Rising Aussie stars
Abbie Cornish and Emily Browning get physical in Zack Snyderís latest fantasy,
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
have a background in that too, from your mother.
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
Zack? He's obviously an insane-visual stylist - was that something that
attracted you and something you could feel on set as an actor?
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.
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
as an actor? What sort of conversations did you have?
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.
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?
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.
have different versions of the characters in the dream within a dream structure.
Was that something you talked about?
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
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.
the World War I Steampunk action scene, which is one of my favourite scenes in
the film. Could you talk about shooting that scene?
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.
And it was the first thing we shot.
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
I'm sure it will all be on there.
The dance montage.
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.
It could be in there.
It will at least be on special features.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
feel the same way?
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.
the three month training, what was a typical day like?
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.
And, then, you know, if there was any fittings or makeup, it was all on top of
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?
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.
Punch will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in
Australia on 10 August, 2011