So first off, how did this movie come about? Especially considering that your last film, Trash Humpers, was perhaps your least commercial work.
It was really just the idea of it. I had an idea of making a film about spring break with these girls and it was mostly that. I'd been collecting spring break imagery for a while, just things like co-ed pornography and party pictures and like, girls gone wild debauchery. I don't know why but there was this kind of bizarre poetry through it all so I just started putting the story together in that way. It wasn't really like a conscious thing, like I was going to make the most commercial film of my life, but I'm happy that that's what happened.
Why do you think there's such a lack of spring break movies since other teen dramas have been done so much?
That's a good question. I really don't know actually. Maybe because it's a time that's too hedonistic? I don't know. Too hardcore?
I read that when you were writing the script you actually checked into hotels during spring break and wrote it all in a week and a half. What was that experience like?
I mean, I had thought about it, and kind of came up with the story and scenes for a while and then I just jumped on an airplane and flew down to Daytona Beach on a whim. Basically I checked in and there were no spring breakers, just fat bikers and lesbians and little obese kids stuffing their faces with Subway sandwiches and I was like, where the fuck am I? Why aren't there any spring breakers here? And people said they chased all the spring breakers out 10-15 years ago. So then I just went to Panama City, Florida, which is where they all were and checked into some Holiday Inn on the beach and that's when it was just mayhem. I had to switch up hotels because people were vomiting on my porch the whole time.
I would think you're a pretty unshockable person, but was there anything that surprised you from seeing spring breakers like that?
No, I wasn't actually shocked. I was just trying to think in there and it was impossible. I was trying to write in that—it's one thing to take photographs, but to actually write while kids were puking to Taylor Swift is like—it's really impossible. It was weird. Then I checked into this Marriott on a golf course and it was filled with dwarves and they said they were filming a Hulk Hogan reality show. That's why I love Florida, because everywhere you go that's just what's happening. Like the whole state is in the witness protection program.
I was kind of surprised because Alien ended up being the most sympathetic character in the movie. Did you specifically write him like that, or was that something that James Franco brought to the performance?
It's written like that a little bit but a lot of it is the performance and a lot of it is in the editing and the feeling and you just start to put it together. It's nice to defy expectations and to go against conventional wisdom and character. It's interesting to play with the good guy/bad guy dynamic.
The girls are named Faith, Candy, Brit and Cotty. I looked up Cotty in the dictionary, and it actually means entangled. Were these names mean to make their characters archetypal, or were they just names you liked?
They are kind of archetypal. I grew up in Nashville and those are all Vandy girl names—Vanderbilt University—names. I just wanted them to be Vandy girls, really. They seem like those girls. That was it, really.
I read that you described the girls' characters as the spawn of Britney Spears. Can you elaborate on that?
I think that there's this kind of sense to them that they're these beautiful, all-American girls from middle-America that have kind of lost their way and are trolling the darkness. At the same time it's in kind of a poppy, contextual way. So there's just some sort of connection I feel, in her music and even just in her identity, throughout the whole movie.
When I watched the movie, I was like, 'I can't believe he put the ATL Twins in the same room as Selena Gomez.' It seems like you're the only one who could do that and have it make sense.
That's what's great, I live for that stuff. When I dream at night, that's what I dream of.
The movie had so many visual cues, like with the neon and the alien baby in a jar in Alien's house. Was that a point of reference that you started with and worked from, or did it just sort of happen naturally?
Those are all things—all the kind of visual stuff, the colors, the aliens, the unicorns—all those things are kind of visual motifs. A lot of the movie it's in there, it's like coded language. It's like a form of communication between the characters.
Were there any particular outfits that Alien or the girls wore that were your favorites?
The girls mostly wore bikinis the whole time, neon bikinis, fluorescents and stuff. I'm pretty fond of that screen look. And then Alien, his style was pretty amazing. He's kind of a beach bum, a white gangster. There's some kind of gangster mysticism involved.
Some of the soliloquies in Spring Breakers are similar to some in Trash Humpers, which was about old people humping trash. How do you see these two films as similar?
I don't know. That's a good question. I don't know. Maybe it's just because I made them?
When you made Kids people kind of called that out as the movie of your generation and watching this, I kind of felt like this was a very definitive movie for the Tumblr generation. Do you think there's that much change from now to when you were these girls' age, or is being a teenager always being a teenager?
I think there's probably a lot of the same stuff. I think it's changed, though. I think there's a lot of the same types of experiences and emotions, but the way people communicate and interact now is completely different than when I wrote Kids and when I was a kid myself. Everything back then was lived in and done face-to-face and there's kind of a virtual exchange here that's different. It's a fucking wormhole of irony, just layers to it. I feel like it's more exciting now.
How do you ultimately see this movie? Is it a love story, a story of friendship, a coming of age tale?
I don't think of anything in terms of genre, anything like that—when I start, the movie is just free. I'm trying to create something new with this movie and with what I do in general. I wanted to make things that kind of defy genre or don't fall into any specific slot like that. I want to make something that's more of an emotion, something that's undefined, something that's a physical experience. It's like everything and nothing simultaneously. It's an experience, a trip.
So then, what is the emotion of this movie?
I just think it's fuckin' hardcore.