Impulse Gamer Interviews Abbie Cornish and Emily Browning (Suckerpunch) - -

Rising Aussie stars Abbie Cornish and Emily Browning get physical in Zack Snyderís latest fantasy, Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is like an adolescentís wet dream. If itís not the giant samurai, steampunk World War I soldiers, dragons and slinky robots in Zack Snyderís latest visceral slice of insanity, itís the bordello dream world a young woman imagines to find refuge from the horrors of a 1960s mental asylum. A proto-feminist fantasy wrapped in video-game iconography, Sucker Punch called on Aussie rising stars Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish to undergo an intense bout of physical training to realise their directorís ambitious vision.

ImpulseGamer recently sat down with the two stars to discuss the film, their director, and whether the movie is the feminist statement itís cracked up to be.

This film in a lot of ways is a departure for you both. It's not a costume drama or a small film - it's a big budget, action-heavy movie. Was the scale of that part of the attraction for you?

Emily Browning: I always - I attempt to make films that are different from everything else I've done, so I love the idea of doing action, it's something I've always been interested in, but never really thought it would happen for me.

Abbie Cornish: Yeah, I was really excited by it. I love the idea of training for a film. Of coming into the character from a physical place because usually it's so mental, and usually about research and figuring things out and talking - it's very cerebral. And then the physicality eventuates and you figure that out. It was interesting to start physically and train like soldiers.

And you have a background in that too, from your mother.

Cornish: Yeah, she was Australian National full-contact Karate champion [and] I guess growing up on a 170-acres, growing up with brothers - my older brother taught me how to use a slug gun, shoot targets, use a bow and arrow, a crossbow, drive a car, ride a motorbike - all of that stuff was just part of my upbringing. And yeah, and mum, being Karate champion, kinda helped too.

What about Zack? He's obviously an insane-visual stylist - was that something that attracted you and something you could feel on set as an actor?

Browning: Yeah, I think his vision was always made very clear to us.He wanted us to be part of it, he never left us in the dark in terms of that. He gave us a lot of visual references and images at the beginning of shooting. It was kind of amazing to be let into Zack's mind.

Cornish: And I would bug him all the time. When we were shooting the high-speed stuff for the train-world, and these cameras -they're massive - and chew through a reel of film in 30 seconds or something. And they sound like [makes whirring sound]. You know, you couldn't film sound as you were filming. And it just chews film like crazy. And I was like "you know, why are you using this camera, what does it mean, what are you going to do with it, how are you going to manipulate it in post, why is it so bright - you know, because there was so much light because to be able to get it all and manipulate it they need everything under intense light. He's very technical, Zack. He knows everything.

What about as an actor? What sort of conversations did you have?

Browning: Well that's - I always trusted Zack in terms of visuals even before we started filming, and I wonder how he was going to be on a personal level as a director, and he was amazing. I mean, he was so open to as much rehearsals as we needed, he wanted to talk about the development of the characters as much as we wanted to. You know, he was really open to collaboration in terms of creating the emotional storyline for all of the characters. He was actually really fantastic.

Babydoll and Sweet Pea have similar arcs and backstory's in the movie. Sweet Pea is especially quite reluctant in the beginning, was the reasons why the jumping off point for you [Abbie] with the character? Was that the hook?

Cornish: For me it was the journey of someone who was suppressed, someone who was surviving, someone who had put all the fragile parts of her, the sensitive parts of her deep down, locked away where no one could get 'em, and then to let that bird out of the cage, to let that be free and journey into the light.

You also have different versions of the characters in the dream within a dream structure. Was that something you talked about?

Browning: Yeah, we definitely spoke about that. I think it was important because it was in Babydoll's fantasy world that it was important that she was a kind of emotional through-line to some degree, to remain pretty steady. But I think all of us were just playing different facets, different aspects of the characters, it's not like anyone was changing into an entirely different person.

Cornish: Yeah, I think the worlds' [are responsible] for that a little bit too. You know, obviously if we're killing 50 guys in a row, that's a whole different side you're going to see of a character than if the character is talking to their sister. You know what I mean? So it feels like it's different even though we were quite consistent. The biggest shift was probably the psychiatric ward, I think, for the rest of us girls. 

What about the World War I Steampunk action scene, which is one of my favourite scenes in the film. Could you talk about shooting that scene?

Browning: That was probably the least green screen. All of those sets were built, all of those guys were in costume. It was shot - I mean, we did pretty much all of our stunts in that sequence. We had choreographed fight scenes and we just repeated and repeated and repeated them until we had it perfect, so by the time we got on set it was second nature. So what you see there is virtually exactly how it was when we were filming it.

Cornish: And it was the first thing we shot.

We know that the theatrical cut is not Zackís directorís cut. Do you know what deleted material will be on the Blu-ray, either in the Directorís cut or as deleted scenes?

Browning: I'm sure it will all be on there.

Cornish: The dance montage.

Browning: Yeah, I'm hoping that will be put into the director's cut, because all of the girls - not Baby, obviously, because it's kind of a device that you don't see her dance - but all of the other girls had amazing choreographed dances that they worked so hard on.

Cornish: It could be in there.

Browning: It will at least be on special features.

Cornish: And I guess his cut is going to be R-rated.

Well I had a question about that too - originally it was going to be R, and it became PG-13. How do you feel about that? It might not be all on screen, but there's plenty of dark undertones in the film.

Browning: Yeah, I think it will be really interesting to see the director's cut if it's R, and there were a few cool things we missed out on having it as a PG-13, but at the same time it's nice that it's now open for a broader audience

Cornish: Yeah, totally.

Browning: Personally I think- I don't like to patronize the audience, I don't think audiences are idiots. I think a 14-year old girl can see this. I don't think kids are morons, and I think it will be cool for a 14-year old girl to see this and say, look, this girls are a little bit older than me and they're fighting and they're in an action film. I think it will be cool for people to see. So I think the fact that it's PG-13 and now younger kids can see it I think is a cool thing.

Cornish: I do like that teenagers can see it because I think the sisterhood in the movie is really strong, and even if they come from vulnerable places, that every girl has a moment when she finds herself in the film and finds her strength and individuality and I think that's important for young people to see.

Do you think that's the takeaway message? Because there's been a lot of talk on the internet on the is-it-or-isn't-it-feminism issue. What's your feeling on that?

Browning: On that issue - there's sort of the sexism issue I think, which I find really strange I think because for me, because within the world of the brothel, within these girl's realities - I say reality, but you know, it's a fantasy film - but, there is sexual objectification going on there, you know they are these objects and they're being oppressed to some degree, but I think the whole idea of the film is them breaking free of that, and learning to fight against that and finding their own freedom in their mind, and finding their own strength, and sacrificing things for people that tey love. So I actually find that an amazing, cool and empowering message for girls. 

Do you feel the same way?

Cornish: Yeah, yeah for sure. But you know, it explores some pretty big subject matter. The power of the mind. You know, you hear about prisoners of war who've survived their experiences, and the way that they did that is to totally recreate their homes and their families in their minds, you know, and that is an incredibly difficult situation to be in, so it explores that - the idea of how powerful the mind can be, the state of mind and how you kind of control your own destiny, regardless of your environment.

What about the three month training, what was a typical day like?

Browning: We would go in and warm up with the martial arts guys, the stunt guys - we would work on our martial arts and fight choreography for a couple of hours, then we would have a break and have, like, a protein smoothie or something, and then we'd work out with the navy seals and do strength training for an hour or two, and then we would sometimes go and do gun training or some wire-work or something. It was about 6-8 hours a day, all up.

Cornish: And, then, you know, if there was any fittings or makeup, it was all on top of that.

Was the training, and the physicality of the experience a big part of it for you? As in, the complete experience of making the film in those terms, where you get to do all this cool stuff?

Cornish: Oh, totally. If another film comes along where I have to train for it, and itís a good team of people that youíd be working with, and itís an interesting story, Iím totally there. I loved training for this film. And I loved making it.

Sucker Punch will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in Australia on 10 August, 2011 


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