“I’m tired of seeing the same thing every single day…there’s more than just Spring break,” Selena Gomez laments in Harmony Korine’s latest feature. “It’s your chance to see something different.” The rather orthodox (well at least for Korine), “Spring Breakers,” which premiered in Venice last week (read our review here), makes its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival this week. In our review we called the picture a “semi-conventional genre flick and a future cult favorite.” Starring James Franco as a local gangster/would-be-rapper, and the inclusion of wholesome teen stars Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, Heather Morris, and Rachel Korine, while apparently played much straighter than Korine’s previous outre films, clearly the film is still out there.
Though you may not have known from the TIFF press conference. Korine, known for his rambling answers — and potentially bold-faced exaggerations/fibs — was perhaps his most lucid ever.
The idea of casting this virginal teen stars seems pretty hilarious, but apparently, some of the actors vyed hard for the parts, including Justin Bieber-girlfriend and teen star Selena Gomez, who says she practically “begged” for the role and flew down to Korine’s home in Nashville to secure the role. Korine thought Gomez was overtly religious and and so when she came to audition for the part in his living room, he began taking down all his “crazy” paintings.
“I got nervous, I didn’t want to spook her, so let’s start flipping over photos” Korine said. “He thought I was super super Christian and he put away all his art,” Gomez laughed. “If I was a Christian girl I probably wouldn’t have done this movie with you.”
Interestingly enough was Gomez who seemed to be proud of her work in the film and yet nervous and hesitant about what her younger teen following might think (“Everything I do is for my fans,” she said). The 20-year-old former Disney Channel star insisted she wasn’t trying to subvert her image and instead, was just trying to take on new challenges. However, later in the press conference when asked what message she should send to her fans who might wanna see the movie, she winced and said, “Don’t see it?”
“C’mon, it’s educational,” Korine quipped. “I wrote a message on my social networking sites, kids my age should see it, we’re not really sugar-coating anything, but I also wrote, it’s Rated-R so please don’t see it if you’re under 18,” she explained nervously. “That’s as much warning as I can give to the parents and the kids, but you can’t control what kids do.”
“It’s hard for people to take me seriously, because of the brand I’ve been given,” Gomez continued candidly. “But it’s not necessarily me breaking out of anything,” she said about her unexpected turn in the film. “I’m super passionate about the acting part of what I do and sometimes I just want to do [creative endeavors] for myself.”
The always adventurous James Franco was the first person cast even before the film was written. Franco and Korine discussed the movie and the character for over a year before they shot. And while many artists inspired the role, like Riff-Raff, members of Three 6 Mafia and Memphis rappers, Korine and the actor insisted the character was a composite of many figures rather than drawn from one individual.
While improvisation was a big part of “Spring Breakers” — Korine said he would whisper lines in Franco’s ear at times and then the actor would just riff with it and transform the dialogue into something else — the director said he was not a fan of that term preferring to “provoke, inspire, and cajole” moments to spontaneously happen. Korine described the film as having liquid narrative. Characterizing the film as having looped micro-scenes, the filmmaker said the emphasis was on the energy, the rhythm and the feeling. “I didn’t want to make a movie that was an exposé about spring break,” he said. “I wanted to make something that was more like a feeling, more like in pockets of America when you get lost a little bit.”
“I wanted to make a movie that seemed like candy,” he explained, noting that it only took him a week to write the script. “Like you could touch it, like it was lit with skittles. It was about the poetry of surfaces, and I wanted was all the themes and the emotions to drip down under the surface and it was is the residue of that.”
One thing was clear: the cast developed a great trust for their controversial director. “Harmony got us to do things I didnt think I was able to do, it’s dangerous thing,” Gomez said. “You could probably get me to do anything, which is bad. But it’s good we had that trust with him, it obviously paid off. I didn’t think it would ever be able to smoke a bong.”
“All these thick-necked jock dudes, trying to grind on Selena,” Korine said of scenes that employed real spring break kids. “It was pretty awesome.”
Korine often talked about the “beauty of surfaces” which some took as the beauty of surface-level virtues. When asked to describe what he meant, the director still delivered an opaque answer. “I wanted to make it a mix of high and low and not differentiate,” he said. “The aesthetic of it needed to pop. It needed to feel like something beautiful, but you weren’t there with them. I wasn’t making a documentary, it’s more to do with painting pictures then anything. I wanted to make something that worked in a different way that had reality and dream-like qualities to it… I don’t like telling people what to think, I don’t like judging.”
Annapurna Pictures recently bought “Spring Breakers.” The picture will likely be headed for a theatrical release in 2013.