Director Zack Snyder and the cast and crew of Sucker Punch braved torrential rain and confounding street closings in Los Angeles on Sunday to talk with the press about their visually arresting ode to action, anime and girl power.
"This is the first film with a female ensemble cast where, you know, the damsels in distress become their own heroes and save themselves," said Jamie Chung, who plays Amber. "That's very empowering."
Written with Steve Shibuya, Sucker Punch is Snyder's first wholly original film (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen and Legend of the Guardians were based on other works). It centers on Baby Doll (Emily Browning), a young woman who retreats into a fantasy world to escape the horrors of a mental institution. Navigating around the villainous orderly Blue (Oscar Isaac) and the enigmatic Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino), Baby Doll discovers four allies to help in her desperate plot to escape.
"I'm hoping this could kind of start a trend maybe, hopefully, of just -- not just, you know, 'girls with guns,' but smart, cool, interesting, layered characters -- with guns," Browning said with a laugh.
Abbie Cornish (Bright Star, Limitless), whose Sweet Pea is a mother figure to the other girls, emphasized that women don't often get the chance to play tough, ass-kicking characters like the ones in Sucker Punch.
"Of course, there are so many roles that are male roles that as an actor I would love to explore -- I'd love to play -- and when you get to play a female role that explores some of those things and you get to be physical, it's kind of incredible," she said.
A fan of anime and Japanese pop culture, Browning was well aware of the influences scattered throughout the movie. "When I first put the costume on I remember I did, you know, the opening of Sailor Moon," Browning said, striking a perfect Sailor Moon pose.
Vanessa Hudgens, best known for her role as Gabriella Montez in High School Musical, gets to carry the biggest guns in the movie, shooting both 30- and a 50-caliber weapons during some of the action sequences. "I got to shoot 'the saw,' which was Rambo's gun, which was amazing!"
But while Hudgens was excited by the prospect of bringing out the big guns, she was quickly reminded how dangerous the 50-caliber could be. "The guys who were looking after the guns told me that I had to keep my mouth open because if I closed my mouth, I could possibly blow out my eardrums," she said. "That gun just had so much kick to it. It was crazy!"
To achieve the raw, high-powered action sequences, all five stars went through rigorous training and body conditioning. It soon became a running mantra on set to "summon the beast."
"When we talk about 'the beast,' it's getting pushed so far physically that you're able to find this sort of Zen that comes through," said Jena Malone (The Messenger, Pride and Prejudice). "This animal actually craves the pain in a weird way instead of fighting it."
Although the press junket was for the women of Sucker Punch, Snyder also spoke, talking a little about signing on to direct the new Superman. "It was like, Superman seemed to make a lot of sense for me because, after doing Watchmen -- you know that whole thing where you have to know the rules to break them? There's something about that. Making Watchmen gives you the opportunity to really sort of understand superheroes in a way that I don't know that a lot of the modern superhero movies are that are being made [do]."
Making a reference to the number of comic book movies being produced, Snyder appeared anxious for the Man of Steel's cinematic reboot. "I'm a fan of the Iron Man movies, but really? Iron Man? Like, a whole franchise and tons of movies? Iron Man? Thor? Fair enough," he said. "But the fact that we don't have a Superman movie in the midst of this is crazy."
Because it is a Zack Snyder film, music is important to the tapestry of Sucker Punch, and Browning, who had never really sung before, ended up contributing three songs to the soundtrack. "I was singing as Baby Doll," she said. "That's her singing for me, and the emotion in those songs is coming from her. So I think that's kind of cool that every layer of the film is within her head."
Although a newcomer to singing, Browning impressed composer and music producer Marius De Vries, who said, "Emily's instinctive ability to communicate when she's using her singing voice as opposed to her speaking voice is very rare, and once we realized we had that, it gave us the encouragement to use her not only possibly in a short dramatic scene in the movie, but as part of the fabric of the soundtrack."
Sucker Punch opens Friday.
Don't miss the earlier interviews from Spinoff Online's visit to the Sucker Punch set: