Audiences have been anticipating Zack Snyder’s multilateral fantasy-action extravaganza Sucker Punch for months, if not years, and this weekend the visual spectacle finally sweeps into theaters (read our official review HERE). With the creation of the Sucker Punch, the filmmakers intended to construct a reality inhabited by sexy, vulnerable, dimensional women-warriors; a place where the possibilities for action are boundless.
In order to achieve said goal, Snyder assembled a cast of beautiful up-and-coming young actresses, and then put them through months of brutally rigorous training in preparation for the elaborate production. This past weekend we had the opportunity to speak with the ladies of Sucker Punch – Emily Browning (Baby Doll), Abbie Cornish (Sweet Pea), Jena Malone (Rocket), Jamie Chung (Amber) and Vanessa Hudgens (Blondie), about their experiences making an action film that called for them to dance, sing and fight.
The five actresses trained to fight and function both as individuals and as moving parts of a unified whole. That style reflects their characters in the film, as well as their real-world experience of making the movie. In the Sucker Punch universe, each of the girls represents a separate aspect or characteristic of one, whole, woman. The characteristics depicted may be loyalty, strength, compassion or even fear. Additionally, they each signify a singled-out embodiment of an iconic feminine archetype – a nurse, a schoolgirl, a teacher and so on.
In the world of the production, the bonds created between the actresses were fiercer than what they had experienced working on other projects. Understandable, given the unique and intensive nature of the process. As Abbie Cornish says “when you’re thrown into the deep end together,” the friendships develop quickly.
The girls went through three months of training with wires, stunt men, navy seals, martial arts experts, and fight coordinators, in order to to prepare for the film. As producer Deborah Snyder told us, “We started training them in April and we didn’t roll film until September 17th.” It was five days a week of pure, rigid, exhaustive physical training. As D. Snyder claims:
“In fact, Zack didn’t start talking to them about the lines in the script until August. So what they did, was they did the physical training – they had to transform their bodies. They each had their own stunt double but they did ninety percent of the stunts themselves – only when it was really dangerous did we replace them, and they were mad about it.”
Zack Snyder concurred, saying, “I mean those girls are animals, no two ways about it. And I mean that in the best possible way.”
When asked who had a tougher time of it – the men of 300 or the ladies of Sucker Punch – Mrs. Snyder laughingly replied “I think the men of “300” were bigger babies – I got a lot more complaints from them.”
These women seemed to embrace the challenge as an opportunity to experience versions of themselves that they had perhaps never dreamed possible. “I mean I don’t think anyone would have assumed I could do action before this film,” said Emily Browning (Baby Doll) “but as Abby (Cornish) says, Zack had so much faith in his team, and they did a great job of turning us into little warriors.”
Jena Malone (Rocket) agreed that the work was both transformative and empowering, saying:
“Never in my life have I had someone look at me and say, ‘well you look like you could take on am army of men.’ To have Zack Snyder imbue that kind of belief in us, we started believing it, and we starting seeing the results in the gym and the stunts and the gun work.”
“It was definitely a challenge,” Browning continued “but I kind of embraced the challenge, as I think all of the girls did. I’ve probably never done a role this challenging, but I’ve also never had this much fun working on a film before. You can look at it as hard work or you can look at it as…” as Vanessa Hudgens added, “getting paid to be in the best shape of my life [and] use my body as art.”
In fact, Jamie Chung (Amber) contends that the most difficult thing for her was “switching between fight mode and graceful mode as a dancer.” In addition to the swords and firearms that the ladies learned to wield, there were dances to master and songs to sing for this film. Each character (with the exception of Baby Doll, whose dancing is left best to our imagination as you will see in the film) had a signature dance, one that reflected who and what they were representing in the film.
Jena, for example, whose iconic character was a nurse, “got to play a sci-fi zombie nurse” and “did a pole dance down a giant syringe. I start in the syringe and pole dance my way down,” the actress explains, “and all my back-up dancers have syringes. The hardest part for me was learning the pole dance. I mean the bruises that I got in comparison to doing months of stunt training and stepping away unscathed.”
Ultimately, all of the dances were left out of the final film (you can look for them on the director’s cut) and only Emily Browning’s haunting voice remains on the soundtrack. The fight, stunt, and weaponry work, however, are all there on the screen. Each of the women expressed a feeling of affection for the time they spent working and preparing for the film.
As Abbie Cornish enthused:
“I loved losing myself in it, loved the meditative state I found when we were doing martial arts training. I love the shotgun…the first time I fired that thing and it hit me in the side of the head, and it was like a grown man punched me in the face.”
When asked if getting cold-clocked often inspires warm and tender feelings, Cornish laughingly responded, “Well it was the beginning of the relationship and we had to work it out. I did love the shotgun, but there was also something about the fluidity of the sword that was like dancing.”
As Emily Browning reflected: “For novelty I love the Lewis gun, it weighed more than I did and it had to be on wires and it would spray me with gunpowder which I found oddly satisfying.”
Conish agreed: “It’s kind of crazy how much we did love the smell of gunpowder, though. After we finished the film I remember going to this candle store and there was this candle called gunpowder and I was so excited…but it was actually really disappointing, it didn’t smell like real gunpowder.”
Browning mused, “We should bring out a “Sucker Punch” fragrance that’s just gunpowder and sweat.”
One thing seems certain: the connection that the women of Sucker Punch made during production (which included talking late into the night about their characters’ histories and nearly missing flights because they were so engrossed in their creations) has endured. They remain fans of the movie, and of each other.
“We loved it,” Cornish said of the final film, “we were blown away, we were the rowdiest audience members you’ve ever seen. We were cheering each other on and screaming.”
“For me, when I usually watch myself in a film, I can watch it once, and then I don’t need to see it again and its always a little bit like ‘mmm that’s me, that’s my face.’ This was entirely different. I loved it, I enjoyed it so much especially seeing my close friends up there kicking ass as well as myself, it was such a satisfying feeling. And visually it was so exciting and cool, I feel like I could keep watching this film – which is a really big thing for me to say.”
Sucker Punch opens in theaters Friday.