Spring Breakers: interview with Vanessa Hudgens
The forthcoming release of Spring Breakers is causing scandal between the young fans of teenage idols Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez. Here is what Vanessa had to tell about acting on Harmony Korine’s movie also starring Hollywood star James Franco.
Vanessa, were you familiar with Harmony Korine’s work before you were cast in Spring Breakers?
I feel like I knew a little bit. Harmony worked with one of my manager’s other clients on Kids, and that was one of my dad’s favourite movies. When this came along, he was really excited. I think James Franco was already attached, and then I read the script and I’m such a big fan of his. I’m a real believer in putting things out in the universe, and eventually if you want it bad enough it all happens. For months I was saying, I want to work with James Franco over and over again, and when this came up, I thought “We need to make this happen!”
Were the other actresses attached to the project at that point?
No. There was no one else attached. We were just figuring out the characters. I was like, I’m really just excited about the project and don’t care which character I play. Then he made me read for Candy and the next time he had me come in again and do a few reads with a few girls.
You needed to find the perfect partners in crime for your part. The relationships in the movie are such strong bonds: girlfriends who have been best friends since childhood. It is such an amazing connection that females have; it’s unlike anything else. In order to show it on film, we needed to establish a connection. At that point I heard about Ashley Benson, who came on board as well. I actually used to go to acting class with Ashley, when I was 15 or 16. We were in the same class but our paths in life had been completely different. We never really got to know each other at all. And it’s so funny now, coming back to that and being able to dig into each other’s past. It’s a small world.
Do you remember what you thought the first time you read the script, the feelings it triggered? It’s not the kind of movie that we would expect you to be part of…
Recently, I’ve been doing a few projects that are way darker and deeper and heavier. Reading these situations in the movie where our characters go wild, that harsh, hard element was something that I really liked. I felt like I would be a little bit in my element, like I’ve had a taste of it. It’s so much fun and I wanted more of it. And Candy seems like the one who, even though she’s bad-ass and tough and hard, she still has that sweet fun side underneath it all, this bubbling little girl, just so excited about everything, and I feel like that’s partly who I am. Under this deep, dark and heavy character, inside of myself, I’m just jumping for joy at the fun that I’m having.
How did you prepare for this role?
It starts, honestly, just reading the script. One of the first things we did was to get close to the girls right away, because we wanted to build an amazing bond and relationship, and create a sense that we had known each other for years. And then go further past that, of course, and study girls who are just hard and rough and tough and who are in this other drug-like world. It really is a completely different world; their headspaces are so different. They’re just living in the moment.
How do you think the character got to the point where she gets arrested? What kind of background do you think she is from?
I think our characters just do whatever they need to do to get what they want. As women, they know that they’re hot and empowered, and they know that if they’re tough enough and they act like they know what they’re doing then people will believe them. Together as a crew, they know they can conquer the world and get whatever they want. And the only way they know how to get to spring break is to rob a bank.
Growing up as an actress ever since you started and being here today with a film-maker like Harmony, do you feel like there is a kind of continuity to how you have been thinking about your position in the world and your relationship with film-making?
It feels like it makes sense. I feel like I’ve been learning and practicing through work as well. With Harmony, he gives you so much freedom. I’ve never worked with a director who gives you so much freedom. He literally gives us the opportunity to make use of our space, make use of our environment and the people around us, and toy with the scenes in whichever way we find interesting. Seeing Harmony act out the way he wants teenage girls to be in all of the madness and craziness is probably one of my favourite things. He gets so excited. He shows so much passion. He will demonstrate to us how he wants us to be, panting like a puppy dog, so we end up doing it as well because he has so much enthusiasm and he’s not afraid to throw himself out there on a limb and just do it. It gives us the inspiration and the security to know that we can go as far as we want to go. And he loves it! With Harmony, there’s no such thing as “too far”. There is only one Harmony and there always will be only one Harmony.
Harmony Korine is used to directing people who are not actors. It will be interesting to hear from him what the experience was like to work with more professional actresses like you on this movie.
I think that he has been a little freaked out to tell you the truth. I remember the day that we were on our scooters and there were a bunch of kid fans and some adults and there was a paparazzi helicopter, and he was like “This is crazy!” It was literally blowing his mind, because he’s not used to that at all, and to get such a heavy dose of it… That in itself is such an odd world for even me to deal with, let alone him, who works with really underground actors. And here we are, little girls, running down the street, holding up signs. It was just funny, riding the scooters, screaming “fuck, bitches, give money,” all these profanities. That’s what you get when you bring your child to an R-rated movie filming!
Some of your fans may not be familiar with Harmony’s work. Are you curious to see what they will think of your character? Do you think about that on set?
I always wanted to do things that are completely different. I want people to watch movies and think, “Shit, that was Vanessa Hudgens?” My younger fans, of course, are not going to be able to watch this. But you need to do what makes you happy. You can’t worry about what everybody else thinks because there’s always going to be haters. You have to do things for yourself, not anybody else. I’m doing this movie for myself. I think it’s a bum ass movie; I think it’s a rad character. I think the people who are genuinely my fans are really going to enjoy it.
Harmony Korine creates a pretty realistic image of the world and American youth culture and it’s probably really different from what your fans are experiencing…
Even though the image is different, it is still a world of teenagers’ lives that is so familiar. These kids have been there. Everybody has had those times in their life when they were like, holy shit, that was a crazy time. When you’re in it, there’s nothing else in the world better than that. And you have to have those times; you have to take that opportunity to get the crazy out, and from there you can grow. But I feel it’s so familiar in a high schooler’s life. And it hasn’t been touched on. I feel like people don’t want to admit it, because it is such a harsh reality, but it is reality. It is the world of the madness.
And you might come away from this seeing things from a different perspective.
Exactly! I think everybody will be able to watch it and understand it. Whether or not you agree with it is a different story. It’s part of growing up, it really is. Everybody can take away what they want to take away.
The wardrobe and costumes seem to be such an important aspect of the movie. Were you involved in the creation of them?
Heidi Bivens had an amazing idea about how she wanted it to look. It’s really like pop art. All our costumes are so bright and really in-your-face, a lot of fun graphics that contradict the way that we act, which is such a funny spin on things because we are getting fucked up and are wearing Hello Kitty. It’s a funny spin on how youth nowadays can be doing things that are really crazy, and at the same time having interests that are so pure. It’s such a present mindframe, I feel, just not thinking about the future. This is how our characters are. They just don’t think about the future, they are just doing what they feel is right. Their interests are all over the place.
Do you think because you missed college, there is a sense of that right here in your heart?
Honestly, doing it now, I am glad I never went for the party reasons of it. Because it is just so full-on, it is so aggressive, it takes so much energy that I’ve been sleeping really well working on this movie. But it’s a lot and it’s really present and not thinking about any consequences, about anything. I mean I’m getting it through this, I guess.
You said how much you adore James Franco. What makes him so special as an actor?
I love him so much! He’s so ridiculously amazing! I’m just in awe. I’m blown away. He creates these strong, fully developed characters with so much depth and background. He fills things in; he creates a whole, completely three-dimensional person who has so much. He loves taking risks and he’s not afraid to take a scene and turn it into what he wants, and he comes to set extremely prepared. He really did a lot of work on his character. He knows where he’s coming from; he just really commits. I mean, the way he acts, to the way he looks. It’s just ridiculous, but he pulls it off so amazingly because he has the backstory to back it up. I just love him.
In the movie you have a love scene with him. Do you think your character fell in love with him?
For sure! It’s probably not the purest of places, but it’s this tainted idea of what love and fame and fortune is. The characters are so wrapped up with the idea of being the biggest and the baddest and the hardest. He really supports it and motivates us to be the hardest and baddest we can be. Probably like a first love.
Drug induced, and it’s all about sex, and money, and bitches, and hoes; it’s love and it’s tough and it’s hard. That’s what our characters are about.
So what’s your favourite scene so far?
I don’t know. It’s all been such a crazy whirlwind blur that everything is kind of falling together in this mad, wild, dream-like state. I think that the part I enjoyed most is the robberies, where we get to be tough, fun girls living in the moment. Robbing that restaurant was pretty amazing, because it felt so real, because we did it from the beginning to the end. Ashley and I felt so hyped up, we were on such an adrenaline high. I literally rolled into the car and was just staring at the stars in the sky after all this madness. I was suddenly seeing such a serenity and connection to the universe. I was so in awe, my mind was blown. It was a moment I will never forget. This movie is so fun, it’s so crazy, it’s so vivid and alive, so in your face and juicy. I can’t wait to see it.
The editorial unit
Check out our review of Spring Breakers here.