Of all the films screening here at SXSW, none had Austin more riled up than the U.S. premiere of Harmony Korine's subversive and scandalous candy colored blast "Spring Breakers." As you've probably gathered from the slew of promos released by A24 for the film (which opens in select theaters this Friday), "Spring Breakers" centers on four female co-eds (Ashley Benson, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Korine's real-life wife Rachel Korine) in an unnamed college town who rob a shop to fund their spring break shenanigans, only to end up in the slammer. Enter James Franco, sporting dreadlocks and grillz, as a local gangster who bails them out.
The morning prior to its raucous screening at the Paramount, Indiewire sat down with three of Korine's spring breakers, Gomez, Benson and Rachel (Hudgens took a sick day) to discuss filming during actual spring break, working opposite a method-acting James Franco, and leaving their inhibitions behind.
It's been a few months since the film bowed in Venice and Toronto. What's going through your heads on the week of its release?
Selena Gomez (SG): It's so exciting and I think we all are super passionate about it. I think it was a departure for all of us and we all enjoyed working with Harmony and James and I think this was a great opportunity for all of us, so I think we are all really stoked and proud of it.
Ashley Benson (AB): I'm excited
Are you at all nervous about the reaction?
Rachel Korine (RC): I'm excited to see it with an American audience. It'll be the first time we'll see it with an American audience and it's always cool to sit through the screening and see how different countries react.
AB: But so far, I mean everybody's loved it. It's been out in France, we're like number two ever for an indie film in its opening week. "Drive" was ahead of us, but we're second which is crazy.
SG: I think there's the obvious nervous feelings towards the reactions because people are emphasizing on it being a little shocking. But it's not really what we're worried about. It's super real, it's raw. And I'm stoked.
When did you three first see it?
AB: The first time I saw it, I went for ADR and Harmony was like, "Do you wanna watch the movie?" And I was like, "Sure," and he took me to this little office and I watched it on a tiny TV. So I didn't really grasp the movie. I was speechless. I was like OMG. But there's nothing like seeing it in Venice on the big screen, it was unreal. So awesome.
SG: They told us right when we were on the carpet in Venice that they sometimes boo and clap here -- this is just a thing. When you go to a premiere here or even in Toronto, you're not supposed to boo or anything. So they're just super honest there and I was freaking out because it was the first time I was gonna see the movie -- we had to watch it with the audience. So when we watched it, I remember I was with Ashley and James, that's who I was sitting next to, and he just kinda grabbed my arm a little bit and Ashley grabbed my arm, and we all kinda just got a little nervous. And when the movie ended we got a standing ovation for five minutes and I was crying. We pushed Harmony and he went to the front and everybody clapped for him. It was a real special moment, I think it was probably top three of my life to be honest.
The media in Toronto made a big deal of the fact that you said that your mother was a huge Harmony fan.
SG: She definitely didn't push me [to make the movie], but she's a big Harmony fan, absolutely. So she read the script and was super stoked. I read the script, I watched all of Harmony's movies with my mom and then we watched a couple of interviews and then I flew to Nashville to audition for Harmony and Rachel.
It's one thing to be a fan of Harmony's work, but was she at all weary about your involvement given the subject matter?
SG: The thing is that my mom is my mom first and my manager second but I think she knows me better than anyone. And as an actor this is something that I was super ready to do. I wanted to do something that would really challenge myself and she knew that I wanted to do that so you know obviously she was like if you're comfortable with this, this would be an epic director to work with and a great experience for you, so I did it.
Selena, your character Faith is the goody goody of the group. Would you have played any of the other girls?
SG: I don't know. Maybe if you asked me next year I probably could've but I'm totally the baby of the group in real life for sure. I think Faith was the perfect character for me to play.
What about you, Ashley? Were your managers, agents, weary of you taking this on?
AB: You don't really find a script like this too often. So everybody just kind of jumped at the chance to do it. Especially for me Selena and Vanessa, everybody's just kind of seen us in one light and kind of related us to a Disney. We have younger fans, which is amazing, but they're now able to see -- those who can see the film -- a completely different side to what we've ever done before and I think that's why I'm most excited about it. We're just so different,and we grew and we learned so much on this film. It was such a great experience.