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SXSW Interviews: The cast of “Spring Breakers”

SXSW Interviews: The cast of “Spring Breakers”

April 01
23:30 2013

Preston Barta

Film Critic

One of the most compelling things about writer-director Harmony Korine is the way that he makes his movies. If filmgoers have ever experienced his films before, such is his breakout “Kids” (1995), “Gummo” (1997), or his last film “Mister Lonely” (2007), they know that his films are vibrant and hypnotic pictures with minimal plots.

“Spring Breakers,” a film about a group of college girls who aim to party in Florida for spring break, is not a movie for the faint of heart. It’s a smart and seductive piece of art that serves as a portrait of societal degradation. The film also pushes its cast members – Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson – out of their stereotypes. These are talented ladies and “Spring Breakers” really displays that. But one cannot leave out Rachel Korine, the director’s wife, and James Franco. Franco, who goes above and beyond as Alien, portrays a second-rate rapper with tons of money, guns and drugs to fuel his criminal tendencies.

The North Texas Daily had the chance to speak with Korine and one of the Breakers, Ashley Benson of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars,” about the style of the film and the experience they had making it.

I favored the whole pop style of film, which flows much like Skrillex and Cliff Martinez’s score — repeating dialogue and certain shots from time-to-time, like a DJ looping music. How does music influence your writing and your vision of films? Does it serve as a guiding force when you were putting together a script or an idea?

Harmony Korine (writer/director): ”Yes, definitely. Music, sound and energy are a huge part of making a film. I listen to music constantly. Sound is half of what a film is, so I definitely pay attention to it.”

Ashley, you’re well-known for your role on “Pretty Little Liars.” What lead you to make this jump to more adult-themed material?

Ashley Benson (Brit): ”I’ve been on that show for four years now, and I feel like people have just seen me in a certain way for such a long time. I really wanted to do a film where I was different from anything I’ve ever done. So, I read Harmony’s script and it was exactly what I wanted to do. I liked how edgy and different it was. I also wanted a chance to work with Harmony and James Franco.”

And how was it working with Harmony?

AB: ”I was kind of thrown into the movie at the last minute, so I didn’t really get a chance to meet with Harm until I got to Florida. We just did like a few Skype sessions and talked on the phone. But when I got the project, I looked him up on YouTube and I saw his interviews and stuff on David Letterman — he was crazy. However, when I met him in person, he was just like a normal dude.”

What were some of the biggest challenges when taking on this role?

AB: ”I guess just the improv. We were able to improv a lot throughout the movie, and I’d never really had much experience with that. So, I think that was really the only challenge. It obviously got easier as time went on. I just never really done anything like that before and Harm just made scenes up as we went along, which was super fun and rad. At first, I was kind of insecure about it just because I really didn’t know what I was doing, but as we got more and more into filming, it became easier.”

In another interview with the cast, you said that Harmony would drop you guys off at random parties and bars in bikinis. What was that situation like for you? How did you feel about that?

AB: ” I think the one that we really didn’t know about was this pool hall. It was super rad. It’s kind of in this crazy neighborhood, and there was a bunch of guys there; and, you know, for sure like they all had guns or knives on them. We kind of just went up there; and the whole neighborhood just went into this bar, and we shot with them. I didn’t even think of what they had on them because they were like hard-core gangsters. It was so rad because I’ve never been put in a situation like that, and it made the movie much more real.”

In this film as well as your earlier films, you portray kids as having that kind of invincibility. How do you feel that the adolescent age has changed since you started making films?

HK: ”I would say that my guess is because I would just say that people are people. They always have the same urges. However, at the same time, the world and the way people communicate and socialize has changed. It’s all kind of filtered through something completely different – something that’s more performance-based. It’s a more exposed cultural kind of thing now. Whereas back in the day, it was more about kids trying to disappear, or people trying to find themselves. It was more of a shadow culture. Now, everything is on display and filtered through some kind of technology.”

Do you think that “Spring Breakers” stands as a reflection of teenagers in America right now?

HK: ”I think there’s some things in it that do reflect specific parts of – whatever you want to call it – things that are culturally – I think it’s connected to youth culture in some way. But at the same time, it was never meant to be a kind of documentary or an expose on something. It is more like a reinterpretation of those things. It’s something that’s more like a pop poem, or almost like the real world but pushed into something more hyper-poetic. It works on its own logic. It’s connected to the culture, and maybe there’s a zeitgeist in some way. However, it’s also something separate.”

What things from your adolescence influenced the films that you make about kids specifically?

HK: “Oh, everything. I probably had a late adolescence. I haven’t matured so much since I was a teenager in a lot of ways. I don’t know – skateboarding, you know – skateboarding back then in the ’80s and ’90s – growing up where I grew up, in Tennessee, and it was a huge thing for me. It was like I was free, and I started to look at the world differently. I think that had a lasting effect.”

Can you talk about wanting your audience to feel your movies in a physical way and why that was important to you?

HK:” I’ve always felt like I wanted to make movies that worked in a more physical and inexplicable way — something that was not just a normal movie-watching experience and had another element to it, like a ride, a game or something that demanded some type of participation or physical response.

I wanted the films to be beautiful and entertaining. I always thought about movies in a different way – in a way that was more encompassing, I guess; or more of a physical experience, as opposed to just being told the story and being told what to think.”

“Spring Breakers” is playing in theaters now.

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