As you have seen by the abundance of on set interviews that I’ve just posted, when I got to visit the set of writer-director Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch in late 2009, I got to speak with a lot of people. Thankfully, everyone was incredibly excited to be talking about making such a wild ride of a movie and it was a blast being on set.
During the interview I participated in with Jena Malone and Abbie Cornish, they talked about the dance scenes, training for the film, the action, their relationships to Baby Doll, the costumes, and a lot more. Hit the jump to either read or listen to what they had to say, and make sure to read my set report and also watch the recent trailer. Sucker Punch gets released March 25.
If you’d like to listen to the interview, click here. Otherwise the full transcript is below.
Jena Malone: The dance today is crazy. Each of us girls, except for Emily – because her dance becomes the tipping off of the fantasy worlds – we each have our own burlesque dance. It’s our persona coming out.; it’s all of the different icons that we represent. Mine’s sort of the nurse because the first time that Baby Doll sees me, I’m done up as a nurse. It’s a crazy-dead-zombie-robot-nurse dance. It’s going be so crazy; it’s going be awesome.
What was your training like for the film?
Abbie Cornish: We started off in Los Angeles and spent a month there. We’d go out to 87-11 and train in the morning, martial arts – warm up, warm down. Then we’d have a half-hour break, our protein shakes, our amino acids.
Malone: And then Logan and Dave would take over, our physical trainers, our weight and strength advisers.
Cornish: They’d train us like maniacs for an hour and a half. We’d also do gun work, as well, which was so much fun. Then when we came to Vancouver, it was pretty much the same schedule, but we were learning more about the moves that we’d use in the film, the choreography for the film. Everything ramped up.
Malone: On top of the marital arts and weapons, we were doing costumes and walking through the sets and meeting with Zack. It was really a full-on rehearsal schedule. The first three months that the three of us girls were training together – Jaime and Vanessa didn’t come until August – that was the rehearsal. All three of us girls sweating, crying, figuring out what our pain threshold was. In a weird way, it was like an asylum. We had to eat at a specific time. We had to push ourselves to the limits. We were wearing these sweat uniforms and being instructed. Everything was a regiment. It was a far more interesting style of rehearing. Getting to know the physical body of the character, the character’s pain threshold, and how you can work together as a team. Horrible moments, like when I’m doing my 20th farmer’s carry and I’m frickin’ sobbing and you want to do it for the other girls. You all become strong together. I think that any form of round-the-table, reading-the-scenes, we never would have gotten to that point of closeness and how connected we were in those first three months.
Cornish: And it was such an unspoken thing. We did talk about it, but there were so many moments when we were all just going hard and doing this thing. For me, in particular, during those three months, there was this feeling inside me that was almost zen-like. It was so peaceful because coming in, and doing martial arts, and working out, and learning how to use a gun. You have to be so careful with a gun; it’s a deadly weapon. There was something very focused about that process, very disciplined. Just to be able to exert that much energy and let it out every single day. It was really fun.
Malone: This was the most terrifying thing of the entire film. I could shoot Orcs until my fingers fall off. I could be in the gym doing dead-lifts until my body gives out. But this dance is totally terrifying me. You have to get out of your mind, which is what they’ve been training us for – the physical discipline, the mental discipline – and get back into the body – the rhythm, the sex, the breath. We were doing the fighting sequence in the morning and you’re there and pumped up with your guns, then you have to let it all go and remember the languid curves and the softness of the body, too
Cornish: It really has been like being in an institution of some sort. We’re learning so much, but it’s not just one thing we’re learning. It’s singing and dancing. It’s crazy. In week two of training, I felt like a stunt person…
What are your characters’ relationships to Baby Doll?
Malone: It’s all through Baby Doll. I understand my character through Baby Doll; I understand the story through Baby Doll. That’s the eyes that we’re watching the film through; that’s where the fantasy is taking place. That’s the key, that’s the truth . It’s just as simple as the first time Baby Doll saw me, I was in a nurse’s costume. There’s something that takes care; there’s nurturing there. That becomes the archetype that I fulfill in her mind. She creates me in a way.
Cornish: We’re playing these characters, yet you’re seeing these characters through all different dimensions. Trying to come to some sort of understanding of how you create the one character regardless of the world, or creating the through-line of one journey. But it’s also a question of what do you show. I was struggling with that, but then I felt a great sense of freedom. When I was in the psych ward, I could simply be Sweet Pea in the psych ward; when I was in the action-world, I could be Sweet Pea in the action world. I could let myself go in those worlds and trust in the character, and trust in the story. I feel like my character is a cube and each day, I’m turning the cube and looking at a different side.
What is the balance like between the characters and the action?
Malone: I think that’s a tribute to Zack and the script. He was really adamant about finding these characters amongst absolutely crazy feats of strength and confidence and out of this world action. But in the midst of it being, like, “Okay, yeah, I messed up. I’m sorry!” There’s still the women that we know in the other worlds. It’s not all just action. It’s humanistic, realistic. Also, he allows us to develop things on our feet. If there’s a little look that we can give, he allows those moments to happen. It’s about adding the characters to the fantasy.
Cornish: Just story-wise, for me in WWI, it was very much about Sweet Pea worrying about Rocket. She’s only here for her. Throughout that whole WWI sequence, everything they did, that was my intention. Where’s my sister? What’s she doing? It’s kind of fun, too, because even though you’re in this kill-crazy martial arts world, the story still exists.
Did the time periods in the film influence your performance?
Malone: It’s really pigeon-holing when you think, “What would a girl in 1967 talk like?” Well, they talk the same. They might not use modern vernacular, or our ghetto slang, but we haven’t’ really changed that much. I always feel that it’s really dangerous when you’re doing a period piece, trying to act the period. It’s not tangible; it’s not human, and you just want to see humans up there regardless of the era. The period will speak for itself because that’s the confinement – the corsets or the asylum or the hair-do’s or the make-up. It’s all part of the elements that bring out something new in you.
Cornish: The 60’s weren’t that long ago, but even if you go back to the 1600’s, you just deal with the characters from a very human level.
Malone: It’s hinted at in the script, but it’s more vague to allow people to fill in what they want. We got ultimate freedom, but Zack does have the final say. He’s a collaborator at heart. That’s what so exciting. Whatever Abbey brings, or I bring, or the moment brings. Just being in it and finding things from all the trust that the girls have. Being together really brings out a whole different level of intimacy instead of just talking about the theory. It becomes way more human and animalistic, the approach of how to find the connection between the girls.
Could you talk about the costumes that you wear in the film?
Malone: I thought mine wasn’t revealing enough. All the other girls had their thighs out, their legs out, and I’m covered in fish-nets! Give me more skin! It’s the first time in my whole life that I felt covered up in my underwear. We’re in nothing but various forms of underwear, but it all goes back to trust. Obviously, the early fittings were intimidating. And that was before we started training. So let’s just see what my thighs look like in seven months and hope for the best.
Cornish: You get kind of used to it. This outfit for me is now like a second skin. We’ve been wearing that stuff for so long.
Malone: And everybody is so respectful, which is important. All the guys are so considerate and gentlemanlike.
What was your reaction like when you realized how much action you would be shooting?
Malone: We were frothing at the mouth with excitement. Fear is right there with excitement. If you don’t have both inside your body, what are you doing? If you don’t feel like, “Oh, my god, I’m going to die!” but yet also can’t wait to be a part of it…
Cornish: We were all so keen and eager and excited to embark on this film and it’s kinda fulfilled everything for all of us. It’s really weird to be sitting here in the final leg of it.
Cornish: I think Zack himself is very much in touch with his femininity as much as he is his masculinity. He’s very sensitive and caring.
Malone: Also, the script speaks for itself. If I’d read the script and felt that he didn’t know what he was talking about, I don’t think any of us would be here. He’s exploring so many different levels of female archetypes and allowing them to break and bend and expose themselves with amazing different forms of strength and insecurity, and allowing these women to really be fully-fleshed characters. I was thinking that they could really be men or women. IN an action movie, we’re so used to seeing these men, but literally we could almost be sexless were it not for the specificity of the world that we’re in.
Cornish: The thing about Zack that I’ve found really fun is that he knows what he’s doing. He’s a great filmmaker; he’s super technical. He’s had this film in his head from start to finish. It’s all there, all storyboarded. But at the same time, he’s constantly exploring it. He’s very instinctual. You don’t feel confined or restricted. Every day is that day. He’s so in the moment. He’s a lot of fun to work with. I’ve had the most fun on this film than I have on any film.
For more coverage from our Sucker Punch set visit: