The highlight of the SXSW film panel on co-ed cult film "Spring Breakers" came at the end, when the actresses Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine were "pressured" into singing Britney Spears' "(Hit Me Baby) One More Time," recreating an already infamous scene from the tail-end of the film trailer.
It immediately turned the film panel into an internet moment, though the best part was the girls somehow didn't know the lyrics so they were projected, karaoke style, on the movie screen behind them.
Not that the panel wasn't interesting enough on its own. Gomez, of course, has become somewhat insanely famous due to her former relationship with Justin Bieber, or at least famous enough that adults know who she is. Kids have been following her since her "Ramona and Beezus" and "Wizards of Waverly Place" days on the Disney Channel. It's a career path that's hard to reconcile.
"I guess right now it's more of a transition period for me," Gomez admitted. "I don't know if there's a right or wrong way for me to do that gracefully. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and see how far I could go. [Director Harmony Korine] believed in me and there's not a lot of directors who would taken that chance with me."
But that's what inspired her to audition for Korine in the first place, considering he's known for particularly controversial cult films like "Kids" and "Gummo."
"My mom's my manager and she's a huge Harmony fan," Gomez said. "She gave me the script and I watched all his movies with my mom and that was the decision why I auditioned."
Her favourite? "'Trash Humpers'," she said to considerable giggles in the room.
"I've definitely never done anything like this before," added Ashley Benson, who stars on "Pretty Little Liars." "My favourite part about doing this movie was being able to improv and have our own input, and Harmony was super-open to all our suggestions. When I went back to my show, I was, like, God, I wanted to kill myself because I had to stick to a script. I didn't get to say what I wanted at that time. I was so used to Harmony saying, 'OK go' and then we'd make up a scene."
Rachel Korine, as you may have guessed, is Harmony's wife, which made it a very "unique" experience for her.
"My character in the film was very wild and immature, so all day long I'd live in this chaotic world and then I'd have to go home and be a mother and makes sure Harmony took his vitamins and shit like that.''
Harmony, for his part, wanted to make a movie that represented "a cultural mashup, an impressionistic reinterpretation of the zeitgeist. The movie is a kind of hyperreality, a pop poem. I want to make films that are beyond articulation and veer into something closer to a drug experience with a peak and transcendence."
In order to achieve this, he headed down to Florida to find inspiration.
"I didn't go to spring break as a kid so I jumped on an airplane and went to Daytona Beach and all I saw were a lot of lesbians and fat bikers and no spring breakers. They were like, 'Yeah we ran all the spring breakers off years ago.' It's now in Panama City. So we jumped in a car and it was all debauchery, just like you see in the film.
"I wrote it in a hotel room while people were blasting Taylor Swift, vomiting on my door and snorting donuts. It was crazy."
Oh, if you doubt the girls' acting skills, Gomez and Benson admitted they'd never actually been on spring break. Ah, the curse of the child actor.
"Most of the people around us were really on spring break," Benson said. "We were thrown into these hotel rooms and those were our real reactions. Girls would be getting naked and making out, and we'd be, like, 'woah, that was crazy.' So that helped out a lot. And when we weren't filming we were in our trailers listening to rap music and dancing.
"Harmony also wanted to give us inspiration before," said Gomez. "He has a very interesting way of, uh, filmmaking, so he would send us images of girls on spring break, or a picture of a girl's bedroom, and YouTube videos. And we'd have to try and live in that world. Harmony would say, 'are you ready to leave the life you're living behind for a little bit? Because i want to you escape what you're used to and enter this life.'"
As for where Harmony's interest in the subject matter came from, he said he'd "been using spring break images for art, just pictures I'd get off the internet, fraternity sites, co-ed pornography, anything that had the world of adolescent debauchery in Florida. The images were hyper-sexual, hyper-violent, but all the details, the bikinis and book bags and flip-flops and Hello Kitty bags and neon and stickers were all real childlike, innocent. I liked that dual idea."
The end result is the kind of transgressive film that Korine is famous for, but not so much a Disney darling like Gomez. Still, she seems pretty nonplussed about the potential reaction when it comes out on March 22.
"I don't necessarily want to know what people are going to say or think. I think it's better that way," Gomez said. "I can't necessarily make everyone happy. There's not a right or wrong choice for me. I'm an actor and if I wanna do something I'm super passionate about, I just go for it. If people like it, awesome. If not, at least we made them feel something."