By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire March 14, 2013 at 11:44AM
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.
Rachel, were you the ring leader among the girls given your experience with Harmony?
RK: Well this movie is actually pretty tame compared to the last one I did with Harmony which is called "Trash Humpers," so I feel like I can actually show my family members this one. There are many relatives that don't know "Trash Humpers" exists. So I definitely was comfortable in the role and I don't feel like I really needed to be a ring leader for the girls. Maybe I was a connector between all of us. We were a close family all of us, Harmony and the four girls.
Was shooting amongst real spring breakers as chaotic as it sounds?
SG: Every day was new and challenging. Harmony would throw us in real situations and film us. So we actually never knew what we were filming when we were going to set so that was a little crazy. But every day was new and challenging and really fun. It may seem controlled and it was a little bit controlled, but at the same time we were with real spring breakers so that was... we definitely didn't control them so it was amazing to see what real spring break is.
Was it eye opening?
AB: Yea, shocking.
SG: We'd never been on spring break, none of us. None of the girls, so that was our first time experiencing it.
AB: And you see videos on MTV and YouTube but you never know if that;s really how it is. It was insane and I think it just added so much to the movie because all of our reactions are real. We couldn't believe what was happening. It was just so cool.
Did it make you ever want your own spring break?
SG: No, I'm definitely happy with experiencing it through this movie.
How did you all three bond on set? The four of you (including Vanessa) have a great dynamic.
RK: Listening to music.
SG: We shared a trailer so we all got ready together, hang, out each lunch. We definitely were dancing the whole time. Once you're on set experiencing the certain scenes that you're experiencing you kind of just keep it up. You keep the music going and having a good time. Harmony would film us sometimes when we were just dancing together in the trailer and he'd just kind of throw in those moments too. I had a great time with the girls and it was part of our rehearsal to become friends so I got really lucky.
The film reaches this whole new level when James Franco's character is introduced. How did the vibe on set change when he came into the fray?
SG: The first scene he ever did was the one where he's talking to us at the park and we were all sitting there staring at him in amazement and I think that's what we were genuinely all feeling. He just came on set and owned his character.
AB: He improvised that whole thing, there was like monologues that he was doing and I think we were all kind of like in awe of him and I think it kind of like pushed us and inspired us. It just brought the movie to a whole different level because he just created such an amazing character. I mean from the looks of him, you can't really recognize him but the way he talked, the way he walked, he was just a completely different guy and he stayed in character the whole time. He was in method.
RK: We didn't have any rehearsal with him beforehand. We had a glimpse of what he looked like maybe the day before, but as far as his voice and his character, we had no idea what to expect so we really in that scene got to react naturally to him. It was really cool.