"Pretty Little Liars" star Ashley Benson makes the jump to film in the most attention-grabbing way she can: alongside Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as coeds gone bad in Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers." The film finds the girls' characters knocking over a diner to fund a wild week in Florida, ending up in jail and bedding down with a crazed, gun-toting, drug-slinging amateur rapper named Alien (James Franco), all in a kaleidoscope of American culture taken to the brink. Not surprisingly, it's courted some very strong reactions. And you know what? Benson likes that you may hate this movie.
I've talked to some people who didn't get this movie.
I don't think a lot of people do, actually.
There's a lot of noise surrounding it, about the content and the Disney backgrounds of your co-stars. When you're at the center of this kind of storm, how do you deal with it?
I don't really listen to it. Harmony just wanted people to be left with a feeling, and if they're horrified that's amazing. If they loved it that's even better. So I like when people hate the movie because it's like, wow, we really affected you and you're really disturbed, and that's great. Because it is a disturbing movie, but it's also a beautiful movie. So whether you like it or not I'm just happy that people are seeing it and it's being talked about, because it's being talked about whether it's negatively or positively. If they're talking about it, that's great.
How much of the "pop poem" nature of this, as Korine describes it, was clear from the get-go?
Honestly, I was kind of thrown into it at the very last minute — like two weeks before we started shooting. When I was reading this script, I viewed it as, "Oh my God, this is such a gritty, raw, organic, edgy script, and I have to be a part of this." And my character was so different and just didn't give a sh— ever, about whatever she did. You know what I mean? She was just, like, so ballsy, and I've never played anything like that. And I told my agent when I was looking for a movie I wanted to play a tough girl who deals with drugs, who deals with violence — and then this script came out of nowhere and I was just like, "Oh my God! I have to get this role!"
"Just pretend it's a video game" stands out as a particularly telling line of dialogue.
Well, that wasn't actually in the script. The script was more descriptive and very visual, with very little dialogue. [Korine] said to pick out three scenes from the movie [for the audition], and each scene maybe had two lines. It was more of just visually what people looked like, what the girls were wearing, that they would dance, that they would play with guns, that they would have this love scene with Alien. And that's what made the movie so brilliant, because half the things were made up on the spot two minutes before we shot or it was improvised. But that line is actually a very good line, and it's so true. Nowadays people live in this world where video games are so realistic. I mean, there are so many shooting games, and these girls watch cartoons and play video games and get high and get drunk. So for them to be able to do this, they just pretend like they are in a video game.
This is a great way to start a film career. Where do you go from here, movie-wise?
I'm on my show right now, and I'm going to try to balance out doing movies at the same time, so right now I'm just reading scripts. With this being my first movie, it was a very unique experience. I think I want to do another one like this. I want to work with a director who's kind of like Harmony. I would love to do another independent film. Film is what I want to do in the long run, but I want to do something similar to this just because I loved it so much.