By Zorianna Kit
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress and singer Selena Gomez breaks out of her squeaky clean Disney Channel image to star in the independent film "Spring Breakers" for filmmaker Harmony Korine.
In the film, which opens in wide release Friday, Gomez stars as a young girl who is part of a quartet of college students whose spring break in Florida takes them from parties to jail and a criminal underworld.
Gomez is best known as pop star Justin Bieber's ex-girlfriend and the star of Disney's "The Wizards of Waverly Place," which ended its four season run last year. She recently returned to the channel for a reunion film, "The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex."
Gomez, 20, spoke to Reuters about her career, growing up and transitioning into more adult roles.
Q: Harmony Korine has a reputation for shocking his audience with movies like "Kids," "Gummo" and "Trash Humpers." Weren't you nervous about doing this film?
A: I was more excited and enticed. When I auditioned for Harmony, we talked about how he wanted to leave my lifestyle behind and have me go on this adventure with him. I knew it was going to be crazy, but I was comfortable with it.
Q: What do you mean by lifestyle? The squeaky clean Disney lifestyle which was totally flipped upside down in this movie?
A: It was more that Harmony wanted an innocence because he thought it would be creepier. I agree with him.
Q: You spend most of the film in a skimpy bikini. Did you feel self conscious?
A: When we did the spring break scenes, we were surrounded by hundreds of spring breakers in bikinis who wore even less, so that was okay. I was more uncomfortable in the scenes where I was (in a bikini) getting arrested, in jail and in the pool hall with strangers. It added vulnerability and helped me feel grossed out, which was what my character is supposed to feel.
Q: For someone who started her career on the pre-school show "Barney & Friends" and spent her teen years on the Disney Channel, this must have been unlike any other acting job.
A: It was completely liberating. (Up until this film), everything I've been a part of definitely has been a bit more processed, like how many pieces of jewelry I have on, what my hair looks like. With Harmony, I never wore makeup and he never cared about my hair.
Q: After an experience like that, you must come out the other side feeling like you've grown and changed somewhat.
A: I think that's a really good way of putting it because I feel like I did grow up shooting this. This was the first movie I shot by myself without my mom coming. It was the first time I got to improvise as much as I have.
And to work with someone like James Franco, it was the first time I was around someone of that acting caliber. Harmony believed in me and pushed me to be a better actor, so there's a special place in my heart for Harmony for sure.
Q: You've got a couple of other films in the can - the action film "The Getaway," a cameo in the horror film, "Aftershock." Now that your film career is taking off, why did you go back to Disney for a reunion with your "Wizards" cast?
A: I missed them. I missed the channel, I missed everybody on the show. It was a big part of my life that I'm thankful for. That's where I started so I wanted to go back.
Q: Your younger fans can't see "Spring Breakers." Was this TV movie your way of giving them something new as well?
A: It always made me happy that we got to bring families together every night. I love having that connection with the younger audience and I missed that feeling.
Q: How do you chart a film career from this point on?
A: I'm actually taking a complete turn now and going in to music. My album comes out this summer and I'll be touring. I always structure my music and tours in a way that is geared for my fans and supporters that have been there from the beginning. My music is definitely the kind I would want them to hear.
Q: How do you balance between moving forward into more adult roles while bearing in mind that you are role model to many young girls?
A: It's a very awkward transition to make. I want to challenge myself and (my choices) may not be appropriate for a young audience. I'm choosing movies that I feel are artistically fun and creative. I hope people are appreciative of the work I do. I feel like I'm doing the best I can and hopefully it works out.
(Reporting by Zorianna Kit; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Vicki Allen)