Leading a largely all-female cast in Zack Snyder’s action fantasy Sucker Punch, Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish had both the pressure and excitement of fronting an unusual spectacle on the Hollywood horizon. But with such a visionary filmmaker at the helm and audacious project to put on-screen, we caught up with the film’s leading stars to re-cap probably the most exciting shoot and project each have worked on to date.
FAN THE FIRE: Can we go back to the beginning, how did you get involved in the project? Did you find the audition process difficult or challenging?
EMILY BROWNING: I think it started out the same way for all of us; we all put down the same monologue of Sweet Pea’s. Then after that, for me, I was called in to meet with Zack, who was great, and I read the script before that, which I loved. I thought it was amazing to see such a strong, well-written action film with almost an entirely female cast; something you very rarely see. Then a couple of weeks later Zack asked me to put myself on tape again, this time reading as Baby Doll and he wanted me to sing for him too. That aspect of it was certainly challenging.
FTF: Did you worry that you were not going to get the part?
EB: Absolutely! I’ve never sung before in my life, but I wanted this role so badly, and I love Zack so much, so I agreed to do it, and went into my agent’s office, locked myself in a room and did maybe 20 takes before finally telling my agent, “you pick it, I can’t even look at which one we’re going to send him,” then I didn’t sleep for about three days until we heard back.
ABBIE CORNISH: I did the same initial audition that everyone did, which was with the Sweet Pea monologue; so when I got called back in to actually audition for Sweet Pea I was really excited. I read the script in between those two auditions on the Warner Bros. lot. and was beside myself; I couldn’t believe someone had come up with this film, had developed this concept in their mind and managed to transfer it to the paper, let alone to the screen. It really is a testament to Zack that he got Sucker Punch all the way from his mind onto the screen.
FTF: What did you like about Sweet Pea?
AC: I just felt that there were so many layers to her; I was interested in the idea of someone living in those confines; within an imprisonment that was placed upon her by the outside world, and what that did to her as a human being, as a woman. She had learnt to live by the book, squashed all of the sensitivities of the inner child, all of the vibrancies of who she is, deep deep down inside, and locked it away so no-one could get to it, no-one could harm it. She took on the role of the protector, the survivor, particularly having a sister like Rocket who’s so wild and free, she really is Rocket’s reigns. To play and explore that, and the journey of Sweet Pea releasing and opening up, the journey back to find that place deep down inside and bring everything back again, was amazing.
FTF: Where did you find the motivation for the role and did playing such a dark and layered character take it’s toll when you were off-set?
AC: I was constantly thinking and processing, not just about the film, but about the relationships, about the metaphors, about the symbolism, about this character; I kind of danced a fine line for a little while, between those things that were inside of her, and then this tough outer shell. I didn’t know whether to try and embody it all within the whole film or to have faith in the book-ends of the film, and let Sweet Pea be a dimensional character that you see different sides of in different worlds. But certainly, it was hard to play a role that tough every single day, and sometimes I would get home and all I wanted to do was snuggle up, cuddle and be sensitive. It was an interesting thing for me because I was playing a character that’s hard on the outside, who’s tough, who has to drive decisions, who has to look after her sister, and there is no relief for her from that.
EB: I think everybody has a certain darkness that they’re able to tap into; just as humans we have that side to us. I just spent a lot of time thinking about the character and imagining her back story and there’s where it came from for me; I think you get a pretty clear idea in the montage at the beginning of the film that Baby Doll’s home life had not been the most pleasant.
FTF: Is there an actress or character in action movies that you drew further inspiration from?
AC: My female action hero was my mum; I had inspiration that I lived with. My mum was Australian national karate champion when I was about 9 years old, full contact champion. It was pretty amazing.
EB: My mum wasn’t a karate champion [laughs] but I feel like I have a similar relationship; she was my main female role model, and similarly in a physical way, my mum played basketball her whole life, she was a personal trainer for a long time. Every time I bring a boy home she wants to arm wrestle them, and usually wins [laughs], so it was a similar kind of thing for me I suppose. In terms of cinema, definitely there are some very cool female characters in the Kill Bill movies; I think Uma Thurman’s character is just amazing, and also the schoolgirl with the pigtails, the Japanese schoolgirl…
FTF: Gogo Yubari?
EB: Yeah, and the actress is also in Battle Royale, so especially in terms of inspiring the Baby Doll character, who has that same school girl kind of look, but also is just a very stoic, tough character, though obviously baby doll is the good guy, helped inspire me a lot.
FTF: As Australians actors, what do you think it is about the country that is producing such fine film talent?
AC: I’ve got a theory on it [laughs], it’s just from my experience; I feel like Australia is such a beautiful landscape, and so expansive and untouched, I think it’s a very spiritual place. I know growing up as a kid, I have some of my fondest memories there; I grew up on 170 acres, so I had so much space to think and imagine, and you could see every star in the night sky, the sunsets were exquisite, and when it rained, it rained, you could feel the earth kind of reacting. And then there’s something about Australians, we’re relatable people, we’re interested in each other, we like to have a good time and get to know each other. We love the earth, we love to get our hands dirty; the floor and fauna of Australia is incredible. It’s a place that has a lot of energy.
FTF: Were you an urban girl Emma, or a farm girl?
EB: Both actually, my dad lives in the city, so I spend a lot of my time in Melbourne with him, and then my mum lives 45 minutes out, which in Australia, is country essentially. I kind of had the best of both worlds; I would run around barefoot and build treehouses and swim in dams all the time when I was out of the city, and that was amazing, plus I have the urban upbringing as well.
FTF: With Sucker Punch being such an ambitious project, it was was thing to make the movie, but surely entirely different to see it for the first time, what did you make of it when you watched the film for the first time?
EB: I loved it. I was completely blown away.
AC: I loved it as well, for me it kind of evoked even more thought and I’m more and more becoming fascinated by the bookends in the film. I’m kind of fascinated by the symbolism, and every time I watch it I see more details, if that makes sense, which is interesting because after having worked on it for seven months, and talking about it for seven months, to actually watch it, sometimes it takes a while to understand and uncover the film’s subtleties.
Sucker Punch is out now.