Interview: Meryl Streep and Diablo Cody From 'Ricki And The Flash' In the film Ricki and the Flash, Meryl Streep plays a mother who abandoned her family to become a rock star. Both Streep and writer Diablo Cody say the story of the film hits close to home.
NPR logo

Straight From Diablo Cody's Life: 'Ricki' And Difficult Families

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Straight From Diablo Cody's Life: 'Ricki' And Difficult Families

Straight From Diablo Cody's Life: 'Ricki' And Difficult Families

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


MERYL STREEP: (As Ricki, singing) Well, you know that I'm a (unintelligible).


That's Meryl Streep in her new film "Ricki And The Flash." She plays a musician who used to dream about making it big. Now, she's content to play in a cover band at a bar. Her boyfriend and band-mate is named Greg, and he's played by real-life rock star Rick Springfield. The film was written by Diablo Cody, who says her inspiration for the character Ricki came from her own life.

DIABLO CODY: My husband's mom is actually the lead singer of a covers band on the Jersey Shore. And the thing that was striking to me when I met her is that nobody had prepped me for that, so I was expecting to meet your typical mother-in-law. And then that night we go to see a show of hers, and she's standing on the bar singing, I think, "All Night Long," by AC/DC.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

CODY: I'm like, I'm looking at my husband like, are you kidding me? And he's just kind of rolling his eyes.

MARTIN: That was the spark for the character at the center of the film, Ricki Rendazzo. She lives in LA and is estranged from her three kids who live in Indiana. At its core, this film is about family. To pursue her dream, Ricki left her husband and children behind. A family crisis takes Ricki home, where her daughter is struggling with her own divorce. During the visit, there is one especially awkward family gathering at a restaurant. Writer Diablo Cody explains.

CODY: Ricki is being reunited with all three of her children for the first time in quite a while, we sense. And she and her ex-husband and the kids and her son's fiance are having dinner. They don't really share a lot of their personal news with her these days. So the entire atmosphere surrounding this dinner is very tense.


STREEP: (As Ricki) Hey, Adam, when are you going to settle down and get married?

KEVIN KLINE: (As Pete) Who wants some appetizers? Anyone?

NICK WESTRATE: (As Adam) Well, Mom, I'm gay...

KLINE: (As Pete) You used to love carpaccio.

WESTRATE: (As Adam) As you know...

KLINE: (As Pete) You could get pommes frites, for the table, maybe...

WESTRATE: (As Adam) And unfortunately, many of my fellow gay men still can't get married.

KLINE: (As Pete) You know, and you used to love the escargot.

STREEP: (As Ricki) Well, (laughter) I didn't mean to a man necessarily.

KLINE: (As Pete) No?

WESTRATE: (As Adam) Who would I marry then?

STREEP: (As Ricki) Well, I thought you were bisexual.

WESTRATE: (As Adam) That was my cover story in college, like, 10 years ago.

KLINE: (As Pete) Two pommes frites...

WESTRATE: (As Adam) I'm really sorry

KLINE: (As Pete) And one order of the carpaccio...

WESTRATE: (As Adam) that you didn't stay updated on my sexuality...

KLINE: (As Pete) And more bread. I'm starving.

WESTRATE: (As Adam) But then again, you didn't stay updated on much of anything.

MARTIN: Oh, I love this clip. There's so much happening in there. We have to say Adam is her son who is a gay man. She is a little bit in denial, apparently. This was also - we should say this was filmed before the Supreme Court decision which legalized gay marriage. Diablo, have you been in a dinner like this before?

CODY: I can't tell you how many public fights my family has had in restaurants.

STREEP: (Laughter).

CODY: Ordering the appetizers during the argument is something that is very familiar to me.

MARTIN: Meryl, is this something you have just acted in or have you experienced this dinner?

STREEP: (Laughter) This is every Christmas and Thanksgiving that I can recall, frankly.


MARTIN: So speaking of real, your daughter, Mamie Gummer, plays your character's daughter in the film. And there are some, you know, tense moments between the two of you here. Let's listen to a clip that illustrates this.


STREEP: (As Ricki) This whole thing is not a big deal.

MAMIE GUMMER: (As Julie) No big deal?

STREEP: (As Ricki) I read something about it in Parade magazine. A lot of young women your age having starter marriages.

GUMMER: (As Julie) This was not a starter marriage, OK? I was going to marry Max, stay with him forever, have his kids and actually raise them to adulthood.

KLINE: (As Pete) OK, Julie, just take it easy.

MARTIN: I wondered if sometimes it felt maybe uncomfortably close to reality, not that the two of you have ever had big blowouts like that, but hearing your daughter, you know, fling those barbs.

STREEP: I've heard her fling barbs at me for 32 years (laughter). I don't know. Maybe I'm a bad mother because when I'm in it, I'm in it. I mean I didn't think. I just was feeling what it would feel like to be - to feel this bad about having left these kids.

MARTIN: Diablo, there's a moment toward the end of the film where Ricki is at the bar where she usually performs with her band. And she kind of has a public breakdown in the middle of her set where she talks about what she sees as a real double standard. She goes off on how fathers are allowed to pursue their dreams and take risks and even hurt people and then be forgiven, but that mothers can't do that.

CODY: Obviously, I agree with Ricki in that moment, and at the same time, I see the comedy in Ricki comparing herself to Mick Jagger.


MARTIN: Maybe we should say that's what she was doing.

STREEP: What do you mean?

MARTIN: Mick gets to go off and do all these things...

STREEP: Wait, what do you mean?

CODY: Yeah, it's a rather unbalanced comparison, and if she had achieved the success of Mick Jagger and been able to provide for her kids on that level, they may have been more quick to forgive. To me...

STREEP: No they wouldn't. No they wouldn't.

CODY: You're probably right, actually.

STREEP: They'd just have more stuff.


CODY: They would just have - you know what, you're right. I just - I'm stunned. Even just the experience of writing this movie and putting it out there, how resistant people are to the idea of a woman who has - you know, she's automatically viewed as this very edgy, daring, unsympathetic character because she didn't, you know, see the whole mothering journey through. And as I've said, you know, my comparison is if I - if this movie had starred Jack Nicholson, I don't think the same dialogue would be surrounding it.

STREEP: Right. The wife would've moved to Los Angeles and helped him. She could do her financial career, whatever, and he could pursue his rock and roll...

CODY: Yes.

STREEP: Nobody has ever said to me, why didn't he just go with her?

MARTIN: Why didn't Kevin Kline's character go? Yeah.

CODY: That didn't even occur to me until right now, actually, so I'm poisoned, too.

MARTIN: Diablo, you ended up giving Rick's character, Greg, what I thought to be a really important line in the movie because it is so much about parental relationships and that tension with kids. He says, it doesn't matter if your kids love you or not. It's not their job to love you. It's your job to love them. It's heartbreaking.

CODY: Thank you. That became kind of a mantra for me at a point in my life because I was actually - it came to me when I was off shooting a different movie a few years ago, and my eldest son was 1. And he was so angry with me when I would come home. He wouldn't come to me for a hug. He was genuinely, clearly resentful of the fact that I had been gone. And it was gut-wrenching for me because I was a new mom, and it was not what I had pictured my life as a working mother to be like. And so I just had to think of a way to remind myself that it doesn't matter if he doesn't come to you - like, that's not what this is about. This is about you loving him and making him feel secure and not vice versa. So that got me through a hard time, and then I just wound up popping it into scripts later on.


STREEP: And it worked.

CODY: That's what you do when you come up with a good one is you bank it. You bank it.

MARTIN: Meryl Streep and Diablo Cody, their film "Ricki And The Flash" came out on Friday. Thanks to both of you so much, really appreciate it.

CODY: Thank you.

STREEP: Pleasure, thank you.


STREEP: (As Ricki, singing) She was an American girl raised on promises. She couldn't help thinking that there was a little more to life somewhere else.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.