A bunch of formerly wholesome Disney princesses go wild with James Franco in a movie that isn't your usual beach party film. Helen Barlow reports.
Director Harmony Korine has always been a cinematic wild child - so when he wanted mainstream attention, it's no surprise he enlisted Disney darlings Selena Gomez, 20, Vanessa Hudgens, 24, and Ashley Benson, 23 to shock audiences into submission in his latest, Spring Breakers. Also along for the ride was James Franco, playing a Florida gangsta rapper - a leap away from his recent leading role in Oz The Great and Powerful.
"I save the more mature or risque material for an adult audience, where the expectations are different. There's a time and place for everything," he says.
Franco turned up with cornrows and gold dental grills to play "Alien", who takes the adventurous college students under his wing.
"None of us had ever experienced spring break, really," Franco says of himself, Korine and the cast. "This movie is my spring break. And I was over 30 when I got around to it."
Korine recalls how his initial inspiration had been the young women characters.
"Two years ago I had an image in my mind of girls in bikinis and ski masks robbing tourists, so I started trying to build narrative around that. If these girls existed, how would they exist and where do they come from? Then I started thinking about spring break and started building the story that way."
He went to Florida and wrote the screenplay during an actual spring break, when the director, who famously wrote the screenplay for Larry Clarke's similarly themed Kids at the age of 19, witnessed teenagers letting loose first hand.
"There were kids puking on my door ... lighting shit on fire," he recalls. "There were midgets having sex on chandeliers; I found a jawbone in a carpet. It's pretty crazy."
Ultimately, Korine says, the film is about female empowerment and the new generation of kids he was keen to examine.
"It's a new vision. It's about kids who have been raised on video games and YouTube clips, so the step from watching and viewing to doing something is sometimes very, very small."
Since Kids and his subsequent directorial efforts, Korine's edgy reputation made the three young actresses clamour to work with him.
Still, megastar Gomez, as the religious Faith, stays on the sidelines of the torrid, sexually charged story.
"I just didn't think I was ready for it," admits Gomez. "I do think that Faith was right for me at this time in my career and in my life so of course I'm going to eventually work up to that, but for what I'm doing right now it was the right choice to make."
Nevertheless, her portrayal sent shock waves to her fans. "I do everything for my younger fans and this one was more for me in a way. Harmony got us to do things I didn't think I was able to do.
"I didn't think I would ever be able to smoke a bong. But it's good we had that trust in him and it obviously paid off."
For Hudgens, who is known from Disney's High School Musical trilogy, Spring Breakers was "an exciting ride".
"That's what's so brilliant about acting, is finding these different characters and being thrown into new situations. Personally I don't think I'd be thrown into what the girls go through," she giggles, "but overall I will always look back on the film as a piece of art and something I'm so proud of."
What: Spring Breakers, starring James Franco, Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson.
Director: Harmony Korine
When: Opens at cinemas today