FanBolt had the pleasure of sitting down with Gimme Shelter director, Ron Krauss, and star, Vanessa Hudgens, recently on their press tour. We had a chance to talk with them about their new film, and how the project personally affected them.
Check out our interview with them below.
I read that you were really hands on as a director. You handled makeup and wardrobe. Do you always play that sort of hands on role getting into everything, or it was this specific to this film?
Ron: I think it was pretty specific to this film, because unlike other films I worked on, I was the only one who sort of understood the shelter and the girls and their lives… the imagery of it. And the makeup people that would start to make Vanessa look like Vanessa, you know. And I kept like tearing it down and then they kept fixing it. So it was weird. And finally you know, then there would be like a fight and I’d say you know guys don’t understand this – that these girls don’t really wear make-up in the shelter, they have no reason to wear make-up. So it became a real challenge to keep it on the path, you see the film, you don’t recognize Vanessa the entire movie, I mean she just… Even in the end when she sort of looks a little bit more like Vanessa, she still looks completely different. She’s 15 pounds heavier, and she cut her hair off with this movie. She lived in the shelter also for about 3 weeks with the girls.
What made you pick Vanessa for the lead?
Ron: After I wrote the script which took me forever and with the girls and sort of their feedback…. I would, write the script and work on it, and we would have dinner and sit around the table, and I pass different parts of the script around. People were very animated about it. Darlesha (one of the girl’s who Apple (Vanessa’s character) is based on): “I didn’t say nothing like that!”
I finished the script and I went back to Hollywood, and there were a variety of calls – which were all the contemporaries of Vanessa. And after meeting with them, I realized that I didn’t think a Hollywood actress could play the role for this movie. Because after being with the real girls and knowing what you really need… If the script had been written in Hollywood, perhaps any one of those girls could have played it.
I was looking for a real girl, I was going to work with a New York high school, I was trying to discover somebody who had these challenges in life and understood the street life. I found a couple of people that sort of fit the bill that I was considering. Their acting wasn’t exactly the best, but maybe I could work with them. Then I got this call about Vanessa. She read the script, she wants to do this movie. And I would say out of all the girls, you know, that were sort of infamous, and famous, I knew the least about her.
She came and auditioned, and she was definitely different looking than the Disney girl. She had her hair back, she was much more sort of multi- ethnic looking, you know her mom is Filipino, and her dad is German-Irish. And her audition was interesting, she did two scenes in the audition where one was yelling at the James Earl Jones character, and the other one was sitting down with the father for the first time, eating in the kitchen, and she says, “I knew I could count on you.” It was surprising, and interesting.
I read that you became so like involved with the film that it affected you a lot personally – especially afterwards, you said that you were detached, lost attachment to the world, you lost your sense of self, when you talk about what you were feeling, how were you able to overcome that?
Vanessa: Yeah I just, I’ve been so used to playing this character, I was just completely disengaged from who I was, and when you’re in a certain state of mind for a long duration of time – it’s just it was really interesting how you start to become that person. So my self-confidence was at an all time low, I just felt very meek, and I just didn’t love myself at all. So luckily, I had my best friend come and really pull me out of that, and I just had to take some time for myself, just getting back into my body and losing the weight again, extensions (hair) helped. And yoga kind of saved me as well. I went out on yoga trip in Hawaii, and that really just put my mind at use again.
A lot of people think calling this a pro-life film, do you think that that was part of your intentions, or and to do that takes away from maybe what you were really going after? What was the point you were really trying to make?
Ron: Well, I love it that people embrace it as anything they want. It’s like calling Knocked Up a pro-life film, because anytime you make a Hollywood film that people keep their baby, everybody says it’s a pro-life movie. But it’s really a real life film about family. At the same time I’m finding that when you show it to audiences, that the least thing that people will discuss about – teen pregnancy. People are really into ideas of healing, of poverty, of family, single mom, single dad, foster care, it goes on and on. It cuts so deep into these times right now about how much suffering we have in the last 3-4 years, you know, going through some of the worst economic times. And all the families that were destroyed, and the marriages, and the crushed dreams of people who lost their jobs. So this is sort of uprising in a sense.
Would you talk a bit about how you prepared for the role and what you experienced in the shelter?
Vanessa: I went out to the shelter for I think 2 weeks before I started filming, and I think it was a better way to prepare for a role, because it just completely had me submersed me into this world. My main focus was just to be one of the girls, and I’ve had to build some amazing relationships, and from there the physical transformation of course – I had to put on weight before I went into the shelter, which really set the tone. I think because I felt different in my own body. And then of course, the cutting of the hair and then the physical aspects, you know, I really think it is important to be able to watch a movie with the volume down low and be able to tell what’s going on. So, I felt I really changed everything about myself, and I tried to make it completely someone else.
Ron: I have a question, where did you get your voice and the way you walked? You know you had a very specific walk, and people ask me about it, and then even your voice, the voice of Apple and the struggle and everything. It was just so different.
Vanessa: I think the walk honestly kind of started from my own life trying to get around without being recognized. Because when you take up space, you take up more energy and people notice that. But when you kind of slump your shoulders down and you have a cap on, it’s like you’re just able to slip around, so I think it started from that. And my own take on on being tough.
Ron: Did you get it from the other girls kind of thing?
Vanessa: No, I don’t know, I was just kind of my own interpretation of strength and street life.
Ron: So that whole walk – that inner thing – was there because she felt invisible to the world kind of thing?
Vanessa: That is a very good point. I feel like so many things happened unconsciously, and then when she started talking about it, you’re like oh, it actually makes sense.
Are you sick of people asking you if you’re just trying to de-Disney-fy yourself?
Vanessa: A little bit. (Laughs.) Yeah, because it’s so not the case it’s like…
You’re 10 years older now.
Vanessa: Exactly, Yeah! See you got it (laughs.)
Obviously in High School Musical you played a teenage character, but now you’re much older – how was it going back to 16?
Vanessa: I think I always have had a young spirit to begin with, but age wasn’t very relevant. I mean I still feel young, and in a lot of ways… this character is a venture which I’ve never done before, so it’s like I became an infant, and in that sense, staying at the shelter and getting to know what excited them and what they were into definitely helped a lot. But this was also foreign, so new to me. This whole world, so it made me feel very young and lost.
Gimme Shelter is in theaters today