Sucker Punch - Carla Gugino and Oscar Isaac
Madam Gorski (Carla Gugino) and Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) at the brothel dance Studio © 2011 Warner Bros

In Zack Snyder’s dark fantasy Sucker Punch, Oscar Isaac portrays Blue, a cruel orderly at a mental institution for women. Carla Gugino plays the tough psychiatrist in the facility, Madam Gorski, who is attempting to help the young women survive.

But that’s only the initial layer to the movie – through Babydoll (Emily Browning), a patient at the institution, Blue and Madam Gorski become characters in her fantasies of escape, which she uses to avoid her dismal reality.

What’s your take on Blue?

Sucker Punch - Oscar Isaac
Camera Test for Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) © 2011 Warner Bros

Oscar Isaac: I think Blue is probably someone who has felt powerless in his life, and now he’s able to stake some claim to these girls. He wants their respect and he wants to control them. Of course, he’s out for himself and whatever he can get. And if they don’t go along with him, the consequences are severe.

How did you see your character Madam Gorski? Did you see her as a good or bad person?

Carla Gugino: I didn’t see her as either, but I did see her as a very complicated lady, someone who has come from something probably incredibly difficult herself and has endured, I think in her mind, more than these girls ever will, so therefore feels she has the tools to get them through.

What I really like is that I think she’s a damaged person with good intentions and I think as a psychiatrist is more of a turn-the-blind-eye to what she thinks might be going on. And in the alternate world, as everything is a bit heightened, I think there is no doubt that she is both enamored with Blue and also terrified of him and there’s not doubt that he has something over her.

These are both heightened roles when they go into the fantasies. Is that a fine line to walk, as it’s almost surreal?

Sucker Punch - Ron Selmour, Oscar Isaac and Richard Cetrone
Danforth (Ron Selmour), Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) and CJ (Richard Cetrone) at the brothel dance Studio © 2011 Warner Bros

Oscar: Being in the asylum it is stylized. And the tons of make up, my spray tan and my little black mustache, my eyeliner were the clues that maybe [the brothel was a fantasy]!

My job was to be the obstacle for these girls, but within that I needed to make it very specific. How big it is or small becomes less important as to how specific it is. It’s a business that he’s running and he’s not being evil just to be evil, if he’s losing control of his business that’s going to make him pretty upset and he’s going to have to deal with his employees. If he needs to terrify his employees to do a better job, that’s what he’s going to do. I kind of approached it like that.

Sucker Punch - Carla Gugino
Dr Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) in her office at Lennox House © 2011 Warner Bros

Carla: I think what also helped with that too is certainly they are archetypal and as dreams are so symbolic of things, it wasn’t about naturalism or subtly, but I think what we needed to find in those characters was an authenticity, just in terms of where they were coming from and on an emotional level, and hopefully if you actually have the truth of that person then it’s less about going over the top or not.

Do you feel like your sexuality is a weapon or a tool for your survival in this?

Carla: I don’t think of it as a weapon or a tool, but I think our sexuality is innate to us. It’s such an aspect of who we are. I think in fact trouble comes when people separate sexuality from humanity and then that becomes porn.

But these are young girls. Do you feel they’re being exploited in this?

Oscar: I grew up with graphic novels, and I don’t see that as any more exploitative than Superman having a skin tight outfit on. It’s interesting that that question doesn’t come up with 300. Is that male exploitation?

As you’ve worked with Zack before, were the actors coming to you to find out how he works?

Sucker Punch - Vanessa Hudgens and Carla Gugino
Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Dr Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) at the brothel dance Studio © 2011 Warner Bros

Carla: The truth of the matter is Zack is so full-disclosure, present, he is so there for everybody and I think each person had their own relationship with him. So no, they didn’t. But everyone I think was a fan of Watchmen, so it was a fun group to be a part of, to get new blood in the family.

Oscar: What was fascinating is that there’s no source material for this thing, but what I thought was so cool is that Zack would come in and photograph the rehearsals and then on the day [we shot the scene] he brought in his storyboards, but his storyboards were the photographs all laid out like a comic book strip with the dialogue in little bubbles. So it was as if he was still adapting his own comic book.

Were you disappointed that your musical number Love is a Drug was cut from the movie?

Oscar: Yes!

Carla: Definitely, because it was an amazing sequence. All of the girl’s dances were amazing as well.

Oscar: With actors you do what’s asked of you and then you leave it up to the [editor].

Carla: I think you’ll get it in Zack’s ‘Director’s Cut.’ I was really nervous about going in and singing. I think there are those things that you think, ‘Can I do it? Yes, I can.’ And then there are the ones you think, ‘Can I do it? I really don’t know.’ And that was one of those for me, because I don’t really have a significant amount of singing or dancing training and thankfully Oscar does, and is fantastic and also was incredibly generous.

Ultimately I was able to own it, and really find it to be incredibly exhilarating. It made me want to get up and do it again right away.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.