When writer-director Zack Snyder thinks of mental asylums for women in the 1960s, they're apparently populated exclusively by hot girls. Sucker Punch, Snyder's new action-fantasy, takes place in one such sexified asylum where five inmates, faced with a savage reality they can no longer bear, plot to escape their woes both metaphorically and literally. The metaphorical escape, into their dreams, is the source of the exotic posters of young girls in skimpy skirts and lingerie wielding swords and large guns. I sat down with stars Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, and Jamie Chung recently to discuss their roles in the movie, kicking ass on-screen, and playing with big guns normally only the boys get to hold.
Cole Haddon: How badass did you feel during the making of this movie?
Jena Malone: Pretty badass. I mean, I pretty much felt like I could do anything you threw at me.
CH: In other words, you wouldn't want to meet any of you girls in a dark alley?
Jamie Chung: Hmm, I don't think I'd go down a dark alley [laughs].
CH: So I've been hearing a lot about "the Beast." What is that?
JC: I think it was Abbie [Cornish] who made that up.
JM: She was on the rowing machine, which was the only machine we used besides weights for arms and legs. We would do sprints on these rowing machines. Abbie, I remember her first time, she had to do a 500-meter sprint on it. By the end, she was hyperventilating. I was like, "Hey, I'm taking her to the hospital." But Abbie was like, "I'm good, mate." I thought she was so strong and cool; I loved her. But she found something and became super-calm instead of freaking out. You hit this wall after a while and you freak out. "I can't do this." But then you reach this calm and find this burn in your belly that feeds off that pain. That pain is a good thing and not representative of death. When we all talk about the Beast, it's about being pushed so far physically that this animal comes through that almost craves the pain, you know?
CH: With the film shot and about to be released, do you look forward to or dread the attention of the fanboy crowds that tend to swarm around Zack Snyder movies?
JC: Any fan of Zack's, we're fans of.
JM: At Comic-Con, all the fanboys came out and supported.
JC: It's so much fun to have interaction with people who love what you do.
JM: Having fans is great. It means that they're supportive, which is a good thing.
CH: Sucker Punch is a unique action movie, I think, not because of its visual feats -- but for how it empowers five young girls to take their fates into their own hands. Can you talk a bit about that?
JM: This is the first film I can think of where the damsels in distress become their own heroes. That's very empowering. The clothes are sexy, but they go hand in hand with us being very strong. So it's great.
JC: I think also, in most movies like this, the damsels in distress are very one-dimensional characters. I think that's way more of an exploitation because you're not showing the whole reality of what a woman can be. These are multi-dimensional girls. Strong and brave, and it shows how these things operate at different levels of the mind. What you project out might be your saving grace. I think that's the most amazing thing Zack's giving to the action genre, is a new empowered female I've never seen before.
CH: Vanessa, how did you enjoy becoming an action heroine? Is that something you've always wanted to do?
Vanessa Hudgens: I loved it. I want to try to touch on every genre at some point in my career, you know. I think doing this, it'll be hard to top. It's been such an incredible experience, getting to work with Zack and such incredible girls. It's a lot of fun to get to do something you don't do normally.
CH: How did you girls handle the challenging fight choreography? There was just so much going on, and having to nail marks and lines in the middle of all that.
JC: Isn't it like repetition? Muscle memory?
JM: Yeah, exactly. It's probably more challenging if you don't have a choreographer behind the scenes who was so prepared. We knew everything inside and out. I could do my moves in seven layers of clothes, in heels, or with my eyes shut. We really felt prepared when we got to the set.
CH: Finally, who got to shoot the biggest gun?
JC: [Laughs] Vanessssaaaa!
VH: Yeah, I got to use a SAW gun. It's the Rambo gun, which was ah-may-zing. It was so heavy and to have to carry it around, like it was part of yourself, that was a lot of fun. Shooting a .50 caliber machine gun was crazy, too. The guy who was handling it told me not to keep my jaw clenched while shooting it or I could blow out my ear drums. It had so much kick to it, it was crazy.