Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins on the '80s punk show that changed her life
The multiplexes may be dark and concerts off the books indefinitely, but it's still the season of movie blockbusters and music festivals — at least in spirit, which is why we asked some of our favorite creators to look back on their sweetest pop culture memories as part of EW's Retro Summer. Award-winning director Patty Jenkins (Monster, Wonder Woman) couldn't pick just one, but she did zero in on a moment that rocked her seventh-grade world.
PATTY JENKINS (as told to EW):
Of course it's my go-to answer because we’re doing Wonder Woman 1984 [now due in theaters Aug. 12], but the truth is, 1984 really was a super-fun and memorable summer.
You know, I was in the seventh grade, and maybe anybody at that age, their head’s gonna explode with everything going on. But looking back I just feel like pop culture was so great right at that moment — like, I can’t believe when I go over the amount of movies that came out that year. Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters, Footloose, Gremlins, Indiana Jones, Sixteen Candles, Splash, Terminator, Repo Man, Purple Rain, Nightmare on Elm Street, Karate Kid… I mean, when was there time for all of these? Every one of them went on to be such a classic.
But anyway, 1984 was the year that I really full-blown became a punk rocker in the hardcore scene, so I think it was a mix between going to all these great pop culture things and loving Purple Rain in particular, but the concert for me that really was such a memorable thing was when Red Hot Chili Peppers opened for Fishbone who opened for Bad Brains.
There were about 25 people and it was in the middle of a cornfield, this place called the Outhouse in Kansas, and it was raining so not that many people came. I was in transition from being into new wave into hardcore, and it was just mind-blowing. It’s funny, the Outhouse is a very specific thing that every hardcore band remembers, because it was the only place to stop in the middle of the Midwest — so everybody came and we had these legendary amazing shows, but it was always small, it never got big.
I saw hundreds of shows there, and Bad Brains was the greatest band probably to this day I’ve ever seen in my life. I was trying to explain to my husband how they changed everything, because until then hardcore was good, but it was a little monotonous — and the performance style of the Bad Brains, it was so whole, you know? It wasn’t just, "Ahhhhh, we’re mad!"
There were definitely [certain markers of the scene]. I remember things like [Wayne's World director Penelope Spheeris' iconic 1981 documentary] The Decline of Western Civilization, Faces of Death, Maximumrocknroll... and the only way that we knew about each other was these tiny fanzines and then the VHSes that you would copy and pass around.
Do I have photos from back then? We did a 1984 yearbook that we gave out to all the crew on the movie, and my assistant reached out to get old pictures of me without me knowing, and they were pretty great. Yeah, they were awesome.
A version of this story appears in the June issue of Entertainment Weekly, which you can order now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.