Film — 10 April 2013
Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens on Spring Breakers

Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens have shed their clean image to star with James Franco in Harmony Korine’s controversial new film, Spring Breakers. They tell Albertina Lloyd about the crazy Florida shoot, and why they’re far more tame in real life

Falling into disgrace is almost starting to become a rite of passage for Disney child stars.

Britney Spears started out as an all-singing, all-dancing kid on TV show The Mickey Mouse Club before becoming a pop princess.

Having achieved global stardom, she became the epitome of the teenage dream, but it all became too much and she suffered a very public breakdown. And Lindsay Lohan – now more famous for court appearances than movies – also entered the spotlight young, in fun family film The Parent Trap.

But Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens, the latest Disney starlets to rip apart their wholesome image, have chosen to do it in fiction, in daring new film Spring Breakers.

Gomez, 20, has garnered a legion of young fans from her Disney TV show, Wizards of Waverly Place, plus tweenie movies and a bubblegum pop career. Hudgens, 24, has already had a few more edgy roles, but she is still remembered as one of the faces of the long-running world-conquering Disney mega-franchise, High School Musical.

So starring in controversial director Harmony Korine’s new movie, Spring Breakers, might seem like a form of rebellion for the pair – a way of growing up and spreading out. But the actresses just see it as a way of getting the world to accept that they are no longer little girls.

“I don’t think it was me getting rid of any sort of image,” insists Gomez. “I think I had an incredible four years as part of Disney. It was my family, it was the reason that I got to do everything I love. But at the same time, I’m now wanting to do what I really love, which is acting – becoming somebody else, escaping my reality and putting myself into these kinds of movies.”

Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco and Vanessa Hudgens in Spring Breakers

Rachel Korine, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, James Franco and Vanessa Hudgens in Spring Breakers

Sitting together in a Paris hotel room, the girls whisper and giggle as they pass notes to one another, but are very earnest when it comes to discussing the film.

Hudgens has already shown she has something of a wild side, when in 2007 nude photos she took of herself were leaked on the internet. High School Musical mania was at its peak at the time, and she had to apologise to fans over the incident.

But she is less apologetic about taking on such a daring role. “I’m 24 now, I’m a young woman and I want to push myself and grow as an actress, and this movie allowed me to do that. I’m so proud of what we did. And if people want to call me a bad ass, that’s awesome.”

The poster for Spring Breakers seems very tame – Hudgens, Gomez and their co-stars, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine (the 40-year-old director’s 26-year-old wife), smiling in bright bikinis.

The cutesy, fun image suggests a typical story about a group of friends going on holiday together, letting their hair down for a few days and learning some life lessons. But Korine’s dark, psychedelic film is actually a poignant satire of the typical coming-of-age movie.

The opening scenes are reminiscent of a documentary about Brits going wild on holiday. Girls dancing topless on the beach, grinding against men, making lewd gestures at the camera and pouring beer down each other’s throats.

We’ve seen it all before in TV programmes exposing the behaviour of the binge-drink generation on holiday in Ibiza (or wherever this year’s Med island is). But by casting Gomez and Hudgens, Korine has delivered a significant twist.

We’ve seen these actresses grow up on screen – they were sweet, innocent little girls and wholesome teens. They could be our sisters or our daughters. So to see them drinking until they vomit, snorting cocaine and urinating in the street is genuinely quite shocking.

So what would Gomez’s young fans (or their parents) make of the R-rated movie? “I do specific things in my career that are tailored for a specific audience,” she says. “Obviously I have a younger generation that looks at me – and I really appreciate that. And I just did an animated movie, so I want to respect that and still do things that will earn me that respect. But I also want to do things that challenge me and put me out of my element.”

Both girls laugh off the idea that they are anything like as crazy as their characters. “I speak for myself when I say I’d rather sit at home, take a bath, light candles and read a book, than go out to a club,” says Hudgens.

Spring Breakers features a group of four students who set off on their dream holiday to Florida, funded by money robbed from a diner.

After several days of wild partying, they meet a crazy gangster, played by James Franco, and suddenly the vacation begins to spiral out of control.

It’s a bit like Crossroads (Britney Spears’s film debut about a group of friends who dream of pop stardom on a road trip) meets True Romance. There are several references to Spears in the film, including the girls belting out one of her hits on a drunken night out.

“She’s a kind of forebear to this idea of pop dreams and this all-American girl, pop sensation,” muses Korine. “This dream of ideology that’s taken a more twisted path. But also, I just like her songs.”

Filming on location in Florida really did become a bit like a girls’ holiday. “Harmony just had us hang out and become best friends,” says Hudgens. “On the very first night we were in Florida we all had a sleepover and we created this amazing bond.”

And just to be sure they knew what they were getting themselves into, Korine would email them shocking images of what he wanted to recreate. “I can still remember all of them,” says Gomez, giggling.

“I remember thinking, ‘This is crazy!’,” she adds, blushing. “After I auditioned, he said, ‘Just be prepared to leave the life that you’re living behind for a little bit, and just come with me and go into this other world’.”

Knowing Gomez and Hudgens were filming, the paparazzi descended on Florida’s beaches. The actresses were followed by helicopters and pictures of them riding scooters in bikinis appeared all over the internet.

For good girls in the public eye, maybe this is the closest they’ll ever come to one of those wild holidays?

“None of the girls or I have ever experienced Spring Break before,” Gomez reveals. “And I think we experienced the craziest one we could ever have. We got it out of
our system!”

Spring Breakers is in cinemas now

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