Abbie Cornish has made her mark in edgy, unconventional films such “Candy” and “Stop-Loss,” but the 27-year-old Aussie is finding 2009 is turning into her biggest year yet. She’s already drawing raves for her work in Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” (more on that later), but she’s currently spending her days playing Sweatpea in Zack Snyder’s highly anticipated new epic “Sucker Punch.”
Cornish jumped on the phone earlier today to discuss “Bright Star,” but it was her enthusiasm for “Punch” which was most apparent. Shooting began in Vancouver last month and Cornish says Snyder’s latest is “seriously, six films in one almost.”
An original story by Snyder and Steve Shibuya, “Sucker” centers on Baby Doll (Emily Browning), a young girl trying to escape a fate of being lobotomized by her evil stepfather. In order to do so, she believes she has to steal five objects before she is caught by a vile man. With only five days until the operation she descends into different imaginary worlds searching for the objects and recruits some of her institutionalized friends to help. Sweetpea is one of those buddies and Cornish says you have to imagine her character like a cube, each with a different side in every dimension.
“In these different worlds you’re constantly turning it and different parts of this character [appear],” Cornish says. “I have had a field day not only play the girl in the psych ward, but the girl in crazy action sequences killing 20 guys in row. Every day is different on this film.”
I’d spoken to another “Sucker” lady, Vanessa Hudgens, before shooting began and the actress was visibly pumped up about her own character’s massive gun. It turns out her co-stars are in awe of the weapon as well.
“Vanessa definitely has the biggest gun. It’s called ‘the saw’ and one day Jena Malone and I fired that gun off for fun, just for therapy,” Cornish says. “It has this blast of light that is so intense. I can see why she’s so fascinated.”
Cornish’s Sweetpea is no slouch, however. The actress notes, “I have a good shot gun, a knife and a broad four.”
Moreover, “Sucker Punch” is a completely different animal than “Bright Star,” but it’s the period drama that may put Cornish in a whole new stratosphere.
Already one of the better-reviewed films of the year, “Bright” finds Cornish portraying Frances “Fanny” Brawne, the true love of legendary British poet John Keats (played by Ben Whishaw). The film depicts their unconventional romance that was cut short by Keats’ untimely death at the age of 25. “Bright Star” is actually the name of one of his most famous poems that professes his love for Brawne. Cornish said that while the letters that documented their affair were helpful the biggest assist came from Keats’ poems themselves.
Cornish says, “Just to read ‘Bright Star’ again helped so much to understand their relationship and the trials and tribulations.”
Both leads received strong notices for their work, but it’s Cornish’s performance that has garnered the most attention. But even while Cornish may be a major player for year-end awards, she insists she couldn’t have done it without Whishaw’s support.
“Sometimes as an actor your job is made a whole lot easer by being alongside an actor that you admire and respect,” Cornish says. “I absolutely love Ben. I think he’s just a gorgeous human being. To be able to work that way — really makes it a much more pleasant and, I guess, easy experience to go through. It’s not just two people going to work doing their job.”
As the weeks go by, however, Cornish is slowly joining a select group of candidates for the best actress Oscar. That can be daunting for anyone, but Cornish honestly sounds perplexed regarding the increasing buzz.
“I think I am still figuring out how I feel about the whole thing,” Cornish says. “I definitely am so excited that the film is being received the way that it is. Really, it’s a great honor for me for people to say the things they are saying. ‘Bright Star’ was a very passionate experience. We all put a lot of ourselves in that film and it meant so much to us and it still means so much to us.”
Cornish adds, “I have never been through this experience before, it’s all so new to me.”
Unless some surprise contenders appear on the scene, Cornish will be an old pro by the time Oscar comes around.
“Bright Star” is now playing in select cities across the country.
For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory