Young Hollywood is taking over the Great White North this week at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Leading the charge is 20-year-old pop singer, actress, and honorary Canadian Selena Gomez (her boyfriend is Canuck sensation Justin Bieber), who is in Toronto to promote her risqué new film "Spring Breakers."
Premiering Friday night in Toronto and directed by controversial filmmaker Harmony Korine ("Kids," "Gummo"), "Spring Breakers" follows four broke college girls who turn to a life of crime in order to pay for their spring break trip to Florida. Along they way, they fall in with a local drug dealer (James Franco) after he bails them out of jail. The film is a dreamy, violent, sex- and drug-filled romp that's completely against type for its cast of former Disney stars.
Gomez was the first actress that Korine approached for the film, but given the movie's racy subject matter, the director didn't think he would be able to convince the former "Wizards of Waverly Place" actress to sign on to play Faith. The "Love You Like a Love Song" singer travelled to Korine's Nashville home to audition for "Spring Breakers, and Korine recalled being worried that he would scare Gomez away with all the "crazy artwork" in his house.
"He thought I was super, super Christian," Gomez told reporters at a TIFF press conference on Friday. "If I'm a Christian girl, I probably wouldn't have done this movie!"
Despite that mix up, Gomez said that some scenes still made her nervous once filming began.
"I have a scene in the movie with James [Franco] -- Harmony had been planning the scene in his mind for two months before the movie and he told me five minutes before I did the scene!" Gomez recalled. When Gomez asked for direction, Korine essentially told the actress to do whatever she thought would work.Gomez, Franco, and their other scantily-clad costars in 'Spring Breakers.' (Muse Entertainment)
The disturbing encounter between Franco's character and Faith forced Gomez (who had only met Franco a few days prior) to give it her all. "He just threw me in these situations. It was good, it was amazing, it was a challenge, and it was fun."
"Spring Breakers" is a decidedly adult turn for Gomez, and a far cry from her wholesome work on the Disney Channel. Although she doesn't strip down like co-stars Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine (the director's wife), Gomez does spend almost all of her screen time in a rather skimpy bikini, drinking, doing drugs, and cavorting with half-naked spring breakers. "Wizards of Waverly Place" this is not.
"Harmony got us to do things that I didn't even think I was able to do," said Gomez, smiling. "It's a dangerous thing ... He could probably get me to do anything."Franco, Ashley Benson, Vanessa Hudgens, Gomez, Rachel Korine, and Harmony Korine. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
But both Gomez and Hudgens admitted that ultimately, it was easy to be fearless, because they trusted their director and co-stars implicitly. "It's good that we had that trust with him — it obviously paid off," said Gomez.
As for any surprises or regrets Gomez has about "Spring Breakers," the actress had to laugh. "I didn't think I'd ever be able to smoke a bong," she said, adding later that she was disappointed that her character missed out on a wild strip club visit that her co-stars enjoyed during the movie.
And if the presence of bongs and strip clubs weren't enough of a clue, "Spring Breakers" is definitely not a movie for Gomez's younger fans. "Don't see it!" she warned her under-18 fans, chiding director Korine for wanting them to go see it. "It's education," said Korine, laughing.
"When I took on this movie - and all the other films I took on this year — I knew that they weren't going to be very suitable for that younger generation," said Gomez. "It's hard for people to take me seriously that way because of the brand that I've been given — which I'm thankful for - but by having that, people put you in a little box."
Asked if she was trying to break out of that box, Gomez said she was just trying to do something for herself. "It's not necessarily me breaking out of anything," she said. "It's me doing something that I really want to do."
"Spring Breakers" premieres at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, but currently has no wide release date.