Actress Ashley Benson - whose television credits include “Days of Our Lives” and “Pretty Little Liars” - recently spoke with Phoenix Movie Examiner about her role in writer/director Harmony Korine’s new crime drama “Spring Breakers.”
In “Spring Breakers,” which opens Friday, March 22 exclusively at Harkins Tempe Marketplace, Benson plays one of four best friends whose serendipitous encounter with a rapper (James Franco) promises to provide them with all the thrill and excitement they could hope for and a spring break they will never forget.
Question: How would you describe your character Brit in your own words?
Answer: Brit is a bold girl. She is fearless. She lives for excitement. She lives in the moment. She is a leader. And she likes to get into trouble. She likes to stir things up and to experience life.
Q: Did Brit teach you anything about yourself?
A: I'm so different from my character. I don't know if she taught me anything. If anything, the only thing that I would kind of learn from her was to be fearless. She was very confident. I am confident, as well, but she is fearless. She gets what she wants. So I guess I could take that from her. But other than that, nothing else because she is pretty crazy.
Q: Did you or your three co-stars ever have a hard time keeping a straight face around James Franco? After all, his cornrows and grill are quite a sight to say the least.
A: We were kind of intimidated by him. It was actually scary for us. He has this weird accent and does not look like somebody that you see every day. I think that we were all very much in our characters’ heads and mindsets. Our characters are drawn to him because he was hardcore just like us but we were very skeptical of him. He was intimidating and scary and that is how our characters kind of viewed themselves. I think there are only a few moments when we thought that he was funny and those were when he was making jokes or being charming and cute.
Q: How do you respond to critics who complain that this film is simply an excuse to exploit young woman?
A: It is so upsetting when people think of it as something like that because it's not. That is just the Harmony’s style. It is not grotesque. It is not trying to exploit people. We are not naked throughout the film. Even during our sex scene, we purposely didn't show things because we didn't want to. Harmony was never like, “You need to be naked for this film.” It is just a part of the story - and it is very real. For instance, the scene where [Rachel Korine’s character] is topless with all of those college boys - that is a very real situation that happens to girls all of the time when they have too much to drink. And it could have been a very bad situation. It could have lead to rape or whatever and Harmony makes sure to show things like that because it is very real. I don't think that this film exploited us in any way. I think that it just showed a different side to us. We were playing these crazy girls. And it was such a great opportunity for us to be a part of because people haven't seen us do anything like this before.
Q: Finally, as a lifelong “Days of Our Lives” fan, I feel compelled to commend you on your performance of Abby Deveraux from 2004-2007. What would you say that your greatest takeway was from your time in Salem?
A: Wow! That was so long ago! Honestly, I thought I was so horrible on that show. Sometimes I go on YouTube and look up little episodes that I did. I was just so young. If anything, I guess it just taught me how to act. But even then, I mean, I didn't really know what I was doing. It definitely helped me memorize lines very quickly because I would sometimes have 80 pages a day. And I got to work with great actors who have been doing this for so long - since they were like 14 or 15 and they are still on that show. But I always make fun of myself when I re-watch those episodes because I really didn't know what I was doing. But it was a great experience. I loved being on set. It motivated me to work really hard and taught me that I wanted to do this. Some people, when they start at such a young age and work every day and don't go to school and don't have time see their friends - which is what happened to me - get tired of it. But I loved it and knew that it was what I wanted to do. So it was great. Everybody was super sweet and it was fun.