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Sucker Punch - Jena Malone interview

Sucker Punch

Interview by Rob Carnevale

JENA Malone talks about the appeal of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, pushing herself physically and mentally and exploring her sexuality in provocative ways…

Q. How much fun did you have shooting this movie – an action movie for girls?
Jena Malone: I’ve never been challenged on so many levels before. This is an incredibly detailed thing – not only to sort of push yourself physically, but to push your imagination and to push your dedication and your discipline. I learned things about myself and about my body and my mind that I will have with me for the rest of my life. I feel that it was pretty life altering, actually, and I don’t say that very casually, accept that it is casual around the table [laughs].

Q. How much did you have to imagine during the fantasy sequences where you get to kick ass? Or how much was physically there?
Jena Malone: In some ways I almost knew more than other films that I’ve made. Traditionally, you make a film that has more of a linear narrative, that’s more about emotional characters, but you don’t get to see the edits and you don’t get to see the cuts, you don’t get to see visually what it’s going to look like. I mean, on Donnie Darko I was not filled in at all! It was incredible to be able to work with Zack and know so many details beforehand… to be able to put all of those details that are in his mind into your work as you’re filming and as you’re preparing is kind of incredible. I wasn’t expecting that.

Q. Is this film really the fantasy of a young girl?
Jena Malone: If you could crawl into my mind when I was 12-years-old it was literally the craziest, strangest place. I love that only boys are allowed to fantasise about action. I mean, when I was younger I wanted to be able to kick so much ass! And I couldn’t! I couldn’t even play baseball with my older guy friends because they’d beat me. I couldn’t even pick up a bat! But in your mind you start building up these worlds of what you could do and what you could achieve – and they’re dark and they’re fantastical and they’re beautiful.

Q. How was playing with your sex appeal?
Jena Malone: It was interesting for me to take the sexuality of a young woman and break it down on three different levels: the metaphysical, the physical and the fantastical. In the insane asylum, they’re stripped of all their forms of identity – they’re all wearing the same grey rags. In the brothel, Baby Doll’s projection is that they’re using the only tools that they have, which is their bodies to sort of have some sort of control over their reality. And they’re using their sexuality as something to help them combat sort of a dangerous reality that they’re living in. And that was an interesting thing to explore with corsets and things that you would think would not be empowering – they’re actually empowering themselves because it’s the only tool that they have.

And then in the fantasy sequences, to be able to… there’s definitely a difference when you put on a superhero costume. Walking into a room, I couldn’t imagine slaying a dragon in sweat-pants – it would be really awkward. I would feel bad for the dragon! But to be able to step into these things and exploring, not just sexuality, but your body and your confidence level, and your interpretation of yourself through clothing, your interpretation of yourself through your friends and what they see in you and how you become a mirror to them, that was the most exciting thing instead of: “I’ve got to be sexy in high heels…” Sexuality is not just like a one sentence thing. This is a lifelong interest and education and tool and technique.

Q. Did you get to sing anything in the film that we might see in the extras?
Jena Malone: There might be, there was an alternative ending of a curtain call where all of us came out on stage and sang a song to Emily Browning.

Emily Browning in Sucker Punch

Q. What did you sing?
Jena Malone: Ooh Child. It might be in the director’s cut, or it might not. We had sort of alternate endings always. Zack had these different ideas that he wanted to play with and so that was the big hoopla of: “Oh, it’s a musical and the girls are learning songs.” It was one song we were learning… I think it’s interesting that the used Emily to recreate some of these songs for her character because it’s such an innocent voice. You know, for the first 30 minutes of the film Baby Doll doesn’t even really speak but you hear her voice in your head and it sort of allows you to get into this place. I felt very hypnotized by Sweet Dreams, the very first song.

Q. Jena, when you mentioned Donnie Darko do you see any correlation between this and that in the fantasy of the central character played out across the whole story?
Jena Malone: Yeah, there is a bit of a pharmaceutical escapism, definitely…

Q. A bugger budget here…
Jena Malone: Yeah, I mean we’re talking about a woman in a mental institution and that was sort of a young man who was institutionalised by his own brain in a way. And how he viewed the world and what he was channelling. So, there are some correlations. Maybe the most obvious is just the bunny!

Q. You mentioned how much training you did beforehand, so have you managed to keep up any of that?
Jena Malone: Oh please! That level of working out that we were doing is for top performance athletes. That’s literally what they were training us to be. It’s impossible to be able to maintain that level of dedication and physical exertion throughout the year. But it definitely gave me building blocks to be able to figure out how to, if I feel a little stressed… like what I need to be doing, like if I need to release this energy. Or if I feel like I’m getting a little weak, what I need to incorporate into my day to day. It’s not about going to the gym for me. That’s not what they imbued me with. It’s more about doing work – lifting, pulling, being aware of your body. I think it was more of a love for the martial arts, which I really would love to get into. But I haven’t… I mean I’ve only worked out three times since the film!

Q. Is becoming a movie star something you always dreamt of?
Jena Malone: It’s levels of perception. I call a kitchen cook a cook and he calls himself a chef. I would never call myself a movie star but maybe from the outer world it’s more of a non-personal word association of what we call a passion… what we love and what we do. But when you start so young and it’s part of acting and all of the myth of it and the storytelling, it’s all tied to something. I think the older you get, you start to break down the myth and you get to the dirt of it – and if you still love the dirt, then I think you should stay on board.

Sucker Punch

Q. Is it the case that because you want to do all sorts of different movies that doing something like Sucker Punch, as well as being pleasurable in its own way, enables and facilitates other movies of a lower budget?
Jena Malone: Yeah, to some degree – but you never know. Donnie Darko, again, was like this little thing and then it was like this big thing. And this is a big thing that could become an even bigger thing. You never know how things are going to fit. So, you don’t count your eggs until they hatch. You can’t pre-project that. I mean, this was literally like a childhood fantasy of mine, to be able to work in action. You know, growing up on Disney films like Pocahontas and wanting to enter into that, or Aladdin and how he’s fighting – being your own hero, being your own heroine is like every[one’s dream]. I’m sure everyone at this table has had that in their mind at some point when they were a child. So, beyond being the ultimate challenge as an actor, it’s completely gratifying as a human to be able to have worked on this project. It’s a complete gift from Zack.

Q. You have Jack and Diane coming up with Kylie Minogue…
Jena Malone: Yes, she’s in it. I play just a very small little part in it. But Bradley Rust Gray is a really interesting director. It was exciting to work with him for a little bit.

Q. What else do you have on the stocks?
Jena Malone: There’s a film called The Wait, which is being directed by M. Blash, with Chloe Sevigny and Luke Grimes. That should be coming out sometime this year. And I worked with Bradley Rust Gray’s wife, So Yong Kim, and Paul Dano on this little film called For Ellen.

Read our review of Sucker Punch

Read our interview with Zack Snyder