‘Spring Breakers’: an interview

April 11th, 2013

The Carroll News participated in a conference call with director Harmony Korine and actress Ashley Benson from “Spring Breakers.”


Here’s what they had to say:

Question:              How does music influence your writing and your vision of films?  Does it serve as a guiding force when you were putting together the script and idea?

Harmony Korine:  Yes, definitely.  Music is a huge part, and sound is a huge part.  And it’s – energy is a huge part.  It all kind of – yes, I definitely listen to things – music – constantly.  And it’s – sound is half of what a film is.  So I definitely pay attention to it.


Question: You’re known for your role on “Pretty Little Liars”, and most of your audience – they know you as kind of that role on “Pretty Little Liars”.  So why the huge jump on to a provocative film?

Ashley Benson:    I don’t know; I mean, I’ve been on that show for four years now, and I feel like people have just seen me in a certain way for such a long time.  And I really wanted to do a film where I was different from anything I’ve ever done.  And I read Harmony’s script and it was exactly what I wanted to do.  And I liked how edgy it was; I liked how different it was.  And I wanted a chance to work with Harmony, to work with James, and I wanted to do something different.


Question: Do you see spring break as more of a wet dream or a nightmare?  Or kind of both?


Harmony Korine:  Wet dream …


Ashley Benson:    Wet dream.


Harmony Korine:  I kind of see it as it is in the movie, and there are – there’s – there are, I guess if you want to say some of it’s a wet dream, that’s OK.  But it’s – there’s like – it’s really – it’s what the movie is.  It’s how it plays out.  Is it’s kind of – there’s a lot of different emotions and images and ambiguities and strangeness and beauty and horror; it’s all kind of mixed up and dancing together.  It’s kind of a cultural mash-up, or an impressionistic reinterpretation, of all those things and feelings.


Question: In this film, and in “Kids,” and “Gummo,” you like to – or it seems like you portray adolescents as having that kind of invincibility – they feel that way.  How do you feel from making “Kids” to “Gummo” to this?  Do you feel that that’s changed with the adolescent age?  And – I mean, I guess – do you feel like it’s evolved, or will it ever change?


Harmony Korine:  Yes – I don’t know; I would say that my guess is – because I would just say that people are people; they’re always people.  They always have the same – adolescents, they always have the same urges; and at its base level, I would assume that it’s the same.  But at the same time, the world has changed; and the way people communicate and socialize has changed.


So I would – now it’s all kind of filtered through something completely different; something that’s more performance-based – it’s like a more performative – like a more exposed cultural kind of thing now.  It’s – people are kind of – its more performance-oriented.  Whereas back in the day, it was more about kids trying to disappear, or people trying to find themselves.  It was more of a shadow culture.  Now it’s more of a – everything is on display, and filtered through some kind of technology.




Question:  Can you tell me about deciding to cast this film?  I understand actresses like a change, but it seems like this is not something that their fan base is going to be able to see anyway.  So I’m assuming this was a deliberate choice to pick a kind of unexpected cast for this.  Can you talk about that some, please?


Harmony Korine:  Sure.  But I disagree that their fans won’t see it.  I mean, I think that their fans will also grow up, and eventually see it.  So I think that we make a movie, and the movie exists forever, and so eventually people will find it – people that aren’t old enough to see it now will be old enough to see it in a few years; and hopefully they’ll enjoy it.  I wanted to work with these girls, first and foremost, because they were the best for the part.  They were the most interesting for the part.


And then, on top of it, I liked the fact that they were connected culturally to this kind of – almost this kind of pop mythology.  And I thought it was an interesting counter to their perception and what they’ve done in the past.  And I thought it was exciting for them.  They were all at a place in their life where they wanted to try things that were more graphic, more extreme – a different type of acting.  And so – that was – that was obvious; and that’s what they did.  And it was great.




Question:              And I was wondering why – you talk about wanting your audience to feel your movies in a physical way; why is that important to you?


Harmony Korine:  It just is, you know?  I want to – I always felt like – I’ve always felt like I wanted to make movies that worked in that way, that worked in a way that as more physical – more inexplicable; something that was not just a normal movie-watching experience; something that had another element to it; something that was more like a – like a ride, or a game, or something that demanded some type of participation in some way, or some type of physical response.


I wanted the films to be beautiful, and be entertaining; but I also always thought about movies in a different way – in a way that was more encompassing, I guess; or more of a physical experience, as opposed to just being told the story and being told what to think.





Question: Ashley, for you, what’s it been like working for Harmony?  And was it – was he as crazy as you thought he might be?  Or how’s that relationship been?


Ashely Benson:    No, I mean – I was kind of thrown into the movie at the last minute, so I didn’t really get a chance to meet with Harm until I got to Florida.  So we just did like a few Skype sessions, and we talked on the phone.  But when I got the project, I looked him up on YouTube and I saw his interviews and stuff on Letterman; and he was crazy.  But when I met him in person, he was just like a normal dude.


Harmony Korine:  Oh, yeah.


Ashley Benson:    Oh yeah, gangster.



Question:              Hi, Ashley, I have a question for you.  At age 23, you’re an icon for girls around the world.  What do you want to show others about yourself, and how do you handle this responsibility?


Ashley Benson:    Whoa.  I don’t really think of myself as that; I mean, that’s kind of crazy.  I feel like that put a lot of pressure on people.  As far as my fans go, I just try to – I don’t know – I hope that I’m a good example to them.  And I don’t know – I think some people with younger fans, they kind of choose roles for their fans.  And for me, it’s more about things I want to do, and projects I want to be a part of.  And of course my thought is, “I hope my fans enjoy this.”


But at the end of the day, I kind of do stuff for myself, just because I think that’s what’s most important.  And I just hope that girls who do follow me, and who are fans of the show, or fans of stuff I’ve done – I hope that they do follow me throughout things I do.  But I don’t know.  I mean, that just puts a lot of pressure on …



Question: Why’d you think that you need to make “Spring Breakers” now?  And do you think that it stands as a reflection of teenagers in America right now?


Harmony Korine:  I felt like I needed to make it just because I liked the storyline, and I liked the characters; it was a world I wanted to explore.  Is it a reflection?  I think there’s some things in it that do reflect specific parts of – whatever you want to call it – things that are culturally – I think it’s connected to youth culture in some way.


But at the same time, it’s – it was never meant to be a kind of documentary or an expose on something.  And it is more like a reinterpretation of those things.  It’s something that’s more like a pop poem, or almost like the real world but pushed into something more kind of – I don’t know – hyper-poetic.  And it is kind of – it works on its own logic.  And so I would say there are obviously things that are – it’s connected to the culture, and maybe there’s a zeitgeist in some way.  But it’s also something separate.




Question: In the past, you’ve said that cinema is sort of stuck in the birth canal.  Do you still feel that way?


Harmony Korine:  Look, you know, I said that probably 15 or 20 years ago.  And now everything has changed.  And so the idea of what cinema is has maybe even – or what it can be, or – has changed.  It’s kind of exploded in some ways.  So no, I mean, I think that the world is different now.  It’s become so fractured that cinema is also – is also a 30-second clip of a bunny rabbit running across a telephone wire.  It’s just – all just changed.