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Harmony Korine, the original enfant terrible of the 90’s, returns with Spring Breakers, his most mainstream film to date. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Korine project without some serious controversy. And his cast of young starlets shattering their wholesome images as they smoke, snort, and sex their way through spring break seem to have taken care of that. At a recent press conference to promote the film, Korine sat down to discuss the creatively enriching, wildly improvised making of this “pop poem,” along with stars Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Vanessa Hudgens, and Selena Gomez

How do you describe the movie to people who know nothing about it?
Korine:
“It’s like a physical experience or a drug trip, but meant to be more  transcendent. It’s a pop poem with images and sounds coming from all directions. I wanted to obliterate the idea of normal narrative while still basing (the film) very much in the underbelly world of these characters’ lives.”

Selena and Vanessa, there’s been so much commotion made about you two trying to trash your Disney images with this film. Was there any truth to that?
Gomez:
“I definitely don’t think that we set out to try to trash anything or shed an image, we are just super-passionate about what we do. At the end of the day, we’re entertainers, and the chance to work with Harmony and James made [working on this film] a given. It was a way for us to step out of what we are known for and try something new, [something] that was really exciting and also we were proud of.” Hudgens:  “That about says it all.”

Are you encouraging your young fans not to see this film?
Hudgens:
“That’s why it’s rated R.”

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Why were the characters so lured to violence and murder?
Korine:
“Because these girls are seeking transcendence themselves. They want to go on a ride and experience extreme transcendence. They just choose to do it through violence and drugs and sex.”

Did you make up a backstory for these characters?
Hudgens:
“One of the most important things for all of our characters was becoming as close as possibleHarmony would send us videos of normal college girls being goofy in their bedroom, listening to rap music, and dancing. These [characters] are of this generation, from a small town and aching for a change of pace . When you’re told no, it makes you want to rebel that much more.”

Do you then believe that the majority of college-age females have such a short fuse as these characters?
Korine:
“The movie is not about Spring Break. It is a jumping off point, but then the movie becomes much more about a certain type of criminal pathology and a drug traffic culture. This movie isn’t meant to be real life, it’s a hyper-real pop poem. I was trying to go past truth to transcendence and pure energy.”

Was it hard to get into these roles? What did you think when you read the script?
Benson:
“I thought it was awesome! Scripts like this don’t come around very often and it’s so cool to play someone so far from yourself.  (For instance) robbing the restaurant was so much fun because it’s not normal and I would never do that.
Ms. Korine: “It’s appealing to play a character so far from myself. Sometimes the more disturbing the scene, the more I’m drawn to it.”

Were you scared?
Gomez:
“I wasn’t scared. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me. Harmony said, ‘are you ready to leave your lifestyle behind and come on this journey with me?’ That was the most exciting thing in the world. I didn’t know what I was getting into but it was liberating, not frightening.”
Korine: “All the girls were bold and fearless. None needed convincing. They all wanted to challenge themselves and play characters outside the realm of what they’d ever done before.”

How was shooting different from other things you’ve filmed?
Gomez:
  “It was awesome! Other things we’ve been part of are usually very processed: all about how our hair looks, or our makeup, or how much jewelry we have on. It was amazing to be able to come to set where none of that mattered. We could be actors and play. I’ve never been allowed [on set] to simply create a scene out of thin air. It was like theater. We were spoiled by Harmony.”
Hudgens:  “You never get to do that. Everything is usually so strategic and planned out in this business. We were completely free to be able to roam around and use our space, say whatever was on our mind, bounce off other actors. It was like a workshop, but we got to make a movie out of it.”

How was it filming entirely in skimpy bathing suits?
Benson:
  “You get used to it”.
Gomez:  “It added a sense of vulnerability, especially in the jail scenes.”
Hudgens:  “The first day it was weird, but we fed off the energy of the other hundred spring breakers all around us who were much more naked.” (The director chose to use real college students on spring break in St. Petersburg, FLA for many of the film’s wild party scenes)

Ashley, you are on a show (Pretty Little Liars) that deals with issues that are a bit more grown up than those of say High School Musical or Wizards of Waverly Place. Yet it still has a large teen fan-base. Were you worried about what your fans would think when you signed on?
Benson: “I wanted to do this movie because it is so different from my character on the show or anything I’ve ever done previous. I just thought of it as a great opportunity and a new experience so I didn’t really think about what the fans would think.”

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What was it like working with James Franco, who, it’s been said, stayed in character the whole time?
Ms. Korine:
“We had a great opportunity to be thrown into a scene with him. We had no rehearsal time so we knew the script but had no idea what he would bring to the character. Our first scene with him, he came onto set and his entire physical presence was different – his facial structure, cadences, even dialect were all different. You get to see us react naturally though, which was a great way to go deeper into the role.”
Benson: “He was unrecognizable. [At the start of filming] he was just finishing getting his braids put in, and we peeked in his trailer to meet him and I didn’t even recognize him.”
Hudgens: “He’s amazing, an actor’s dream. He just came to set every day with his A-game and took us under his wing for our scenes with him. He’s so committed and giving, which was incredible because he’s so brilliant. It was mesmerizing to watch him.”

Spring Breakers opens nationwide this Friday.