How ‘Jawbreaker’ Paved the Way for ‘Bottoms’ and ‘Mean Girls’

We were all sort of coming up together. And we were all Gen X. We all liked the same kind of music, like Sleater-Kinney and Kill Rock Stars. Being raised in the ’80s, the latchkey kid thing, the lawlessness of that time, I think, is in all of our films.

You were just talking about Rose McGowan and one of the things that I love so much about Jawbreaker is that you have these people who are contemporary stars like Rose and Rebecca Gayheart. But then you also have PJ Soles and Jeff Conway and Carol Kane and Pam Grier. What went into making this multi-generational cast?

I think it was just me. It was my ode to the films that I grew up with, the films that influenced Jawbreaker. With Carol Kane, when I was a kid, I made my own version of the horror film When a Stranger Calls. Pam Grier I loved all of her films, Foxy Brown, and [others] she made in that period: really subversive and female-centric and violent and inappropriate. Jeff Conway, I loved from Grease. And PJ Soles, I really loved from Halloween and Carrie.

The thing about Carrie and Grease that had such a profound effect on me was the fact that I was a child, when they came out when I saw them and I was like, “Oh my God, when I’m a teenager, I’m going to be an adult” — a man or a woman or this larger-than-life thing. And back then in the ’70s, they were casting people in their late 20s and early 30s who do not look like they’re in high school. But that was part of what made it so delicious and it made an imprint on me when I was young. I was like, “Oh, that’s what I will be post-puberty!”

Jawbreaker was an homage to the feeling that I had as a kid of seeing these, like, Amazon men and women in movies. They were essentially adults having sex, drinking alcohol, and being outside of the norm of what you do in high school.

Though the film centers around the Flawless Four, the movie is also really about Fern Mayo and her metamorphosis. You said you were inspired by that real-life “kidnapping,” so how does a character like Fern Mayo make it into the story?