Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac On Set Interview SUCKER PUNCH

     March 1, 2011


With Warner Bros. lifting the embargo on my set visit to writer-director Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, I can finally share the on set interview I got to do with Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac back in late 2009.  As you’ve probably seen in the many trailers, Sucker Punch tells the story of a young girl (Emily Browning) who, when sent to an insane asylum, embarks on a journey to freedom that consistently blurs the line between real and imaginary.  Unlike Snyder’s last two films that stuck very close to the source material, Sucker Punch is an original creation and I promise that you’ve never seen anything like it.

Anyway, in the film, Gugino and Isaac work in the aslyum that Baby Doll (Browning) ends up in. Gugino plays a Dr.and Isaac plays an orderly.  Of course, when Browning enters her dream world, both play completely different characters.  During the interview they talk about who they play in each of the realities, the musical numbers, shooting in Vancouver, working with Snyder to craft their characters, the huge action set pieces, the design of their characters, and so much more.  Hit the jump to either read or listen to what they had to say:

Before going any further, if you haven’t seen the different trailers for Sucker Punch, click here.  And here’s my set report.  Finally, the full transcript is below but you can listen to the interview by clicking here (just to be clear, this interview was done in a group setting).

sucker_punch_poster_banner_madam_gorski_carla_guginoCarla Gugino:  Welcome to sunny Vancouver.  Literally, I was just realizing that, I don’t think we’ve seen blue sky in, literally, in maybe six days.  No, but like six days for real.  There was a glimpse in six days.  I think literally no blue sky, which I think is awful.

While we already sort of know the character you play, could you talk about who you play in the film?

Gugino:  Yes, so I play Dr. Gorsky and Madame Gorsky, as her alternate personality is.  So you know there are sort of dual worlds going on, right?  So in the real world, it’s 1960’s Lennox House psychiatric institute, and I’m a psychiatrist who is very Freudian in her ways.  Not a big fan of the lobotomy.  She’s Polish, so…as I was doing some research into the character, I found out that, in Russia, lobotomies were made illegal in 1950, so I think that, in her perspective, that she’s come over to sort of do the more, kind of progressive therapy with music and regression and dealing with kind of probably for better or worse, Freud, what he kind of discovered in the later years has been updated and she’s not there yet.  And I work with Oscar’s character who is sort of the…what do you consider your incarnation in that world?  Because he’s more than…he’s kind of become something different since you…

Oscar Isaac:  Yeah, for me, I do see it as…the character I’m playing is Blue Jones, who is an orderly at this asylum.  And I think he’s someone who’s generally been pretty powerless in his life.  And so he uses this position at this kind of unorganized, slightly chaotic old asylum to have a position of power.  And so I think he kind of hordes information and he collects things and he has a slightly OCD thing about him.  And he becomes like the don of the institution to a certain extent, and I think that, we’ve talked about that perhaps even he may have helped Dr. Gorsky get a position there.

Gugino:  Or some sort of…yeah.

Isaac:  Maybe like a visa thing or…

Gugino:  She’s an immigrant.  There are so many levels of this story that we’re discovering, but also that, when audiences see it, I’m sure there will be many different interpretations, but it definitely seems as if there’s been…they’ve worked together for a period of time and there’s some sort of a…you know, they come from very different places, but there’s been some sort of…

Isaac:  So then in the fantasy world, I know literally, I guess, it’s Baby Doll’s imagination creating this world, but for me, I kind of imagined it as what the orderly imagines or wishes he was, which is this respected charismatic, you know…

Gugino:  Boss.  He’s the boss, for sure.  [laughter]

Isaac:  Boss, that is also liked, who’s a showman, who’s all these things as well.  And I think throughout the movie, for me, the fun part has been showing the cracks of that, when it kind of goes back to this more powerless, insecure kind of infected guy.

carla-gugino-imageGugino:  And Madame Gorsky definitely also is, again, it seems as if what is in Baby Doll’s fantasy is a heightened version of what she observes initially.  Interestingly enough, in both worlds I use music, as a psychiatrist and also as a dominatrix/choreographer, slash Madame.  [laughs]  Never thought I’d say that!  That that’s what I’m playing.  In the brothel.  So yeah, I’ve never done anything like this so it’s fascinating.  It’s been really, it’s sort of endlessly…which I know we talked about somewhat with Watchmen as well, but it’s endlessly…you can keep digging deeper and deeper and finding more and more stuff.

Is it more of a sexy character?

Gugino:  The…

I was talking to Oscar.


Gugino:   [laughs] He’s pretty sexy!  I mean…

Isaac:  I have a white scarf…

Gugino:  You do!  He has a white scarf that just sort of takes it over the edge.  [laughs]  Is the alternate character more sexy?


Gugino:  Yes, yes it is.

Isaac:  Both of them are pretty sexy.

Gugino:  Yeah, yeah, we do have…Zack sort of wrote Dr. Gorsky in these tight tweed suits, so it’s sort of that sexy secretary kind of, you know, situation.  But yeah, Madame Gorsky is definitely more…that whole world is more unleashed, obviously, because it is a brothel too, it’s by nature, you know…

Isaac:  It is strange to kind of refer to the reality of it and then the fantasy, because even the reality is pretty heightened.

Gugino:  For sure.

Issac:  Already from the get go, there is a fantastic quality to it.

Gugino:  There’s very little that’s naturalistic, aside from…I think, the emotions are being played absolutely, I think, for real…the circumstances are incredibly heightened.

Can you talk about wrapping your head around…there’s three levels of reality in this film, and, as you say, even the reality level is not very real.  But in terms of playing characters of different levels, it has to be kind of the same person, but different.

Gugino: Yeah, it’s been an interesting…I know you were just kind of explaining…how you are kind of dealing with the separation of the two of them.  And for me, definitely, because I have a strong Polish accent, and that already determines a lot in terms of her gestures and the rhythms, it was, for me, a challenge to really differentiate the two of them.  And I think by nature, again, you know how, if you’re looking at it, when you have a dream and you go, ‘Oh you were in my dream, but it wasn’t really you, and you were wearing this other thing, and it was ten years ago, but it happened tomorrow…’ you know?  It’s all so…so there’s that leeway in terms of finding something that has to have a real…I didn’t want anything that…to have Madame Gorsky to have something that wasn’t laid in as the doctor.  Because it has to be from her mind.  From what she saw when she first, you know.  And yet, obviously playing it, you have to play it as a real person.  So, yeah, I think for sure, Doctor Gorsky is much more…she lives in a much smaller space.  She covers her tracks.  She’s kind of, you know, that kind of animal.  And Madame Gorsky is much more…takes her space.  And is much more ‘grander’ in her expression, I guess.

We saw your dress downstairs for the musical number, which is really cool.  Can you talk a little bit about the training you had to go through and a little bit about the number?

Gugino:  Sure…

Isaac:  We’ve been rehearsing a lot.  Definitely.  Almost daily, trying to go over these steps.  It’s an elaborate moment.

Gugino:  Mm hm.  And it’s been really revealing.  The dance, actually, has been really revealing to our characters, to us.  For sort of the other, a lot of…

Isaac:  What happens at the front of the house for the customers and, you know, for me, even in the film I do say, ‘I’m in the business of pleasure.’  And so it is about this inclusive, kind of fun energy.  And yet, behind the scenes, it gets so dark and intense, especially, I think, with our relationship.  And finding this thing where it had this kind of abusive, married, you don’t know where it’s at now…[laughs]

Gugino:  [laughs]  It’s definitely very interesting.

Isaac:  It’s definitely very difficult to explain, but I think a lot of those things come out in the dance itself.

Gugino:  Yeah, one of the key things that we were trying to find in the dance, which I think…and then the number, is this kind of cat/mouse, but that sort of goes back and forth, push/pull dynamic between the two of them.  This kind of power struggle, but also this kind of electric thing that makes the relationship make sense that we see, you know?

Isaac:  And also, I think it was important for us to make it very dangerous too, the dance itself.  It’s not suddenly this, you know…

Gugino:  Exactly.

oscar-isaac-imageIsaac:  …this light airy moment.  It ends up just as intense and revealing.

Gugino:  And a lot of the musical choices that are being made are really inventive and interesting and timeless, or, I should say, not of that period, so again, there is this kind of ‘life is a stage’.  You know?  ‘Reality is stranger than fiction.’  All of those sorts of things come to mind.

With your accent in the film…because the film is such a heightened reality, are you taking pains to have sort of a realistic accent or are you kind of playing the accent a little bit broader? How are you dealing with that?

Gugino:  Um, it’s pretty realistic, actually.  Also because, we were debating early on about…there was a point at which Zack was sort of playing with German, and then no accent, and then…there was a whole process to it from the very beginning when I first read the script.  And I think what, about the Eastern European philosophy…I think this woman has lived through much worse than these girls ever will.  So she, basically is like, ‘I will teach you how to survive in this environment’ in a sort of tough love kind of way.  So it was really about finding a perspective, because an American woman just didn’t seem like…you know, and then there is a lot of…she’s very theatrical in her, as the choreographer in terms of language…it just seemed like it was someone who English was a second language for and…so yes, though.  In answer to the question…the last thing I would want would be for it to be comical in any way.  I think all the characters are really played very real.  Wouldn’t you say?

Isaac:  I think so.  Although it’s funny, because Zach I think, when he first hired me was like, ‘It’s great because you’ve got this…you’re so theatrical.’  And in my mind I was like, ‘Oh, great, because I was trying to play it naturalistic.’  [laughs]  I guess I just have that disposition, so I don’t know.  For me, I am trying to approach it like anything else, but I think…because that’s how it was written.  And it’s infused with that and when we really start engaging with it, there is this…

Gugino:  Grand.

Isaac:  Yeah, it’s just a slightly heightened reality.

Gugino.  Well, also because it’s in such a short time frame.  The movie.  So it is that kind of, like you’re hitting everybody in this sort of critical mo…critical mass.  The energy is very…there are very few scenes that are transition scenes.  You know?

Isaac:  It’s all very high…even when it gets dark, it’s still in this kind of like, forward momentum.

This the second time you’ve worked with Zack?

Gugino:  Yeah.

Can you talk about what’s different?  What’s the same?  And what you brought from Watchmen?

sucker_punch_poster_banner_rocket_jena_maloneGugino:  Well, I mean, you know, he’s so extraordinary to work with and endlessly imaginative and really fun on set.  And I think a key thing I noticed about him on both movies, and I think it’s a much huger thing than anyone knows, is that he assembles a group of people, both on an acting front and as crew that are just exceptional at what they do, and really good people.  And everyone…there is sort of a level…I’m such a perfectionist, and sort of my own worst enemy and it’s so great when you look around and everyone…the prop guy is equally, ‘I got this!  I found this!  And it’s from Poland.  And it was made…’  Everyone cares so much and it really…my office [to Isaac] and I know you were feeling similarly about yours, when I walked into my office, and there’s two different versions of my office, I don’t think I’ve ever, in all the time I’ve been acting, walked onto a set, and it had more…usually you walk in and you go, ‘Ah, this isn’t what I pictured at all.’  Or ‘I kind of wanted this and maybe they could try to get it really quickly.’  This one I walked on and I mean, he thought of everything.  And it really then informs our scenes.

Isaac:  Things that I didn’t even think of.  I actually got a little embarrassed when I walked in to the set, because he’s like, ‘You know, here’s the area where you collect all your things, and you know, you probably took this off of people who came in .’ And suddenly I was like, ‘Oh, this is amazing.  Of course.’  And I kind of rethought some things.  And that was because he came at it from such a character standpoint.  I think that everybody does.

Gugino:  Yeah, so that’s something huge about him.  And also that he has a really strong vision but is really collaborative.  Which is always the sign of a confidant director, is that they…usually it’s the directors that don’t want you to change anything that are actually insecure.  And he’s got a really strong sense, but also, we come in with ideas everyday and he welcomes them so amazingly.  And in terms of the difference between Watchmen and this, you know, Watchmen we had such an arsenal of research and background and we were all constantly referring to the graphic novel to various sort of things that were related to the graphic novel.  So this one we’re flying by the seat of our pants a little bit more.  Or I feel that I am.  Though he has created this world, so what’s kind of great is that it’s his vision one hundred percent.  So that’s really exciting.

As actors, I would assume that you have some freedom to sort of explore and dig into your real world characters.  But when you cross over into this other world, do you have to be careful to sort of do your preparation through the prism of how Baby Doll would see or imagine you?  Does it force you to understand her character more, as well as your own?

Isaac:  I didn’t approach it that way.  Because even in a fantasy, it’s very specific.  A lot of the time, when you fantasize someone, that should be a fully formed human being.  So I didn’t kind of limit myself to well, what would Baby Doll see or what did she not see.  You know, I just tried to make it as specific as possible.  Who is this guy?  He’s running a business.  He’s a small business man.  What does he have to do to remain in control with these girls and what tactics can he use?  I just kind of went from that standpoint.

Gugino:  Yeah, you know, I actually had for myself, initially, a similar question that you’re asking for myself, which is, in which way do I enter into that world?  And I also realized for me, it had to be…I have to think of myself as real.  Do you know what I mean?  Because, again, otherwise you’re…but it was, for me…and again, that’s what’s always so cool about working with other actors, is that you, you know, I sort of did end up having her…she really is two different people, really.  Sort of like the flip of a coin.  But we have a lot more in the brothel than we do in the real world in a way.  At least what we’ve been devoting ourselves to of late.  So actually, it’s more interesting that we’ve had more time to explore that world then there has been to explore the other.  Like, we’re about to shoot in the next couple of weeks, a couple of really important scenes in the real world, and it’s going to be interesting to go back to those with the information that we have from the alternate thing.  But I have learned more about her character in doing it anyway, because you end up sort of going, ‘Oh, right, this is why…’  You know, it does end up being insightful into her psyche in a lot of those things.  Even some things that the wise man said, and that we were acting out.  They do start to really tie in.

This is a period piece, but obviously Zack is not being faithful to the period,  Carla, you kind of said this already, but Oscar, how much are you sort of sticking to the period when performing your character, or are you taking more of a modern approach?

Isaac:  I think that I’ve taken a more modern approach to it, because there are so many elements, and there are so many of these fantastical things and difficult things to wrap your mind around that, I think for me, I just wanted to make them also as accessible as possible, you know?  Because I think there’s already going to be that issue of, like, OK, well, who is this guy and is he the same person, or is he a different person, because, to a certain extent, because I didn’t necessarily think about it through Baby Doll’s mind, but I did think, well if this is a fantasy of who this person could be, a lot of times we fantasize…the opposite of who we actually are.  It’s still you, you know?  [laughs]  I feel like I went ahead and had a more modern approach, because I don’t feel that, although the costumes are of a certain period.  You know, like the music, like so many other elements to it, I think it’s almost more interesting to not nail myself down to that.

Gugino:  It’s kind of out of time, which is cool.  The costumes…back to that because I realized I didn’t answer that.  You guys saw the dress and all the other extraordinary…Michael Wilkinson is just a genius, and it’s been so amazing, again, on one of those perfectionist, collaborative notes, he is just constantly making us all feel like our characters, which is really…I mean this corset [refers to a picture of herself and Isaac in costume] made me understand my character more than almost anything.  [laughs]  I was like, right.  She likes to be in that.  You can’t breathe, you can eat very little, you have to stand very erect, makes sense for the dance teacher.  So it’s cool how each thing feeds that other.

Can you talk about your shooting schedule up here?  You’re obviously not in all the scenes.  When did you start filming, are you filming all your stuff together, are you here for the whole time?

Isaac:  We’ve had a few weeks off, but we’ve been kind of mostly in the whole time.

Gugino:  Also because we’ve had a lot of these dance rehearsals.  Our sort of dance is really big.  As well as recording the songs and stuff like that.

Isaac:  Because we’ve had two weeks off it doesn’t feel like…

Gugino:  Exactly.  We’ve physically not been shooting but between…this is one of those…we were saying, it’s kind of like a great repertory company, because I don’t know…

Isaac:  Conservatory.

Gugino:  Yeah, because we have, there’s the amazing Navy Seal trainers, and then there’s the dance, and then there’s the singing.

Isaac:  The singing.

Gugino:  Exactly.  And then there’s the wardrobe fitting, and then there’s some makeup tests, so it’s like…

Isaac:  You know, the real heavy dramatic stuff.

sucker-punch-movie-poster-01Gugino:  Exactly.

Isaac:  It just runs the gamut.

Gugino:  And our own kind of rehearsals, just trying to figure stuff out.  So we have been mostly, I guess, working together.  We have some scenes that aren’t, but mostly a lot of it is.

Can you talk a little bit about the singing?

Gugino:  Um, he [indicates Isaac] has an amazing voice, and you’ll be so…

Isaac:  Eh..

Gugino:  Yeah!  And um, I am not a singer, a trained singer in any way, but it’s been an incredible experience to do this and I’m sort of like, pinching myself that I actually get to do a song and dance number.  And that I get to do it with you, because it’s been such a long…it’s like, we will actually, probably film ours in a week and a half.  But it’s been like six weeks or something, of pretty, intensive working on it.  Marius, who’s our musical director, is amazing, and, he’s here.  I don’t know if you guys will get to speak to him. {cross talk} P.J. Harvey, Moulin Rouge, he’s just…

Is it an original composition?  What is it?  What song are you guys singing?

Isaac:  Can we say what song we’re singing?  Can we?  Can we not?

Gugino:  I said something at one point that I wasn’t supposed to say, so I just don’t know what the…

Isaac:  I can’t wait to tell them what…

Gugino:  I know!  I know!

We actually already heard what you’re singing.  “Love is the Drug”.

Gugino:  [laughs]  There you have it!  See?

Isaac:  They know already.

Gugino:  Good!

Isaac:  I didn’t say it!

Gugino:  Yeah, so it’s a reworking…yeah, nice.  So that’s what’s cool is that…

Isaac:  It’s an awesome song.

Gugino:  It’s such a great song.

Isaac:  For me it’s interesting.  We’ll see how it goes, because I’ve sung in bands and stuff and I’ve sung on stage and in theater and things, but I’ve never, ever for the camera.  Like, I don’t know if it should be different.  Hopefully someone will tell me if it sucks.  [laughs] Or if, you know…it will definitely be a challenge, and really exciting to see.

Gugino:  Yeah.

Isaac:  It’s also singing and dancing at the same time, but doing it for the camera and not for a live audience seems really, really interesting.  I’ve watched some Ben Vereen .

This may be a weird question, but are you a good guy or a bad guy, or both?  It sort of seems like maybe in the real world, your character is against lobotomy…

Gugino:  Right.

…and that may be good, but in the fantasy world, she’s a dominatrix and a madame…

Gugino:  She’s complicit, yeah.

Is it both, or…

Isaac:  [to Gugino]  You think she’s good.

Gugino:  [laughs]

Isaac:  She wants to be a good guy.

Gugino:  I love to play a bad guy!  But the story does need…I love that you guys are asking the smart questions that were actually the things that had to be figured out at the beginning, because I definitely had that question of…because what you don’t want her to be is a wishy-washy guy.  Do you know what I mean?  It does need to be…and yet, obviously, people are complicated and so I do think that it is true that in the real world, I think she’s turned a blind eye to some things.  I don’t think she has any idea what’s really going on there.  I do think that is the case…and this is one of the reasons why I needed to separate her to some extent, even though both of the characters feed each other, is that, in the brothel world she is more, you know, she knows what’s going on.  She’s sort of empowering these girls to turn the guys on.  She knows what’s happening.

She’s bringing the High Roller in.

Gugino:  She’s bringing the High Roller in.  She’s doing all these things.  I don’t think that the level of violence it gets to is ever gotten to that before.

Isaac:  She’s also not necessarily bringing…it’s not your machination of bringing the High Roller in.

Gugino:  No, no, because you’re bringing the High Roller in, really.  But I’m preparing the dance for him, meaning I am a part of that institution, yes, but ultimately the girls…I’m on their side.  As strange as that sounds.  It kind of has to be, for where it needs to go.  And that’s where the Eastern European thing was very important to me, because it was that thing of, you know, this is a male-dominated world, you’re lucky that you have a roof over your head, and I’m going to tell you how to protect yourself in here.  But if you don’t do this right now…’Your fight for survival starts right now,’ is actually a line I say.  And it’s sort of like, ‘You have no idea what will happen if you’re not needed here.  We don’t keep people who are not needed.’  You know?  So it’s sort of in that way I think.  But definitely the psychiatrist is an innocent, for sure.

Isaac:  And I think what’s great about Carla is that she has such a clarity of thought.  And that precision.  Because it’s really challenging material.  And I think specifically, there’s been extra challenges for us, and for you in particular, because a lot of it is implied but not overtly stated in any way.  We really had to try to create some of our background.  Which is what we should do, always…

Gugino:  Because Zack also wants us to, sorry to interrupt just to say this, he’s always most interested in what makes us feel the most like the character, so it’s not necessarily…

Isaac:  Yeah, right.  I think it’s great that she’s…because I, my character would find, would think, would know…want’s to cling to her…you’re with me. You’re on my side in this.  You know, we’ve been doing this together.  And so what I think it does is it really creates a lot of tension, because I feel that I’m just, my character’s just a highly sensitive individual, you know?  [laughs]

Gugino:  Which is what makes his portrayal of Blue so leveled.  So layered.  It’s exactly that, you know?  It’s that nothing is black and white in this world.   Which is grey.  Which is kind of like our world.

Isaac:  Which I think is really cool for a kind of, I guess, action, comic book like film that…we really tried to blur those lines and tried to not make it obvious.

This is a question of craft more than anything else.  I’m interested in the collaborative aspect of working with Zack.  And maybe you come to the table with a really strong idea that day, that he doesn’t agree with.  How does he talk to you as actors to help communicate that?

Isaac:  He, most importantly, listens.  Which is great, you know?  He’ll listen to the idea fully.  He almost always will say, ‘Let’s try it. We’ll try it.’  And then he’ll say, ‘Let’s do one differently.’  Or I think if he strongly feels that it’s not the right way to go, he just explains why.

Gugino:  Yeah.  What’s cool is that…there was one thing that we were playing with in a scene…

Isaac:  That’s what I was thinking about, yeah.

Gugino:  …yeah, exactly.  And what was really interesting about that was that he walked down the road with us, all the way, like, ‘Oh.  I see what…if this was this and that was that, then that could be changed, and that would be…but no.  Because then we’d want that and there’s no way to get that.’  So by the end, you were in it together trying to figure out the best thing.  I think that he also hires actors that he believes in and he trusts, so he knows that you’re not…nobody here, and it was the same with WATCHMEN, it’s very notable because it’s not always the case.  It’s a real ensemble and everyone loves it that way, so that it doesn’t feel like anyone…no one’s coming with an idea that’s going to make them stand out in something.  It’s always about…

Isaac:  The best idea wins.

Gugino:  Exactly.  And everybody sort of goes, ‘OK, and then we could do that.  Yeah, that takes us to that idea.’  You know?  So I do think it is, yet again, the environment that he creates, which I know is kind of amorphous as a thought, but it kind of really is it.  Everything stems from that, which is why nobody besides him could make this movie.  I’m sure Warner Bros. wouldn’t let anyone else make this movie.  [laughs]  You know?  He’s just a true…when WATCHMEN came out and it said, ‘From visionary director…’ I said to Zack, I was like, ‘You know, that actually is completely appropriate for you.’  Visionary, genius, these words are thrown out all the time, but he is a visionary.  He really does have his own unique…

Isaac:  He really does have a wild imagination.  It’s amazing.

There are four big action set pieces in this film.  You’ve obviously seen the pre-production artwork.  What’s the one that you think is going to be the holy shit, wow?

Isaac:  I’m so obsessed with the Samurai one, because I’ve always loved Samurais.  The fact that the gun is the same kind of style and all.  I think that it’s so cool.  And that there’s huge…when I first read it, as soon as I started reading that, I was like, this is the most amazing movie I’ve ever read in my life.  [laughs]

Gugino:  Yeah.  Also because she’s alone in that too.

Isaac:  Yeah, she’s by herself.

Gugino:  And Emily is so small and there’s something so…I have to say, that really did hit me.

Isaac:  Who knows?  I mean, I’ve seen that one, but once it’s all put together, I mean, all of them are spectacular and completely different, so maybe when it’s done, the WWI one might be incredible.

Gugino:  Yeah.  I mean, I have to say, I can be the kind of person who zones out during big action sequences in movies.  I realize there’s only so much I can handle and then I’m like, you know, not working on it, but in a..and I saw a little bit of footage from the WWI.  Absolutely and completely riveted.  It blew my mind.  But in addition, what’s really cool is that it’s the same level and the girls have been training so much, and it’s the same level…it’s like you’re watching a kick ass, unbelievable action sequence from 300, but it’s women.  But it’s not like women doing dainty, womanly things.  It’s women kicking ass!

Isaac:  Clearly from the pictures you can see it’s not dainty.

Gugino:  Exactly.  But also with the emotionality of women.  So it’s incredibly powerful.  It has a kind of strength that I can’t ever remember ever seeing before.

We were kind of talking about this at lunch today.  The design of these characters and your character, the dominatrix kind of thing.  We’ve heard ’empowerment’ mentioned in terms of these characters, but they look a little more like ideals…

Gugino:  Male fantasies.

Male fantasies.  Have you talked about that at all?  Have you thought about that at all?

Gugino:  I think there’s no doubt that we’re paying homage to all sorts of genres, including the girls looking sweaty in tight outfits.  I think you can’t deny that…and there is a playful nature to that.

Sucker-Punch-movie-imageIsaac:  What fishnets?

Gugino:  [laughs]  Exactly!  What corsets?  And also because his costumes are amazing, every day, you know, we’re always like, ‘I can’t stop staring at you!  You look amazing!’  You know?  So I think that there is that element of it. But I think it’s a more progressive…if you go into different sort of feminist perspectives or whatever.  There is no doubt that the movie ultimately is actually empowering for women.  Like, just even the nature of the fact that Warner Bros. is making a movie that Zack Snyder is directing with women as the leads, period.  And then women as the leads in an action movie is like, you know…and yet, I think it isn’t about subjugating the sexuality either.  I think it’s about going, oh, all of it can exist together, and I think people will have very strong opinions one way or the other.

Well, that’s sort of the modern action movie thing.  It’s where you have the tough woman who’s just really a man with boobs.  A lot of times in action movies with tough chicks.  But also, where do you find that female sexuality and that specific femaleness and how do you sort of put it together?

Gugino:  Yeah.  And you know, I was just recently doing…someone asked me in an interview about a character that I play in a movie called WOMEN IN TROUBLE.  She’s a porn star, and they said, you know, how do you feel in terms of representing women, because that’s also a movie with a lot of women in it.  And even as he was asking it, he was like, ‘You know what’s funny is that, you don’t ever ask that of men.  How do you feel about representing your sex?’ You know?

Isaac:  And also, Zack is not someone who shies away from flesh.  [laughs]

Gugino:  Exactly!  Totally!  [laughs]

Isaac:  In fact, I would say that 300 is far more racy.

Gugino:  Physically, yeah.  It’s true.  That’s funny actually.  It’s really true.  And I think that’s the thing.  There’s also a lot of focus on that from a particular perspective, which I find sometimes slightly, you know…I don’t know.  I think it’s because it’s so rare that you have all these women in a movie, and it brings up those questions which are interesting.

Obviously in the battle sequences there’s an immediate threat there, but can you talk about your character sort of playing the madame who is telling these women how to survive in a hostile situation?  What is the bigger threat?  Is there something that threatens your character?  Is there someone you report to or answer to that…how do you sort of parcel that out?

Gugino:  Well, one of the things that was interesting to me that I realized is that I send her into these action sequences.  You know?  I pick a piece of music that takes her there, or I tell her she doesn’t think she has…I say, ‘You have all the weapons you need.’  There’s definitely that kind of level of taking her in and being the one who does that.  And I also choreograph all the dances and all that, so there was a…

Isaac:  I think the big thing and I’m thinking about something you say to her, and I think what those action sequences kind of represent is the power of imagination, which is ultimately what frees her and allows her to escape. And I think it’s great because it’s coming from Zack and Zack has such an amazing imagination.  Sometimes when fighting something real…someone I think, like Blue, or this orderly that is doing something horrible and heinous, for her to imagine that it’s an army of monsters, in some way makes it easier to conquer that thing.  You know?  It’s the imagination that sets her free.  And I think that’s why each one kind of goes so wild and so big because that’s ultimately how she can defeat anything, which is through her imagination.

Gugino:  And you were asking about the threat.  Do you know what happens to her in the hospital?  No?  So there is obviously the natural threat of her being brought into a mental institution, and what they might do to you, and then there is the threat in the alternate world…ultimately it’s their lives at stake.  This is truly a ‘We don’t need you, buh bye.’  So there is a lot of threat in that world as well.

For more coverage from our Sucker Punch set visit:

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