This Week In History: Indie Film Juno Defies Expectations

December 14, 2007: Indie film Juno defies expectations, becoming a pop culture phenomenon and winning over audiences worldwide.

The 2007 coming of age comedy/drama film Juno was a pop culture phenomenon, and one of the most successful indie films of its time. But it all started with very humble beginnings. The screenplay was written by Diablo Cody, a first time screenwriter who previously wrote a memoir that detailed her brief career working as a stripper called Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. Cody aimed to write something that was different from the typical Hollywood film.

She decided on a storyline about adoption, and collected stories from people she knew who had gone through that experience. Much of the film came out of Cody’s personal life, including the tic-tac loving boyfriend, the cheerleader best friend, and even the iconic hamburger phone. Cody wrote the screenplay over seven weeks at a Starbucks in Crystal, Minnesota. She admits to having had a cynical attitude while writing Juno, and didn’t ever think the film would get produced.

Juno director Jason Reitman discovered the screenplay through his friend Mason Novick, who also helped land Cody her book deal for Candy Girl. Before he even finished the script, Reitman knew he had to direct the project. Reitman cast Ellen Page in the lead role, after admiring her performance in Hard Candy.

Juno was made on a budget of only $6.5 million. The film’s strong cast, unique quotable script and catchy soundtrack helped propel it into the mainstream. While playing in limited release at various international festivals, the film quickly gained incredible momentum. Within just twenty days it had already earned back its initial budget, and went on to gross $231 million worldwide. It earned four Oscar nominations including Best Picture, and Best Screenplay – which rookie screenwriter Diablo Cody won.