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EXCLUSIVE: Harmony Korine Talks 'Spring Breakers,' Casting Selena Gomez, and How Her Mom Is a Fan of His Work

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire September 10, 2012 at 12:11PM

Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers" marks a significant shift in exposure for the 39-year-old filmmaker, but nobody can accuse him of selling out. The movie, which premiered in Venice and made its North American premiere in Toronto last week, stars Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson as a trio of young woman who rob a diner to fund their trip down south. After a series of depraved party experiences, they eventually encounter the absurdly self-involved gangster Alien (James Franco), who manages to seduce most of the girls with his materialistic obsessions.
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Harmony Korine on the set of 'Spring Breakers.'
Harmony Korine on the set of 'Spring Breakers.'

So you now have an audience that grew up with your work.

Yeah, it's pretty weird. I still feel like a kid, but really I've been making movies now for almost 20 years. It's nice also knowing that you're accepted by the culture in some way. When you're out in the wilderness making movies, sometimes you don't know where you live. It can be difficult to gauge who knows what, who sees what, and I try not to think about it too much.

And yet every time you make a new movie, the media focuses on how it reflects your public persona.

That's the other thing. I'm not sure I like that. Sometimes, when I read things, I feel like my narrative or whatever the fuck it is, becomes too prominent. Every film is not a stealth move. It's not a game of chess. I make films because I have ideas about certain characters or images. It feels like it's part of the moment. This movie felt like something intangible, difficult to articulate, but I had to pluck it out of the air.

READ MORE: How 'The Master,' 'Spring Breakers' and 'Silver Linings Playbook' Define This Year's Toronto International Film Festival

Do you think you would work on this scale again?

Monetarily, it wasn't that big of a film. But I only want to go harder and bigger. I only want to push myself and make things more spectacular. It's exciting for me to try to do things I never thought I would do and go places I never thought I would go. I want to experiment. At the same time, making movies is so hard that it can feel like warfare. A lot of the energy of the battles are fought about things that have nothing to do with the creative element.

Do you think this is your angriest film?

I don't know if it's angry, but it's certainly the most aggressive. I wanted to make a film that feels like there's no air in the room. I never wanted the audience to be comfortable or complacent. I never even wanted it to seem like they were watching a movie in the traditional sense. I wanted it to be something different. So there's not that much dialogue. Words get in the way. I wanted the film to have a very physical presence.

What's your overall take on the idea of spring break?

Spring break is a rite of passage, an American pastime. In the film, it's more metaphorical, the idea of losing yourself. I don't feel like the soul is gone in this country but that it has morphed into something else. Everything is experienced thorough screens and through views and technology. Sometimes the act of watching is like nothing. I just wanted to show how it's all the same.

In the opening montage, a spring break beach party starts out like some kind of reality show before it turns increasingly depraved and tribal.

And I also wanted it to involve a kind of gangster mysticism. Everything has become so corporatized and boring so real outlaw culture or criminal culture feels like the last vestige of American rebellion. These girls have grown up on world star hip-hop and Gucci Man.

How did you decide on the structure? The story itself is pretty thin.

I wanted to run all through the idea of clips, like YouTube stuff, through a filmic filter. I wanted it to seem like the images were just flying or falling from outer space. I wanted to develop a new vernacular, at least for myself. It was an appropriation of images and ideas that were familiar and iconic to people, but I ran it through this fucked-up filter that spit them out in a new way. The movie is about energy more than anything, a feeling, what happens when you get lost. It's not about spring break; it's about when you drive a couple of miles away from spring break and you're out on the boardwalk by the beach in this weird, fucked up, drunk place. It's like beach noir. I really wanted the film to be about surfaces. I told [cinematographer] Benoit [Debie] at the beginning that I wanted it to look like candy -- like he had lit the movie with Skittles. It was about this dance of surfaces. The meaning is the residue that drips down below the surface.

This article is related to: Toronto International Film Festival, Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers





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