I wonder what the kids who grew up watching Vanessa Hudgens in High School Musical are going to think. That’s because in writer-director Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, Hudgens is playing a role that’s a complete 180 from her work in those Disney films and I think she’s going surprise everyone (in a good way). As most of you know, 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. You can watch a trailer here.
Anyhow, late in 2009, I got to visit the set with a few other online reporters when the production was filming in Vancouver. While there I got to speak with most of the cast and after the jump you can either read or listen to my on set interview with Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung. They talk about the revealing costumes, the different realities in the film, the dance numbers, training for the role (which included training with Navy SEALS), shooting guns, and so much more. Like I said in my set report, if you’re a fan of Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) – especially Zack Snyder’s action sequences – you’re going to absolutely love what he has in store for Sucker Punch.
If you’d like to listen to the interview, click here. Otherwise the full transcript is below.
Can you talk about your reactions when you first the saw costumes you’d be wearing?
Jamie Chung: Blown away. It feels like we’re shooting four different movies. Each costume theme is so detailed and so contrasting to the other costumes that we were wearing the day before. So it’s insane. Michael Wilkinson is a genius.
Vanessa Hudgens: It’s fascinating, the attention to detail that he’s created. Just every single thing is so defined. Everyone’s costumes are so personal. It’s fascinating and it blew me away. The first day that we walked in to our hangout lounge area, they had just plastered the walls with photos of art work and we just stood there and stared at it forever. It was amazing.
Vanessa, will we get to find out the origin of the main Blondie?
Hudgens: It’s kind of a funny thing. In the brothel world she does have her blonde moments and I do, too, which is funny. But when it comes to all the action she completely transforms and is this total badass. So it’s this kind of parallel thing.
We saw some of the trench work this morning. I literally said to myself, ‘That’s Hudgens.’ So that’s cool. Was taking this role a conscious choice to mix it up a little bit?
Hudgens: I mean, I took this movie because Zack Snyder is an incredible director and just the plot is fascinating. It’s very appealing. What actress wouldn’t want to do it? It’s not me trying to push aside everything else that people know me as. It’s just that this is an incredible project that I wanted to be a part of.
Do you make your characters in the fantasy world as their own characters or as an extension of what Baby Doll sees? Are they separate or thinking about what she imagines your real world characters are?
Hudgens: I feel like in a sense it is Baby Doll’s fantasy world, but I feel like I took the initiative to play on what my character is like in the Salem world. In the brothel world, it is just an extension. It is something more powerful, more confident. I feel like through this whole process is Baby Doll’s fantasy and I feel like as soon as she changes it into the brothel we’re all an extension of her, of what she is, and what she stands for. I mean, I personally played it though as a real character with each thing. It is a different world but it is the same person. So it’s just different approaches I feel.
Can you talk about your dance numbers? Have you already filmed them?
Chung: No, I film mine tomorrow. Hers is Wednesday?
Chung: I’m the sexy French Maid and we’re doing a tango. But every dance is so different. Jena’s [Malone] dance is today and I saw a clip of her rehearsal and just what the set decorator was able to do with the giant needle coming down a pole. It’s like, ‘How do you think of these things?’ It’s wild and it’s beyond anyone’s imagination. It’s just creatively rich. It’s fascinating.
Chung: And I feel like the dances kind of show our characters, some sort of essence of our characters. For Blondie, I feel like, even though the name is Blondie she’s dark and she’s mysterious and she’s kind of guarded. With your dance, it’s mysterious and dark and edgy and really sexy. It’s the same thing with the French maid. Amber’s more peppy and she’s sexy and strong but she’s, I feel like, more friendly and wants everyone to get along. Very Joan of Arc. Very powerful. I’m in the business to please, I guess.
Jena and Abbie [Cornish] talked about how you guys bonded in the physical training. Can you talk about that? Was there a point where you felt things starting to come together?
Chung: Oh, man, when you’re suffering together, a very strong bond comes from that. We were encouraging each other and giving each other pep talks, like, ‘You can do it.’ It was really a team effort and I felt the bond immediately. On the first day of training, Jena was cheering me on on the sidelines, letting me know that I could do it. We came in at different times and it just leads to other things. Like you’re physically exhausted and you had such a good day and the adrenaline is running and then it was like, ‘Lets all go out and have coffee and maybe cheat with some deserts together and bond like girls do.’ It was an interesting dynamic because you had the whole physical and then you had the singing. It was just regular girl bonding.
Hudgens: My very first day I showed up not knowing what to expect in the slightest and get thrown into three hours of martial arts and an hour of the most intense training of my life. I remember that I was holding onto these rings and I let go on accident. He was like, ‘Okay, we have to do it again.’ And I let go again. I started to cry. It’s just the most frustrating feeling ever and Jen is right there, saying, ‘You’ve got, V. Come on.’ Then I slipped again and Abbie was right there telling me that I could do it and then Emily [Browning]. It was just knowing that I had those girls there – you weren’t there yet – but then Jamie, too, these girls are all incredible and so passionate about what they’re doing. So we’ve all gotten along.
Chung: And that translates on the screen. You can really see the bond there and the support. You’re in a terrible place, in a brothel and in an insane asylum, fighting Orcs and Knights and whatnot. We only have each other and so that translated well.
Do you take that with you after a production like this, all that fitness knowledge of what to eat and drink and the exercises and keep it up or do you think, ‘I can’t wait for this damn movie to be over and have a cookie?’
Chung: I think a little bit of both. I mean, it’s incredible, we’re being paid to be in the best shape of our lives. It’s so much fun because you get so involved and you really try to do everything you can to benefit from it to it’s fullest but as soon as it’s over I cannot wait to indulge myself in red velvet cake and chocolate and everything that I can get.
Can you talk about the actual training with Navy SEALS?
Chung: They never beat us, that’s for sure.
Hudgens: There’s no bell that you ring when you give up. They’re very calm. They’re aggressive but in a way where there’s the father that yells at you and beats you. Then there’s the father who gives you the silent stare. They’re the silent stare kind of people.
Chung: It’s just very matter of fact with them. It’s like, ‘This is what you’re doing. You’ve no way of getting around it. So don’t do it.’
Chung: Once we got past that we accomplished amazing things.
What kind of exercises did they have you doing?
Chung: Oh, we’d do overhead push presses with bars. Jena can dead lift 230lbs. I’m only at 155lbs.
Hudgens: You have tire pulls. They’re practical exercises that have been around forever, like using Kettle Bells and –
Chung: Doing pull ups and push ups.
Hudgens: Things that you kind of avoid when you got to a gym these days because they’re coming up with these fancy new exercises. Like these are basic things: Slam the ball. Lift the weights. Pull the rope.
Chung: Jump on the box.
Hudgens: I’ve never physically been challenged in this way before.
Can you talk about the point where you felt comfortable shooting a gun?
Chung: Well, first day, I don’t get the SAW – she has a huge machine gun. Huge. I’m a pilot and so I have a Glock. That’s all I need.
Hudgens: It’s like the most exhilarating thing that I’ve done, shoot a .50 gun. It’s not necessarily a matter of being comfortable. It’s a matter of confidence. You get behind that thing and you feel like the toughest person alive and just after every single take it’s this massive adrenaline rush.
Chung: And to smell the gunpowder. You kind of really love it after a while.
Hudgens: Yeah. I kind of love gunpowder now.
Chung: It’s really weird.
Chung: I don’t think I finish shooting and think, ‘Wow, it’s grueling.’ It’s a daily reminder. It’s a daily reminder of, like, ‘I can’t believe I’m here and I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ Everyday is like a fresh start and it never gets old and tiring because we’re shooting something different everyday. It’s like the Orc world and then we’re in our brothel look and then we’re in an insane asylum. So there’s never a dull moment but everyday you wake up and you go, ‘Wow, we’re here. This is what we’re doing.’ I feel like everyone has this great attitude about it. All the girls, even everyone down in like the set decorators and the painters, the makeup artists, everyone is so thrilled to do something that they’ve never done before. Like with the makeup for example, they’re always asking us to tone it down and make it natural. No. Zack is like, ‘Make it big. Bigger! Bigger eyelashes. More bedazzeled. Red lips!’ Nothing is toned down. I feel like the theme of this is to use your imagination, go wild with it, go crazy. So it’s pretty exciting.
How graphic and violent does it get and do you have to deal with a lot of that?
Hudgens: It’s PG-13.
Chung: Yeah, you can’t point the gun directly at the camera. You can’t show the knife penetrating.
Hudgens: Yeah, you can’t kill actual humans. You can kill Orcs.
Chung: Nobody gets sprayed with blood. It would’ve been fun.
You’re sick of that from ‘High School Musical’, I’m sure.
Hudgens: Yeah. I got it all the time.
But they could add all that in post, costumes drenched in blood.
Chung: I think it would be rad. I would love it.
Hudgens: I look good in red.
Can you talk about the biggest action set piece that you’ve enjoyed the most, that you are looking forward to the most, or might be the most challenging?
Hudgens: I already shot the two that I’m in. I’m in Orc World. When she’s flying the plane –
Chung: I fly a B-25.
Hudgens: I’m in the back using the .50 and .30 cal and we’re firing at dragons and screams.
Chung: ‘Take care of the Orc party down there! Lets break it up!’ ‘Where?’ ‘I see them!’
Hudgens: It’s crazy. So that was fun. Shooting big guns and running around screaming. And then World War One. I got to run around. I got this Tomahawk piece and I just run ahead of everyone else and I go through like ten guys.
Chung: A piece of cake.
Hudgens: It was really cool. That was my big moment. It’s a lot of fun. It’s an incredible piece. Everybody really has their moment to shine.
Chung: I’m really looking forward to filming, I’m the pilot and so I’m always in the cockpit and I got to fly the B-25 and I’m going to fly a helicopter and I get to be in a Mecca and the Mecca is going to be interesting. I haven’t seen the interior yet. I’ve only seen pictures. On the day when we shot the Mecca, seeing it for the first time, it’s like this giant green bean and you’re like, ‘What is it?’ They were like, ‘It’s your Mecca.’ So I think the interior piece of what we’re going to shoot in December, I’ll finally get to see my Mecca and I think that’s what I’m really looking forward to the most.
Do you think that doing something like this almost spoils you?
Chung: Oh my gosh, yeah.
Chung: We get put on the coolest sets where we have opportunity to play and walk into to the insane asylum and really feeling like you’re weighted down by the set, that just puts you into the headspace. I feel like every single set for every single world has been like that except for when it’s green screen. That’s a different story. But just portraying every single different aspect of what there is to portray. We get to be badasses and fight. We get to be vulnerable. We get to sing and dance.
Hudgens: It’s actually like, ‘What have we not done on this movie?’ But back to the acting, just looking at all the pictures and all these amazing actors and what they’ve been in and what they bring to the table and how real they make every scene and every world, it’s been a ride. I’ve learned so much from this film. It’s been really cool.
For more coverage from our Sucker Punch set visit: