ANGELES -- Diablo Cody's Cinderella moment had arrived. Her film "Juno" was less than four hours from its Hollywood premiere. Her highly anticipated comedy was about to be seen for the first time by hundreds of the industry's most important people. And so was Cody. It was to be a flashbulbs-and-red-carpet event and she had nothing to wear. With her husband, Jon Hunt, at her side, Cody blitzed L.A.'s Grove shopping arcade.
Her mall-rat jeans and T-shirt, Jeff Spicoli checkerboard Vans and gnawed black fingernails marked her as an infrequent visitor to the realm of exclusive retailing. "I loathe shopping," she groaned. When a clerk at Nordstrom suggested high heels, Cody shook her head. "I wish, I wish, I wish. No, I actually can't wear heels. I have nerve damage in my feet from stripping."
Conversation died in a 20-foot radius. Eyes snapped toward her. "That always gets looks," she said with an untroubled shrug. Welcome to the charmed and frenzied life of Minneapolis' most celebrated former exotic dancer, turned Hollywood's hottest scribe, whose prizewinning debut script has those in the know hailing her as the most distinctive new voice since Quentin Tarantino and a shoo-in Oscar nominee.
Steven Spielberg tapped Cody to write the pilot for "The United States of Tara," his Showtime series about a suburban mother (Toni Collette) with multiple personalities. Soon shooting will begin on "Jennifer's Body," her feminist horror comedy about a small-town Minnesota girl "who eats boys." Next up are "Girly Style," her take on college sex comedies; "Time and a Half," a hipster postgraduate satire, and "Burlesque," a musical about cabaret artists. And she owes her publisher a book this month.
"I'm completely overwhelmed," she admitted a month ago. "My entire life is completely upside-down. Promoting the film has been really exhausting. I'm a professional writer and yet I have fewer and fewer opportunities to write. And I have to try to maintain my personal life as well."
The chaos boiled over last week when she and Hunt announced the end of their marriage, a relationship that was often the subject of blissful commentary in her popular memoir "Candy Girl" and her widely read blog Pussy Ranch. Their split made headlines in the Los Angeles Times.
"We're not Brangelina," she said last Thursday. "I did not realize how much of a personality I had become until yesterday when all this stuff surfaced."
"Juno," a comedy about an accidentally pregnant Minnesota teen, was the surprise hit of the Toronto International Film Festival, where Roger Ebert wrote, "I don't know where I've heard a standing ovation so long, loud and warm." Much of the credit has gone to Cody. Typically, writers are shipped to a Siberian gulag when the time comes to publicize a film, but the sassy, photogenic, ever-quotable screenwriter is the film's public face.
She not only shares the limelight with star Ellen Page and director Jason Reitman, but often eclipses them. She has captivated interviewers with her unique brand of profane feminism, lit-geek erudition and blistering wit. She was offered up as a sassy role model by Wired and interviewed in Esquire's "Women We Love" issue. She was "The Screenwriter" of the moment in Entertainment Weekly's holiday movie preview, and ranked 38th on the magazine's list of the 50 smartest people in Hollywood.
The frenzy of acclaim astonishes no one more than Cody, 29, who was living hand-to-mouth on her lap-dancing tips three years ago.
"We were always in debt," she recalled. "One day we literally had $9 left. We went to Cub Foods in St. Louis Park and bought a loaf of bread, a package of bologna and some generic cigarettes because my husband was still a smoker at the time. I remember saying to Jonny in the parking lot, 'Don't worry, honey, we can buy more bologna tomorrow after I finish stripping.' And we both started laughing so hard at how absurdly white-trash our situation was."