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'Spring Breakers' Director Harmony Korine: 10 Things to Know

The aloof, avant-garde and always controversial filmmaker has been making headlines since he was a teenager.

Harmony Korine and His Ladies
Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP

After a decade and a half of working in obscurity and occasionally popping up to bemuse the public and impress critics, Harmony Korine, dedicated anti-commercial artist, has found himself in the international spotlight.

The 40-year-old writer-director is a new name to many who are just discovering the man responsible for corrupting half a generation of Disney Channel stars in the new neon-nihilism film Spring Breakers. There are quite a few things to discover about this mysterio, and so, here is a guide:

1. He wrote the film Kids at 18: Korine was not much older than the characters he created for his big-screen debut. He wrote the controversial 1995 movie about the sex lives of teenagers for Larry Clark, who discovered him skating in New York City. It gave Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson their starts, as well.

2. His next film, Gummo, won the FIPRESCI prize at the Venice Film Festival. Sure, no one really understood it -- it had no real script and was a series of rough and disconnected vignettes -- but some people seemed to like it.

PHOTOS: 'Spring Breakers' L.A. Premiere: Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens Celebrate in Hollywood

3. He was   banned from Late Show With David Letterman for 15 years -- until this week. Korine made three now-legendary appearances on the late-night program in 1997-98, where he gave disoriented and giggly answers to a wry host. He was banned, Letterman revealed Monday to Spring Breakers star James Franco, because the host caught Korine going through Meryl Streep's purse. Letterman lifted the ban on Monday night.

4. His 2009 film Trash Humpers is about, well, old men who hump trash, and it was shot on VHS. Again, there was no script. He also starred in that one.

5. Werner Herzog is an admirer and called him a "warrior of cinema." The German actor-filmmaker also starred in Korine's 1999 film Julien Donkey Boy.

6. He hates film school (which he didn't attend). "I hate that shit. It's eating the soul of cinema," Korine said in a 1999 interview. Filmmaking has become like a process, and it's all garbage. All these rich kids who were going to be doctors now want to be filmmakers, but they have very little life experience and they're just writing really shitty wit for each other."

7. He has some interesting casting methods. For Gummo, "I was watching an episode of Sally Jesse Raphael called 'My Child Died From Sniffing Paint,' and I saw this kid on it named Nick [Sutton] who's a paint-sniffing survivor. They asked him, 'Where are you going to be in a few years?' and he said, 'I'll probably be dead.' I loved him and wanted him to star in the film, so we tracked him down. He told me he'd been on acid on the show."

8. He almost gave up filmmaking to live in Panama. "I went through this really horrible phase where I didn't know what I was doing and I wasn't sure if I wanted to make movies anymore," Korine said. "For a few months, I spent time with this small cult of fishermen known as the Malingerers. It was a group I met in Panama who were searching for this fish called the Malingerer fish, which was supposed to be a golden fish that had these three dots on the side. The story goes that if you press the three dots in a certain way, it sounds like a toy piano. I became disenchanted by the whole thing, and one day I got into an argument with one of the leaders, and his wife said: 'You don't believe anymore. It's time for you to go.' And I said, 'You're right,' and that's kind of when I started feeling like maybe I could make movies again."

9. He is a terrible typist. See: his Reddit AMA.

10. He equates candy with film. "[Spring Breakers] with a culture of surfaces. In that way, I wanted to represent that and make a film that looked like it was lit with candies, like we were lighting it with Skittles or we were using Starburst Fruit Chews. I wanted all that kind of pop gloss and tone, and I wanted all the mythology and the meaning to be the residue from the surface, to kind of bleed from it."