Over the weekend we posted our interview with Zack Snyder, which may have resolved some of the debates about Sucker Punch, but probably just added more fuel to the blazing arguments about the film. The same day we spoke to Snyder, we also spoke to the film’s five escapees: Emily Browning (Baby Doll), Jenna Malone (Rocket), Abbie Cornish (Sweet Pea), Vanessa Hudgens (Blondie) and Jamie Chung (Amber). They regaled us with stories of brutal training regimes, gun play, and how Snyder communicated his vision.
Describe the film in one sentence
Malone: It’s basically like a prison break film about five young girls that band together, and what they’re willing to sacrifice for their freedom.
On prep for role
Malone: It’s pretty epic; both of us had never really even been to the gym before.
Malone: Day one was kind of the most terrifying moment of my life. I walked away completely red-faced in tears. I [was] just like, ‘is this really what we’re going to have to do? It’s going to require a lot of dedication and commitment. That’s the thing about doing anything so extremely challenging, that the rewards are so great.
You were all in tears?
Browning: Well, I don’t know if Abbie was in tears. I don’t know if Abbie cries.
On the training
Browning: It was three months solid before we started filming, about six to eight hours a day, five days a week.
Malone: Four hours of martial arts in the morning, then we’d have a 45 minute break, and then we’d do about an hour and a half to two hours with Navy Seals, which was all strength and conditioning training, which is a lot of circuit, weight lifting, anything you can pull with your hands, and your arms. We were doing tyre pulls and push ups, all of that sort of crazy things. On the rower until we couldn’t breathe anymore. Abbie, the first time she really pushed herself, she became hypoxic, and her lips went blue.
You knew about this and still signed on?
Browning: That kind of challenge is really exciting. For me, the idea of being able to physically transform myself in this way, and have people do it for me – wwe were doing the work, but we had people watching our every step and taking care of us…
Malone: Helping us with our diet, and vitamins, and regimen. It’s kind of incredible for Zack Snyder to be able to take a look at us five girls, and traditionally we’re not action stars; no-one’s ever looked at me and been like you know, ‘you can slay 40 men and a dragon’. For him to be able to see that in us and imbue us with that level of confidence, for an actor, that’s kind of the ultimate; it’s like someone casting you as a part that no one could ever imagine you as, you get so deep into it that it really becomes part of you.
Hudgens: What was so great about the training was that, they were saying, Logan Hood, on 300, the training for that, they’d be competitive. They’d team them against each other. With us you had to team us up with each other, so that we could cheer each other on and be there for each other. We don’t want each other to suffer, so you had to do your best so that you’re not leaving them behind, because you can’t move on until the other one does as well.
Just having them there, and doing these things together and doing these things together, and pushing yourself as far as you think you can every single day, and just sweating together, and just, like, needing each other in the most animalistic form, it created an incredible bonding camaraderie.
Cornish: We were training like stuntwomen. There was a moment I forgot I was an actor. I was about to go join the stunt crew
On the weapons
Hudgens: We each had our different weapons; we would work with each thing specifically. In the morning we would get together and do some boxing, or whatever it was they were going to throw us through the ringer of that day, but we spent a lot of time with our own individual weapons, and they just became a piece of ourselves.
Chung: I remember we were at a shooting range. It was an empty sound stage, and as a pilot I had a 9mm Glock, that was the only gun I had, and I was like, ‘aw, this is cool. This is awesome. I feel powerful’, then I look over, and Vanessa has this [makes the noise of Vanessa’s massive machine gun firing], and I’m like, ‘aw man! This sucks.’
Cornish: I love the Glock though. Such a great gun.
Chung: I mean, it’s a handy weapon.
Cornish: I had a shotgun, an M4 and a broadsword, so I had this whole world, and there was one point where we were contemplating having a pistol somewhere too. I know it sounds out of control. So I got to play with all of those weapons. Each one felt different. Surprisingly the M4 was my least favourite. I loved it, but there was something about the shotgun, about the pistol, and even the broadsword.
On Snyder’s vision
Malone: That’s one of the biggest misconceptions talking with journalists, and even the fan base with Zack Snyder; people think you go in blind to his visions, and his worlds, but I think that was the thing that I was most blown away by, the amount of detail and support that we were given. The script is basically the film. The script was more r-rated than the PG-13 version of the film that’s being released, but we were given artwork, previsualisations, in our green room at the gym for the first three months, the entire walls were plastered with his drawings, and conceptions and ideas for things, and he was always bringing us in and showing us new details. A new version of the mecha came in and we would all run to his office.
On the CGI
Malone: They work so closely, that a lot of things are happening at the same time. When we were in the middle of the robot world, I remember looking and being able to see the entire world. They had done previsualisations of, ‘this is what the textures are going to look like’ and ‘this is what the robots are going to look like’. You know, it’s 80% real life sets. Real men in prosthetics. I was in a trench with 10 ft walls with bursts of dirt flying into my eyelashes. The whole entire set smelled of manure. It was all dirt, it was all real. And it’s about 20% green screen, so I feel like Zack is oddly authentic to his fantasies. He really wants to build these details, he really wants to build these worlds and let you as an actor thrive in them.