From writer/director Harmony Korine, Spring Breakers shows another, even seedier side of the seasonal American ritual known as spring break, which draws hordes of college students to the Florida coast and elsewhere, each year. When best friends Brit (Ashley Benson), Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) decide to go on their own spring break adventure, their lack of funds leads them down a path straight to local rapper/drug pusher/arms dealer Alien (James Franco), who lures them away from the party of a lifetime into the criminal underbelly that they may never escape from.
At the film’s press day, actress Selena Gomez spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about why this script intrigued her and made her want to sign on, what she learned from the experience that she wishes she could go back and tell herself on the first day of filming, how nervous she was about Harmony Korine’s more improvisational style, how much they rehearsed and talked about scenes ahead of time versus being in the moment, what it was like to work with so many non-actors in the film, seeing the film for the first time at the Venice Film Festival, and how this experience has influenced where she’d like to go next, with her career. She also talked about whether she’d like to do a big comic book movie, who she plays in Behaving Badly, working with Ethan Hawke on Getaway, and why she wants to share a mutual respect with her fans. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
SELENA GOMEZ: I was intrigued because I wasn’t familiar with Harmony Korine’s work, so I was interested in why my mom really loved the script. And then, we watched all of his movies together and I watched a couple of his interviews, and I just got extremely excited. I thought this was a great way to throw me into a huge acting camp, basically. It was going to be a low-budget indie. Harmony was giving us opportunities to improv, and he let us play. That’s really refreshing and rare. It was an actor’s dream, in a way.
Did you see it as the perfect next step, since you get to get your feet wet in the R-rated film world while still playing a character that’s the heart of the film?
GOMEZ: Yeah, I think it was a good character choice. It was the right role to do. I think the girls just completely kill it, in what they do. They’re so incredible in it. But, Faith was someone that I completely relate to and have this vulnerability towards. I just care about her.
Since you got thrown into the deep end with this film, what did you learn from the experience that you wish you could go back and tell yourself, on the first day of filming?
GOMEZ: Yeah, to just not be in my head as much. I was definitely one of those actors, where I was just critiquing every single thing I did and making sure I had every line down pat. Harmony just really wanted to throw that all away. He never wanted me to be in my mind. That’s what I definitely appreciate. It allowed me to go to these places that I didn’t really think I could go to. Not just saying the bad thing, but more the emotional scenes that I had to give myself to, in a bikini and in that way. And then, having James Franco’s character come was just really frightening. So, if anything, I’ve just learned to not be in my head as much, to just take it as it goes, and just to be in your surroundings and work off of that.
GOMEZ: Yeah. To be honest, I didn’t know them as well, so I was a little nervous, at first. But, I got really lucky. You put four girls in a movie and it could be crazy, but they were so sweet and we had the best time. It was important for the movie that we were friends, as well.
Did you take to the improvisational style that Harmony Korine encourages, or were you nervous about that?
GOMEZ: I was nervous, but it was all happening as we were going. When we were doing the bathroom scene and I was actually lying on Vanessa’s lap, I was sitting there and she was playing with my hair and Harmony just said, “Why don’t you describe the town that you’re from?” So, I started explaining the town. And then, he said, “Talk about the really bad, hard parts of where you grew up.” So, I just started talking about the streetlights and the one gas station, and that became a monologue in the movie. It was really cool because it was more of a natural, organic thing that was happening. It was almost like I was telling Harmony my story, through Faith. It was great! I had a great time.
How much did you guys rehearse and talk about the scenes before filming versus really finding it in the moment?
GOMEZ: I would say it’s safe to say that 60% was definitely figured out, and was what Harmony envisioned and wanted. For the rest, we were thrown in real situations. It was every day that it would happen, though. Harmony would find something – a lightpost or a gas station or a convenience store – and he’d walk in and ask, “Can we film here?,” and they’d say, “Okay.” And then, we’d walk in and he’d say, “The lights are great, so maybe sing a song, or just say nothing and look at each other really intensely.” It was really cool. We definitely got to do a little bit of both.
GOMEZ: These are four college girls, going to Florida and meeting random Floridians on spring break and having a great time going crazy, so that helped because I felt like I got to know these people there and see how they lived their life. Some people weren’t from there, and some people had lived there for their entire life. Just hearing stories really helped the mood, too. It was cool. It added an element that was really special to all of us and our reactions and how it felt.
Because this was such a new and different experience for you, what was your reaction to seeing the finished film for the first time?
GOMEZ: I was nervous because I actually watched it at the Venice Film Festival for the first time, and I was nervous about what the audience was going to think. I thought it was such a weird, twisted music video, in a way, and it was just so beautiful. The scenes that are in it that have the pink tint, and some of the other scenes and shots, I was just dying over and I love. I was really proud of it. I was definitely nervous about watching it with an audience for the first time, but we got a great reaction, so it was cool.
GOMEZ: Yes, it definitely has influenced me. I think Harmony really spoiled me. He was such a really giving director. I auditioned for the part. I wanted the part, but there’s not a lot of directors that would be willing to give me an opportunity like this because of the previous things that I’ve been linked to. If anything, it’s just really given me confidence. I want to just be better and be the best I can because that’s what Harmony pushed me to do and to be. I will definitely apply that to future projects that I do.
Are you a fan of the comic book genre, and would you like to do one of those big comic book movies?
GOMEZ: Oh, I don’t know. That would be awesome! That would be really cool! But, I don’t really have a structured path of wanting to say, “This is what I’ll do next.” I’m just going to read a bunch of scripts and see which one I love. There are so many things I would love to play, in all different genres.
What is Behaving Badly and who do you play in that?
GOMEZ: That is a movie I did with Nat Wolff, Mary-Louise Parker, Elisabeth Shue, Dylan McDermott, and so many great actors. They’re so funny in the movie. It’s a dark comedy, for sure, about Nat’s character. He ends up losing his virginity to his best friend’s mom, but it’s funny because Elisabeth Shue plays this really crazy, outgoing mom. It’s almost psychotic, in a way. I play Nat’s love interest, that he has real feelings for. I play this girl who Hillary Clinton is her inspiration. She’s very put together and conservative, and he’s all mixed up in this craziness with his best friend’s mom. It’s really funny.
GOMEZ: It was awesome! Ethan was incredible. He just would tell me stories about the previous projects that he’s been a part of. He was like, “Oh, I remember when I was your age and I was doing this and this.” It was great! It was cool to have that. I remember writing down so many notes and things that he would say because he was really supportive and obviously amazingly talented. It was really fun.
It’s really impressive that you seem to recognize that you have a lot of young people who look up to you and see you as a role model, and you really respect your fans and mature in a way that really demonstrates a grace and class that many young stars don’t seem to have. Why has it been so important to you to share that mutual respect with your fans?
GOMEZ: It’s more that I want to share the respect, so they understand the process that it is, that I go through. At the end of the day, besides everything that I do, I’m still just a 20-year-old girl and a Texan, at that. In a way, it was more of just wanting to show them how appreciative I am to be in the position I’m in. The show (Wizards of Waverly Place) was an incredible part of my life, and there are people who have been there from that point to this point. I’m really thankful for it, even though it is such a crazy whirlwind. I have to make decisions that people are a little confused about, in a way, and I just express the appreciation, admiration and respect I have. I just try to be the best I can, but I’m human.
Spring Breakers is now playing in N.Y. and L.A. and opens in theaters nationwide on March 22nd.