With featured roles in Sucker Punch and The Hangover Part II, Jamie Chung has officially arrived. It seems Hollywood has found its new Wonder Woman.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's February/March 2011 issue.
Measuring fame can be tricky these days. The Situation banters over bottle service with Leo DiCaprio; Teen Moms (© MTV) smile dumbly on magazine covers. Clearly, popularity as a commodity is at an all-time high. Still, there remains a big gap between reality-show infamy and actual Hollywood respect—we may not know what a “celebrity” is anymore, but we can surely separate talent from mere notoriety.
For Jamie Chung, alum of The Real World: San Diego, that gap is about to disappear for good. In the seven years since appearing on (and retaining her dignity during) the show, the fledgling star has steadily built an acting career with assorted TV and film roles, culminating in what promises to be a huge 2011: She’s an integral part of the badass girl gang in Zack Snyder’s crazy action-fantasy epic Sucker Punch, and she plays Stu’s fiancée in May’s The Hangover Part II. With apologies to Jacinda Barrett (and you, too, The Miz), we think Jamie is about to achieve the most fame—you know, the good kind—of anybody who’s been on The Real World, or maybe any reality show, ever. To commemorate her big year, we sat with the 27-year-old actress to talk about female bonding, ladyboys in Thailand, and what may or may not have happened with Bill Clinton.
During our photo shoot, I heard people on set complimenting your back dimples. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Most girls like to say that they’re a guy’s girl, but I am a girl’s girl.
And we started discussing if a proper term exists for back dimples.
I’ll Google it right now. [Laughs.] On Wikipedia, they call it the “dimples of Venus.”
Well, we were all complimenting you on your dimples of Venus.
Oh, why thank you. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard it. It’s a very nice compliment.
Do you think you’re in the best shape of your life?
No, not really. Why? [Laughs.]
Well, because of all the training you had to do for Sucker Punch.
I think while I was filming I was the strongest I’ve ever been. It was the crazy training regimen that they put us through.
What were some of the things they had you do?
We had ex-Navy Seals train us, and they were the same trainers for the actors in 300 and V for Vendetta. So, it was back to basics—kettle-bell training, tire pulls, push-ups, deadlifts, pull-ups. Things I feel like have been around forever, but that girls tend to not do at the gym anymore. It was pretty hardcore. We did all the same workouts that the boys did.
Did you get along well with the other girls in the Sucker Punch cast? Be honest.
Oh yeah, definitely. Like, I was really nervous going into it.
I bet your sorority background came in handy, no?
Most girls like to say that they’re a guy’s girl, but I am a fucking girl’s girl.
What do you mean, a “guy’s girl”?
Like, “I can’t hang out with girls.”
I don’t think you can really trust girls like that, actually.
No, you can’t. But for girl’s girls, it’s easy to get along with girls. It was a fantastic time. And I think Zack and [Punch producer] Debbie Snyder were obviously worried about that, because the only way the movie’s going to work is if those bonds and friendships translated onto the screen. So, they brought us all out to Vancouver two months before we started shooting and put us through that intense training regimen. We spent a lot of time together, and that was our bonding exercise.
What was the audition for Sucker Punch like?
There was a screening process with the cast and directors, and then I went in to meet with Zack. Originally, the part I went out for was Vanessa Hudgens’ role.
Which is the “bad” girl, right?
It’s this character called Blondie, yeah. And Vanessa got the part. I was devastated. It felt like I broke up with a boyfriend. But then, a month later, three girls dropped out because of scheduling conflicts, and lucky for me, I got the part of Amber. So I was really fortunate.
Tell us about your character.
She’s the glue to the group, and even throughout all the different fantasy worlds, she still carries on this character trait of being the one that’s down to keep the girls together. Amber is basically a fiercely loyal friend to all the girls.
I take it that the character wasn’t originally written for an actor of Asian descent.
When I went out for the role, my agents and managers warned me: “Don’t get your hopes up, it’s a period piece, we don’t know if he’s going to go in this direction.”
Right, because it’s set in the ’50s.
Yeah, but when I went to Zack and I tried to tell him the back story of my character, he was like, “Jamie, it doesn’t matter. It’s not about the race or anything—all that matters is that the character works.” You have elements that reflect the essence of the character that he wrote about—he was open. He’s a pretty cool guy.
We changed our flights so we could leave first thing in the morning. I was like, 'I better get this part.'
How would you characterize Zack’s style of directing?
Well, as you may already know, he is a fucking genius.
Yes. We are aware.
I mean, who knows what’s going on in that man’s mind? He’s just so creative, and the things that he does are just so visually stunning and groundbreaking. 300 is the first of its kind and Watchmen stayed true to the comic book, like he wanted. But he was so limited with what he could do with Watchmen because he wanted to keep it so true. With Sucker Punch, this is his original script that he co-wrote, and it’s its own beast. He knew exactly what he wanted out of it and how far to take it. It’s gonna be spectacular. It’s gonna be fantastic.
The buzz for Sucker Punch has certainly been intense. What’s your take on the hype?
I think it’s one of those movies where you really have to pay attention. It’s just like Inception—there are just so many different layers and after the first time you’ve seen it, you have to watch it again. And I feel like there’s lots of symbolism. It’s one of those movies that film geeks will study. And I was one of them in high school, you know.
We’re just disappointed that we won’t get to see the movie in IMAX 3D.
Man, Sucker Punch doesn’t need no IMAX 3D.
We’ll take your word on that. Now, from one super-hyped film to another: How did you get the part in The Hangover Part II?
I was vacationing last summer with my boyfriend in the Philippines—it took over 24 hours to travel there—and we were a day into the vacation when I got a phone call from my manager, like, “You need to come back to L.A.” I said, “You’re fucking kidding me, I just got here. What the hell for?” Then, she said, “It’s The Hangover Part II.” We spent that entire day changing our flights so we could fly out first thing in the morning.
What was going through your head on the plane back?
“I better fucking get this part.” [Laughs.] No, I was hoping to get the part ’cause I knew it was filming in Thailand, so I could fly my boyfriend out to make up for the lost trip.
That’s sweet. How did your meeting with Todd Phillips go?
It went really well. He only had me do it once, and I was like, “That’s it?” Our meeting was only five minutes. [Laughs.] I walked out feeling like, Oh wow, I wish there was something else I could do. Then, he brought me to a table read to meet all the other cast members and the other producers, and that was really intimidating. It went well, but his whole thing was that I looked too young to be Stu’s [Ed Helms] fiancée. But then, ultimately, after a couple of weeks, he picked me. So that was pretty awesome.
When I first read that you were playing Stu’s love interest, and that the film is set in Thailand, I was thinking, Oh no, I hope she’s not…
A ladyboy. No, I’m not a ladyboy. [Laughs.]
Or a mail-order bride.
No, it’s legit. Lauren is Thai-American, grew up in the States, went to a good school. Her father is wealthy and owns a resort back in Thailand, so they decided to have the wedding there because most of her side of the family is in Thailand.
How was it shooting out there?
Thailand is beautiful. We got to do all the touristy stuff—snorkeling, rock climbing—and we took a boat out to Phi Phi and Phuket.
Plus, all those ladyboys.
Yeah, you know, I didn’t see…actually, I did see a lot. But what’s fantastic is how society is a lot more accepting of it. It’s because Thailand is 95% Buddhist, and the Buddhist philosophy is pretty accepting.
Speaking of acceptance, how do you feel about Mel Gibson’s cameo being pulled from the movie?
Yeah, I know nothing about that. I’ve read the same websites that you did, probably. Same thing about Bill Clinton. I know nothing about that, either. I just hear all these rumors.
Damn, so no juicy stories about Bill Clinton, like, palming your butt?
Oh man, we’re buddies. We were drinking whiskey at this bar…
…And he was hitting on you, and then…
No, no, no. [Laughs.]
That’s cool, your secrets are safe with us.
WATCH JAMIE'S BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEO:
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (STYLING) Kelly McCabe. (HAIR) Scott Cunha. (MAKEUP) Karan Mitchell. (PROP STYLING) Eddie Walker. COVER IMAGE: Top by Herve Leger / metal cuffs by Robert Lee Morris / shoes by Rock & Republic. FIRST IMAGE: Shirt by Obesity and Speed / swimsuit by Zimmerman / bracelets by Lia Sophia / metal cuffs by Robert Lee Morris. SECOND IMAGE: (Left) Top by BCBG Generation / swimsuit by Mara Hoffman; (Right) Top by Zimmerman / pants by Reiss. THIRD AND SIXTH IMAGES: Top by Herve Leger / metal cuffs by Robert Lee Morris.