When we reviewed The Art of Sucker Punch we included some of the concept art and lavish designs for the film and Pardee’s hand can be seen in much of the final film. Here he talks about his collaboration with Snyder and Production Designer Rick Carter and his own personal and professional inspirations behind his work on Sucker Punch.
1. What was the collaboration with Zack Snyder like? Did he have rough ideas, sketches of his own, or other artworks that inspired him?
Working with Zack is incredible because he’s an ace at setting an example and trusting his team. It was inspiring not only working with him one on one, but getting allowed to simply OBSERVE how he works with his gigantic crew on set with all these props getting built and torn down and people running back and forth but yet they seemed to glide perfectly around each other and the mood was always relaxed and comedic and fun. I had worked back at my studio in California on a lot of pre-production work and when I went up to the actual set in Canada I was very intimidated going in because of the sheer scope of the project, but after a couple of days watching Zack and his team having a blast making this enormous movie my outlook changed 180 degrees and I just started thinking “This looks FUN! I want to do this all the time!” And when I headed back home I was really inspired.
Regarding the work that I created for the film, “Sucker Punch” was all in Zack’s head for years so he definitely knew what he wanted. But at the same time, he is a huge art fan and loves when artists push creativity so he and Rick Carter (the production designer) allowed me, as well as the other concept artists, to go nuts and expand on what they were already roughing out in their heads.
2. Were there any ideas or concepts you loved that didn’t make it into the film?
Not really. I think the final cut of the film is perfect and has all of the working elements that were planned from the start. There was a little stuffed rabbit toy that BabyDoll’s sister has that I made that I loved. It’s is in the film for a SPLIT second, but in my opinion I think maybe THAT should have got like an HOUR of screen time!
3. Who are the artists that inspired you on this project?
This project was a brand new challenge for me in a number of ways. When Zack approached me about the project I said “Great! What am I going to draw?” And he said “Girls, guns and robots!” And I responded with “PERFECT!” But in my head, I quietly screamed “Shit! That’s 3 things I have NEVER drawn! Uh-oh.”
And that was true. I had always steered away from drawing girls because they are too perfect. I always was attracted to wrinkly, ugly monsters and madmen. I love drawing more organic tentacles and squishy fat people. Guns and girls terrified me. But there was NO way I was going to turn down this challenge. I was too honored. So I started researching and studying.
I was buying guns & ammo magazines, and staring for days on end at thousands of pictures of girls on the internet just trying to soak in some inspiration. Of course I started with some of the more famous pin-up artists like Vargas and Olivia, but got a lot more into some more expressive figurative artists like James Jean & Dave Choe, and then went into just watching anime and absorbing inspiration from those cool camera angles and exaggerated lines.
The visuals in the film, in my opinion, seemed to draw inspiration from a mixture of old Burlesque art, a little Frazetta and Boris Vallejo, and combined with newer Japanese pop art so that’s pretty much what I drew my inspiration from. The fact that all of these imaginary worlds were contained within the film was overwhelming at first, but then it was a little liberating because there was so much freedom within those worlds.
5. You’ve spoken of your time in hospital and finding art as an escape – did that time influence your work on the film?
I was in an in-patient mental hospital when I was about 14 or 15 for a brief time while going through some severe depression and anxiety bouts and was we were trying to figure out what medications might help me feel better. At the time, with my body going through so many hormonal changes while being mystified as to WHY I was feeling so shitty all of the time, I felt alone, and I felt trapped. There were nights where I caught myself imagining a way to “escape” into my imagination and therefore I would escape the hospital. Zack and I had shared stories from our pasts and I think that my experience in the hospital didn’t necessarily influence my work on the film, but it definitely allowed me to relate to Baby Doll’s story and the whole idea of these worlds in the film.
6. After working on Sucker Punch are you interested in more film work, and are there any directors you’d want to work with?
Definitely. I actually wanted to work in film before I discovered drawing and painting. I really wanted to go to film school out of high school, but at that time I was very introverted, and although it was my dream to make films, I knew that making films is a collaborative effort, and I was SCARED of other people! So I decided to just stick to myself and hide and draw instead. Since then I have loosened up a little and I love the collaborations that occur in filmmaking and other forms of art that I’ve been involved with. I have been making my own short films with my friend and amazing director Stephen Reedy for the last 2 years, and working on Sucker Punch only fueled that urge to continue making bigger and better projects.
There are a ton of directors that I would love to work with, but the top of my list would probably be Guillermo Del Toro, Sam Raimi, Neill Blomkamp, Brad Bird, Terry Gilliam, Michel Gondry and ZACK SNYDER AGAIN!
7. Finally, were there any Sucker Punch Garbage Pail Kids designs (and if not, would you illustrate some…)?
Ha! I don’t think those ever saw the light, though “Bloody Booger Babydoll” would probably be pretty funny. I absolutely LOVE Garbage Pail Kids, but I think the girls in Sucker Punch are way too pretty to desecrate like that.
HeyUGuys thanks Alex for his time. There is a Limited Edition of The Art of Sucker Punch available, which you can order here. This edition comes with an exclusive Alex Pardee signed giclée print, which is more than reason enough to give it a look.
The film is released in the UK on the 1st of April.