EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Zack Snyder's "Sucker Punch" is, if anything, a film like few we've seen before: a female-led fantasy action series where a bunch of girls kick some serious ass in a series of highly stylized fantasy worlds in an effort to escape their reality at an oppressive mental asylum. Baby Doll, the newest patient, leads the pack of young runaways and orphans as they fight off zombie soldiers, dragons and machine-gun wielding robots in an attempt to find the five keys to their freedom. We had the chance to sit down with Baby Doll herself, Emily Browning, and chat about what it took to prepare herself for fighting her way through a fantasy and the intense bonds such an experience can create.
The physical preparation for the role was notably epic, as the cast (also led by Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung and Vanessa Hudgens) were not only whipped into shape, but learned the martial arts and fighting techniques necessary to be convincingly bad ass.
"Me and Abbie and Jena met in Los Angeles and trained together for a month, with the stunt guys doing mixed martial arts and with Logan and David, the Navy Seals doing strength training, and then we went up to Vancouver for a month and all trained together and then the last month Vanessa and Jamie came in and trained with us," said Browning, who spent a total of 3 months preparing, "It was hardcore, it was tricky, very very challenging and for the first, maybe, week I wasn’t really into it. You know I’d never done that much physical activity in my life so I was in pain and bleeding and throwing up and crying and it was very intense and then after about a week this switch in my head just flipped and I was like, 'ohmygod I love this!' I loved finding this strength within myself, I loved being able to push myself beyond any physical boundaries that I ever thought that I would I love feeling so – it’s making me emotional talking about it," she laughs, "I felt so addicted to it and I also loved the bonding experience with these other girls... we kind of became like warriors or athletes. I wish that I could have that experience before going into every other film, to physically prepare yourself like that I think it was really amazing and we were so lucky to have [it]."
Browning also feels lucky to have been working with the cast and director, saying "It felt, from beginning to end like a complete team effort." While the lead on the film, Browning admits that she never felt like the leader of the pack. "When I see myself on screen and it’s just me, I’m kind of like 'where are my girls?' I feel like it was such a family for us and it really was a team." She also credits her positive experience on set to the perennially upbeat Snyder. "It’s the best experience I’ve ever had working on a film and I think that’s to do with him. He’s such a positive energy and attitude towards filmmaking and he’s so aware that we’re really lucky to be in the profession that we’re in -- so he doesn’t suffer grumpiness. He wants everybody to be happy and having a good time... and I think when that attitude starts at the top, it trickles down to the rest of the cast and the crew and we think we had the happiest most fun set I’ve ever worked on," she gushed. "He’s hilarious, but he’s so funny and energetic and he’s a genius, I mean visually this film is stunning and that just came completely from his weird little mind!"
Visions from a weird little mind perhaps, but Snyder was effectively able to communicate them to his cast and crew. "Zack had so many concept images that he would show to us and we just knew exactly what we were to be imagining and what it was gonna look like." The gang also had a surprising amount of tangible props and set and work with (and there was far less CGI utilized to create the fantasy sequences then you would think). "There was only one sequence where we were entirely surrounded by green screen, which was the robot train sequence...but other than that it was bits of green screen outside to create the sort of wider world that we were in, but there were sets built within that green screen and the characters that we were fighting, the creatures we were fighting were always real stunt people and even in that [robot train sequence] it was still guys in green suits, we were never pretending to fight anything that wasn’t there, we were always fighting and working with real people." Something Browning appreciated, as those few days with only green screen became somewhat disorienting. "[Those three days were] weird," she admitted. "When you’re surrounded by green you kind of feel nauseous and you get into this weird – the three of us were delirious – and then you walk outside and everything is purple because your eyes have adjusted to the green and it’s really bizarre."
But the experience certainly didn't turn her off from working with green screen or Snyder again. "I would mop the floor for Zack, whatever he wanted me to do I’d be there. I would play 'Superman,' if Kevin Costner drops out, he wants me to play Superman’s dad, I’m in for that," the actress joked. In fact, as we reported earlier in the week, it was the experience working on "Sucker Punch" that somewhat re-affirmed her decision to continue with acting, "At one point I was [doubting that I would continue with acting] and actually this film, to be honest with you, is the one that’s brought me back and made me realize this is absolutely what I want to do. I have faith in this industry, if a movie making experience can be this positive and this much fun, then I can’t imagine ever doing anything else."
Immediately following "Sucker Punch," Browning jumped into another lead role in Julia Leigh's "Sleeping Beauty," a wholly different experience for the actress. "It’s just sort of the antithesis to 'Sucker Punch.' It’s a small independent film, it’s Australian, visually it’s also really beautiful but very kind of, sparse and minimalist and it’s really more of a personal story," she said. "It’s very gritty, there’s no fantasy element to this film. I play a girl who falls into this sort of niche area of prostitution, where she’s drugged willingly and people do things to her while she’s asleep. It's sort of a disturbing look into this girl’s downward spiral and her needing to find herself -- it’s very much the opposite of what 'Sucker Punch' is I think." No word yet on when "Sleeping Beauty" will make its way to audiences but you can see Browning in "Sucker Punch" this weekend in wide release.