Interview: Sucker Punch's Jena Malone, Jamie Chung And Vanessa Hudgens
Unless you are a completely diluted, self-centered individual, you understand that you need others to help you survive in this world, whether it’s just getting by in your day-to-day life or trying to escape a mental hospital. So when Babydoll (Emily Browning) plans the latter, she doesn’t try to go it herself, and enlists the help of Amber (Jamie Chung), Rocket (Jena Malone) and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) to help her.
Just as I’ve been posting all week, below you will find another roundtable with the actresses of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, due out this Friday. The topics vary from their roles in the cut musical number (that will be featured on the director’s cut home release), the unwillingness to use stunt doubles, and the stories behind their characters. Check it out!
So I guess the first thing, what’s your most vivid memory of making this movie?
Jena: Probably day one of physical training, just because it was the hardest, I was the most unprepared, I had no idea what to expect, I had never stepped in a gym before in my entire life so I was super nervous, I didn’t even know what to wear really, and I was just completely debilitated. I walked out of there and I started crying. I was like, oh my God I don’t think I can do this at all. Three weeks in, I gained ten pounds of muscle and became completely addicted.
Have you been in a gym since?
Jena: No, not really, off and on. I’m not really that kind of person but I definitely have more of a physical-minded outlook and a healthier approach on how to maintain fit, and emotionally, too. It’s a really important release.
Jamie: I would have to say spending time with the girls and bonding on and off set. But we kind of made the set our home, our little trailer village. Jena would play her music on the loudspeaker so we would all share, during Christmas we had Christmas trees and we set up Christmas lights, we just really made a family in Vancouver.
Vanessa: Both of those things were extremely memorable, in my top three. And I think the second morning I woke up in Vancouver after working out, almost unable to walk. I was so sore, I’ve never experienced that kind of pain physically before in my life, but I showed up and the girls were there and they just kind of kept me going.
It was explained to us before that you did physical training for the stunts for three months, and you guys did it for one month, is that correct?
Jena: Abbie and Emily and I did a month in LA, a month in Vancouver, and then the girls came in to join us for the third month. And so they did six months total and we did 8 months total.
And how rigorous was the stunt work?
Jena: Rigorous. Completely fighting. I mean we had the most incredible stunt choreographer known to mankind. Damon Caro is like, you can’t ask for someone kinder, sweeter, more prepared, interested in your safety, interested in bringing out the best in you. I remember I learned how to do some sort of, I could do like a really good triple roundhouse double kick, you know, that I was like, “I got really good at this!” And he’s like, “Well good we’re incorporating it into your piece.” I was like, “Yes!” He was really good about teaching us, pushing us, rewarding us in a way that it really felt educational, kind of school, and very much fun even though you’re sweating, you’re like blind from sweating so much. It was really incredible.
Jena: Not might, did!
In your character breakdown, how did you both end up in that lovely Vermont establishment?
Jena: Well what I think is the most interesting is that it’s not about…These characters, they’ve ended up in a situation that is quite detrimental and it sort of compromised all of their freedoms. And I think what’s interesting about Zack is that he’s not really interested in about how they got there, they’re interested in what they do once they’re actually there. And I think that’s a lot about why, because instead of sort of being held up in the past of, “What did I do?” or “What didn’t I do?” and regrets, it’s like, no, “How can I be the fullest person that I am, in the moment?” And so I think all of us did a lot of preparation for our own selves, but I don’t think it’s as interesting to know as the audience, necessarily.
While we know a big production number got cut, there were little bits of production numbers in the credits. So going in, how much of that was part of the deal, part of the training, there’s choreography, there’s vocals, and then along the way, sadly, we don’t get to see that.
Jena: Well with the director’s cut I think you’ll be awfully satisfied, and so shall we. But we all worked really hard on these dances that we got to do and they’re very fulfilling and a kind of beautiful to step out of the male-driven gym, and strong fight stances, and then getting to go and remember the graceful dance of your body.
That would be partly the room and partly your characters. So what did each of you do for your dance numbers?
Jena: I did like a sci-fi zombie nurse pole-dance. I started up inside of a giant syringe and sort of pole-danced my way down the needle and then did a little jig and came back and did a little jig.
Jamie: My character was this bedazzled lunch maid. It’s pretty interesting, it started with a keyhole, and that theme plays well throughout the film
Jena: Each kind of represented an element of what the thing that we were fighting for and that mine was like the map of the mind.
Vanessa: And I do a belly-dance. Yeah, it represents getting a tool that we needed, which was a knife. So I got to dance with a knife and it was very a spectacular Moroccan set with amazing veils and all this bedazzlement. It was amazing.
Jena: Yeah, well not really, I think just more for us personally, to be like “Oh I wanna see!” But we did get to see them.
Jamie: In terms of the story itself, it flows, it doesn’t really need it. But selfishly I wanted it in there. And it will be for the director’s cut.
What about the idea of stunt doubles. I mean, we’re talking about killing yourselves for all of this activity and everything, what happened to the idea that you could just come on the set and act, and somebody else could put on those things.
Jamie: No way. After all that hard work and training, and by then it’s like you want to do everything yourself. And these girls, it was to a point where it was like, “Enough it enough. Let’s move on.” Because they’re like, “Well let’s do it one more time!” They just got so into it.
Jena: Yeah, I think what’s a really interesting misconception, and it’s kind of strange that a lot of actors are like, “Oh, well I do all my own stunts,” that sort of thing. It’s like, well, it takes years and years and years to train your body to understand the ability to be able to do some of the stunt work, and for me to be able to walk in with some sort of presumption that in three months I’ll be able to learn what someone has taken a lifetime to master is just completely ridiculous. But what they give you is not only a physical strength, to be able to endure shooting these fight sequences for sixteen hour days, but it also gives you a physical embodiment of the confidence, a physical embodiment of the character, a physical embodiment of what it is to actually wield these weapons and do these things. Because it is not just generic action.
Your pieces were very specific to what your character was going through, and the aggression. And mine was very specific to the feistiness, and how fast, and sort of adventurous she was, and the excitability. But I was honored to have my stunt double come in and do my pieces. And we used to call them stunt shadows because, by the way, these women, as we were having to do all our things, our treks, they were behind us learning every single move, learning our every little bit. I have a little bit of a knee wobble when I do this one thing and I remember turning around and Sam had copied my knee wobble, and I said, “Well maybe I should be copying your knee wobble because I don’t know if this is the best thing!”
Jamie: And I don’t know if you remember that mirror scene. There’s a mirror scene in the dressing room of the brothel and it’s actually the stunt doubles backs that are mimicking the girls and all their movements. That was really fun to watch.
Jena: We had gotten so far and we had been working together so closely that it was really easy to replicate each other’s movements. When I had my stunt double go up and do these pieces, after we would get a couple chances to do them and they would do them and just sort of see what worked and what didn’t and it was an honor. I really felt like it was a beautiful teamwork. I never felt frustrated, like, “Well why can’t I do that.” I could really see why certain things, they absolutely had to do. Like they were not going to throw me into a wall at a high speed fifteen different times, that’s just not appropriate. But then the fact that they allow us to do a lot of things and actually we showed them and proved to them that we could handle these things, it sort of became a bigger achievement than just saying, “Well I do all my own stunts.” It’s a little presumptuous, I think.
Jena: No, it was 80% actual sets. We had such an incredible production designer Rick Carter. All of the worlds were actually there for us, we had men in prosthetics to actually be the orcs, to be the knights, to be the all these different elements that we were fighting. There was actually, like, a castle that we were storming, and they actually built a World War I trench, and they actually built a bullet train. Though that sequence was the one that was a little bit heavier in green screen. So I’d say probably 80/20 was the percentage of green screen usage.
Every generation has its sort of, kick-butt She-ro that they cheer on, you know, Sigourney Weaver, Angelina Jolie, whatever. Who did you grow up wanting to be, a kick-butt kind of person. Was there somebody that you liked that you maybe saw likened this character to, and your character to?
Vanessa: I mean, some of the people who you mention, Angelina Jolie, Sigourney Weaver, Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Just really strong women that you get to see kick but and it’s very rare.
Jamie: La Femme Nikita.
Jena: I mean I hate to say it but Sarah Polley’s character in Dawn of the Dead was pretty fucking awesome. I remember seeing that and being like, “That is someone I’ve never seen, that is awesome, I love that action star.” Like this nurse that’s kind of like tired, but she totally kicks ass, makes the right decisions in the moment.
We know a little bit about Rocket’s back-story but we don’t really know so much about where you guys are coming from. Did you, in your minds, bother to invent your own back-stories, and in the case of Amber I thought it was interesting because she mans the gigantic RoboCop-esque structure and then she rides the helicopter, for some reason, you seem to be the mechanical wiz in the group. But I didn’t know why because I didn’t know much about your character.
Jamie: I felt like, you know, of course there’s the back-story that’s the actor’s work that we had to do, but let me break it down for you. So Amber, she’s fiercely loyal, she’s very timid in the beginning and it’s only until Babydoll comes with this amazing plan and brings all these girls together that she finds the strength within herself to go along with these missions.
Jena: I mean you’re the first one in when she presents the plan. And the Mecha and the B-25 bomber, they’re the ones that kind of come to the rescue a bit, they’re the ones sort of like flying over, they’re like, “Okay, in that final moment that you need the ultimate loyalty to come in, okay, where’s the Mecha?,” and comes and smashes it down, like, comes and saves us. And that translates in the brothel sub-reality when, it’s like, you’re the first one in, you’re the first one to steal an item, it literally is fiercely loyal.
Jamie: Yeah, and she came through and put the knife under the desk for Babydoll to save herself from Blue. I feel like I’m every character.
Vanessa: She does a lot of things out of fear; she’s kind of a follower. She doesn’t really stand up for her own rights, I believe, which it probably, eventually, inevitably put her in the institute. When you’re doing things out of fear they’re usually not the smartest of things and it does come back and catches up with her.
What do you think the five women here, through this journey and sacrifice, represent? When people walk out of this, what do you think they’re supposed to be getting?
Jena: That women can basically do anything that they put their minds to.
Jamie: That we’re multi-layered. That as a female hero, you can show various layers of different emotions and different sides.
Vanessa: Yeah, the freedom and strength of the mind. You know we don’t get enough credit and it’s just amazing that when you are put in dire, compromising situations, you really can find your own positives, find your own freedom, and make your destiny. Bam!
Have you guys been angling for Superman, or no?
All Three: No…
Working again with Zack, is that something you’d like to do?
Jamie: We don’t have to be in his movies to support him, you know? I would bring him his coffee everyday.
And what are you guys doing next?
Jena: Breaking it up!
Jamie: I have Hangover and Premium Rush
Vanessa: I have a movie coming out called Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. It’s like a fun, big, family 3D adventure film. And that’s with Michael Caine, so I can check it off my bucket list.
Are there more High School Musicals?
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