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The Verge: Sharni Vinson

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The Verge: Sharni Vinson


Face it: after this summer of crappy post-production 3D, you need a palate cleanser, and you shouldn’t have to wait until Christmas for Tron Legacy to do the job. Why not let next month’s agreeable Step Up 3D fill the void? Not only was it conceived for and shot by 3D cameras, but it also has a leading lady of just as many dimensions: the free-spirited Australian actress Sharni Vinson. Like Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts, and Isla Fisher before her, Vinson got her start on the Aussie soap Home and Away, but none of them ever had to dance their butts off amidst 3D raindrops, so points for Sharni.

How does it feel to be part of Hollywood’s recent Australian invasion? Vinson told Movieline about how she managed it, whether she auditions with her natural accent, and what cruel joke she had played on her by Step Up 3D’s director, Jon M. Chu.

How did you decide when to come to America?

I don’t plan a day ahead of today. I don’t know how other people do it, but for me, it all made sense when I did it. I’d been on a soap in Australia for three years, and my contract was coming to an end. It was pilot season starting in January [in Hollywood], and everything was just kind of falling place, so I asked to be released a little earlier than planned from my contract. I just came out and managed to get a visa and an agent and started the process from there.

You weren’t on just any soap — you got your start on Home and Away, which seems to have been a launchpad for a whole lot of Australian actors who went on to become movie stars. Did you model your career after any of them?

The thing is, when I booked my role on Home and Away, I was 21 and very aware of the people who’ve come on the show on the past and had gone onto these very successful Hollywood years. I definitely knew that this show was the ultimate training circuit and launching pad to get you to the next stage, which is going overseas and living in America and giving it a crack there. From the beginning, I knew that after those three years of my contract, I would be living overseas, so I started immediately on American accent lessons and preparation in order to be able to get there.


Having learned that American accent, do you go into auditions already using it from the get-go, or do you come in as an Australian and then blow them away with how good you can switch over to an American accent?

[Laughs] At the beginning, when I first arrived here, I hadn’t figured it out yet. It was kind of daunting to just be auditioning again because I’d been on a show and I hadn’t gone on an audition in three years, and it’s such a procedure. I hate auditions, so it was kind of scary, and then to have to do an accent, it just added to the nervousness. You’re not even able to play yourself. I was walking into a room being Australian and then doing an American accent, and I didn’t think that was going in my favor at the time, because maybe I wasn’t as comfortable with the accent and I was letting them know right off the gun that I was not American. Once they know you’re not American, they’re just listening for the accent to go wrong — that’s what I found out at the beginning when I wasn’t as confident with it as I am now.

After shooting Step Up and having training with the accent with the best dialect coach ever, Denise Woods, she got me really confident with having a personality as an American. You can be you, just with a different accent. So after shooting that, I started auditioning as an American from the very minute I walked into the room, and then at the end, after I’d done the audition, I’d start talking as an Australian and freak people out. [Laughs] So that’s kind of the way I do it now: I got in as an American and freak them out at the end.

Did you have to read for Step Up using an American accent?

That was crazy because I auditioned for Step Up with my natural Australian accent, and I went through the entire process of callbacks and chemistry reads with my natural Australian accent. It wasn’t until the very last producers’ session that they asked me to do an American accent, but when I actually booked the role, I didn’t know at the time if I was booking it as an American character or as an Australian character. When we arrived in New York, Jon wasn’t sure himself if he wanted the character to be Australian or American, so it was hard to prepare for the role initially because I wasn’t even sure what nationality my character was going to be. Then, they decided on American, which I’m very happy about. The Australian accent can be sort of potent next to an American one, so I was kind of glad to blend in more by doing an American accent. [Laughs]

Did you freak out when you got the part?

Yeah, I was freaking out, and it didn’t help that Jon Chu wanted to play a little joke on me, which he filmed for the behind-the-scenes footage. He wanted to call us individually and tell us that we booked the role, and he called me first with the choreographer, Jamal Sims, next to him, and they said, “So we’re just down to the final stages of the auditioning process and we keep coming back to your name and your auditions, and we think you’re really great, but the one thing concerning us at this time is that on your resume, you have no acting or dancing experience in 3D. How do you think you would handle shooting an entire movie in 3D?”

And I’m like, “Oh my God. What is he talking about?” I’m just thinking, “What do you mean? I just thought that was a different technology that you guys were putting in the camera and the actors are just doing the same thing they always do.” It was so weird, and I’m, like, fighting for my life, saying, “Of course I can do that! I’ll do anything.” It was such a horrible, horrible, mean joke, and he said, “Well, I’m glad, because we’ll see you in New York in three days. Welcome to the movie.” It was so surreal.

That said, what’s the best way the film uses the fact that it’s in 3D?

The dance routines were choreographed with 3D in mind. Everything had 3D at the forefront of the whole equation. It was such an amazing feeling to be wearing the Real 3D glasses behind the monitor — which is this huge flatscreen TV — and watching it all unfold as it’s being shot in 3D at the same time. It’s new technology that was blowing my mind. It just shows dance to the best of its ability and it really enhances everything by being in 3D. It’s special. Dance is meant to be seen this way.


Did you have to learn any dances that you weren’t familiar with for the film?

Oh, absolutely. Things like capoeira, which was brand-new — I hadn’t even really heard of it. It’s this martial arts fighting stance, and we did some serious training for that. Serious training, like nine hours a week, we did capoeira, and it’s the most intense workout of your butt and thighs. And then there’s parkour, which was free running. Even if it wasn’t a new style for me, with every choreographer [that we used], it’s a brand-new style through the way they do it. Every part of it was challenging, especially because I hadn’t danced in five years in the lead-up to booking the role.

So how does all that work that affect the way you view dance? Like, I love pizza, but if I ate pizza nine hours a day, five days a week…Well, what if you put different toppings on it every time and never ever had the exact same pizza twice?

It would still be a lot of pizza, Sharni! I mean, after the film wrapped, did you think, “I need a little break from dancing,” or were you more, “Where’s the nearest club? I need to keep dancing dancing dancing?”I have had a break from it because we finished shooting this movie a year ago. So then it’s like, “Where’s the dancing? Why aren’t we dancing anymore?” [Laughs] It’s always going to be a huge part of my life, and from here on out, I’d like to shoot action movies and be able to incorporate my dancing into other things. Literally, I just got back from Africa a few days ago from shooting Blue Crush 2, and it’s amazing how ballet and balance can come into play with other sports like surfing and martial arts fighting, which I’m learning for my next film. It’s kind of cool to use your physicality for action. I love big crazy “driving a car off a bridge” type of stunts, I have a big passion for that type of stuff, so hopefully I’ll go on to do it from here.

So basically, “Special Skills” on the back of your headshot is eight paragraphs long by now.

But most people lie on that section, don’t they? I can’t imagine ticking one of those boxes and then you get in a room and they throw it at you, and you have to be, “Actually, I can’t do that. I lied.” [Laughs]



Really nice, detailed interview. She comes across very sweet & down to earth. And it's nice to see her acknowledge h&a as being a great training ground & launchpad/stepping stone to even more amazing acting opportunities. Good luck to her. :)

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The Verge: Sharni Vinson

Really nice, detailed interview. She comes across very sweet & down to earth. And it's nice to see her acknowledge h&a as being a great training ground & launchpad/stepping stone to even more amazing acting opportunities. Good luck to her. :)

Yeah but in that lies the problem. That is all that young actors see it as now...a stepping stone. It wasn't always that way or at least wasn't like that so blatantly but oh well I am happy for her she seems nice enough and for the most part I enjoyed her work on H&A.

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