Harmony Korine is no stranger to controversy, having written several films centered around youth, sexuality, violence and corruption, that put previously unknown actors like Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson on the map. From Kids and Gummo to Mister Lonely and Trash Humpers, Korine incorporates surrealist storytelling and dark humor to inhabit characters suffering from dysfunctional childhoods, mental disorders, and poverties. With Spring Breakers, Korine ups the ante in casting four very famous young actresses (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine) as his wild protagonists, toying with armed robbery, sexual exploration and an off-kilter drug dealer (James Franco) on their path to the perfect spring break.
Hot off the film’s screening at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine and Harmony Korine spoke with Buzzine’s Daniel Schweiger to share the pop poetry and nonstop fun of filming their satirical and edgy indie hit, Spring Breakers…
Daniel Schweiger: As young actresses with managers and images to protect, how much fun did you have diving into the crazy world of Spring Breakers?
Selena Gomez: So much fun.
Vanessa Hudgens: We had the most amazing time. I mean this was just such a freeing and liberating experience as people and as actors. Harmony gave us the room to play and we got to do that every single day.
DS: Would you describe this as a movie about female empowerment?
Ashley Benson: Of course.
VH: Definitely. It’s rare that you get to see a movie like this with girls holding it together. They’re so badass. They’re so present. They’re gun-toting, in bikinis. It’s really empowering and just, visually, such a strong image.
DS: There seems to be a lot of improvisation going on, almost like you were making it up as you went. How much freedom were you given as actors to play around with the material?
Rachel Korine: Yeah. Harmony always intentionally leaves plenty of room in the script, so it may be a little bit short on dialogue and he sets up the moment. It’s very descriptive. But he really wants to leave room for the actors to get in there and react naturally to the environment. And he uses a lot of real, authentic locations as well, so you really can take from the elements.
AB: In the parking lot scene where we do the Britney Spears song and then we reenact the robbery, that was never in the script. We were going to get frozen yogurt, I remember, and Harmony was like, “Wait, wait, this could work. Let’s just go over there, go sing a song, and play around the parking lot; I’ll film you.” And then we did this whole scene and then he just told us to reenact the robbery and we did it. And that’s such an amazing scene. It was things like that that was just so amazing, to be able to just do whatever, whenever. He put so much trust in us to make a great scene and it really worked.
DS: Selena, how much fun was it for you to play off of your Disney image in this movie?
Selena Gomez: I’m not quite sure I did necessarily play off my own image; I think it was more of me wanting to just be a part of something that was going to be created—exactly what these girls said. It is liberating. At the end of the day, I definitely do what I do because I’m passionate about it. I love acting and I want to hopefully continue to do it for a while, so this was something I really thought was going to be absolutely special and beautiful, and I’m really proud of it.
DS: There’s an interesting contrast between danger and sweetness in the film…. A real edge to the movie where you really don’t know what is going to happen. Did you feel that kind of tension on the set?
AB: The set was so much fun. Harmony made sure that we were always having fun. We’d be in our trailers listening to music and dancing, and Harmony would come join us. There was never really an “edge” feeling; it was just always fun. Even when we had to do more intense scenes, when we would break, we would just have the time of our lives.
SG: Well, the scene I did with James, I was scared, though. I will say that. That scene, I was actually terrified.
DS: Thank you very much.
Daniel Schweiger: The girls spoke a little bit about the freedom you gave them during the film. How much improvisation is really going on behind the scenes?
HK: Well, I don’t know. It’s weird because I don’t really improvise in the traditional sense of just having people make things up. It’s more like riffing, more like you get ideas on the day, and they lead the script and the performances start to change, and things become stranger or different. And then I hear something I like, and it’s like riffing. It’s almost like making a painting or something.
DS: Did it make you feel a little more comfortable working alongside your wife as she played one of the girls?
HK: Sure, yeah. It was great. She’s bold, and I knew she would inspire the other girls.
DS: Tell me a little bit about the use of music in the film.
HK: The score was written by Sonny Skrillex and Cliff Martinez. I wanted the movie to almost seem like a physical experience or something. It was more trippy or almost like a drug, hallucinatory experience—like a “pop poem” or something. And so I wanted the music to be very physical and bombastic from the very beginning. I’ve always loved both of them and what they did, and I thought it would be interesting to put them together.
DS: There’s a point in the film where the characters remark, “This is like a dream.” How much of a fairytale do you think Spring Breakers is?
HK: Yeah, it’s a “pop poem.” It’s a kind of impressionistic reinterpretation of the—it’s not saying this is the truth, because that movie is not about truth; it’s about, hopefully, something more enlightening or transcendent.
DS: As a person who put young, bad behavior on the map with Kids, how do you thik that dark underbelly of adolescence has changed?
HK: It was bad then; it’s bad now. At its base level, I’m sure adolescents are always the same. Human urges are the same.
DS: A lot of the marketing is skewing Spring Breakersas Girls Gone Wild – do you think audiences will fully grasp the satire behind it?
HK: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I think the movie hopefully works in two ways. If you want to just watch the surface of the film and see it as that, that’s good, and you can be entertained by that and there’s nothing wrong with that. And then if you want to, like, let it be more challenging and more emotional and kind of more inexplicable, that’s there for you, too.
'Spring Breakers' is currently playing in select theaters nationwide.