Source: Warner Bros
Prior to filming, the five young women of "Sucker Punch" had to prepare for the physical challenges presented by the demanding action sequences in the script. They found themselves pushed to their limits in the capable hands of stunt coordinator and action designer Damon Caro and training coordinator Logan Hood, both of whom had previously worked with Zack Snyder on "300." Caro supervised the girls' martial arts, fight and weapons training, while Hood oversaw their general body conditioning.
Though training would last throughout production, it began in Los Angeles about five weeks before the cast moved up to Vancouver to start principal photography. According to Caro and Hood, the first stage provided a foundation and included basic techniques in order to assess strength and build the girls' stamina. Caro started with them each morning, running them through martial arts and empty-hand weapons choreography, tailoring each actress's regimen to her character's needs. Hood and his team, including fellow former Navy Seal David Young, took over in the afternoon with functional training, including calisthenics, weights, body-weight pull ups and push ups, jumping on and off boxes, pulling tires, dragging ropes and kettlebells and more, modulating the workouts on a daily basis. The overall focus was on strength and agility so that the girls would look more athletic in their scenes, again supporting the needs of their individual characters.
According to Abbie Cornish, "We all found this thing within us that we called 'the beast.' When you think you've reached your maximum effort, if you can just find that beast within yourself to push through, you go to a whole other level. It's such an amazing feeling, that elation that comes over you."
"I'm a very active person; I run, I play sports, but I've never pushed myself to the point where I couldn't feel my arms," Jamie Chung laughs. "We had fun together and we felt the pain together. It really brought us closer and gave us a sense of camaraderie, which we carried throughout filming."
Jena Malone found a unique way to relate the training regimen to what her character would be going through. "Waking up early in the morning, doing four-to-five hours of martial arts, another two hours of strength training and then an hour or more of guns, plus fittings for corsets—another strange form of torture—that was our insane asylum," she jokes. In reality, though, she acknowledges that it helped. "That process really contributed to how we thought about our characters, living together and sweating together, seeing what our bodies could do when we really pushed ourselves as far as we could go. It really helped us hone in on who we had to be on camera."
"The great thing about all the training was that it gave us a new self-confidence, taking us to places we'd never been to before, both physically and mentally," says Vanessa Hudgens. "You have a fire in your eyes. You tell yourself you can do anything."
Because Emily Browning had to expertly handle multiple weapons simultaneously, the right-handed actress had to learn to shoot with her left hand so she could brandish a sword in her dominant hand. She relates that she felt especially empowered by the weapons training. "Learning to fight with Damon and the boys was the most fun I've had preparing for a film. The fact that I can wield a sword and fire a gun like it's second-nature is a little scary but also pretty cool in a really unexpected way."
As the story unfolds, Babydoll's fantasies take her and the other girls into vastly different worlds where they must fight adversaries ranging from armies of the undead, to dragons to cyborgs in order to retrieve the talismans—a map, fire, a knife, a key and a mysterious fifth item—that the Wise Man has advised Babydoll she'll need to escape her captors. Of course, in order to fight these enemies, the girls had to be armed to the teeth, carrying an array of weapons, including fully automatic M4 assault rifles, a variety of machineguns and sub-machineguns, Remington 12-gauge shotguns, flintlock pistols, various handguns, WWI bayonets, broad swords and a tomahawk.
The most intricate weapon created for "Sucker Punch" is the first one Babydoll receives: her samurai sword. After much testing, the design team, led by property master Jimmy Chow, settled on a wakizashi blade with a katana handle reduced in girth to fit Emily Browning's small hands and stature. The sword featured a handle of black rayskin (the belly of the Manta Ray, favored by the Japanese for its sandpaper-like quality that prevents slipping), covered with oiled brown leather, a hand-carved tsuba, or sword guard, and hand-sculpted bronze menuki, charms hidden beneath the leather. The saya, or scabbard, was made of lacquered wood festooned with snowflakes—another key symbol in the film—with a gold braid sash to fasten the sword to Babydoll's leather shoulder holster rig.
Making the sword even more about design than function, however, Zack Snyder wanted the sides of the blade engraved with symbols that, when read chronologically, reveal the entire storyline of "Sucker Punch."
Browning found that detail particularly compelling. "I thought it was so interesting that the whole story was represented along Baby's sword, because it almost sets her fate from the very beginning," she says. "She has the whole story in her hands...she just doesn't know it."
Designed by artist Alex Pardee, the engravings required a 40-hour process per blade. Two identical swords were made for the film, as well as several aluminum and bamboo replicas for the stunt fighting sequences.
"I was truly in awe of the design and workmanship that everyone put in to the making of this critical piece of not only weaponry, but storytelling," Snyder commends. "It was precisely what I had envisioned and what the movie called for, both practically and aesthetically. I always love those symbolic touches in a film that you really have to look for, but that reveal so much when you do find them."
The director's call for symbolism required customization for many of the girls' weapons, which were thus designed to relate back to the real world of each character. Blondie's tomahawk and pistol, for example, were engraved with her signature heart, while Babydoll's 1911 Colt .45 caliber handgun was carved on the slides with key symbols that appear throughout the story, such as the stuffed animal rabbit first seen in Babydoll's home, and accessorized with charms similar to those used by Japanese girls on their cellphones. Here, symbols of youth and innocence—the bunny, a baby bottle, a teddy bear—become symbols of innocence lost: an hourglass and a skull with a bow.
Some of the major weapons in the film were not tangible, but were, rather, a creation of visual and special effects, most notably a 25-foot, machinegun-toting Meka. A Japanese anime-inspired, bipedal armored fighting vehicle capable of rocketing through the sky, it was created largely by visual effects supervisor John "D.J." Des Jardins, with only a practical cockpit built for Jamie Chung's Amber to pilot from.
Though the Meka is an imposing piece of machinery, Snyder and the designers weren't without their sense of humor, painting a battle-faded pink bunny face on its front, along with the Japanese words that translated roughly to "Danger! Woman driver!"—a phrase that should be taken quite seriously as Amber fires the Meka's multiple ammunition belts.
See Also: SUCKER PUNCH - Bringing Fantasy Worlds To Life / New Photos From SUCKER PUNCH / Sucker Punch - Babydoll - Statue
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