Sofia Coppola goes inside Hollywood in ‘Somewhere’
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Sofia Coppola knows what it’s like to grow up with a famous dad: Jetting off to faraway places, spending long stretches of time in hotels and getting an inside look at the bizarre, privileged and often decadent world of Hollywood.
The 39-year-old filmmaker also knows what it’s like to be a parent in show business: She has two young daughters with partner Thomas Mars, who fronts the rock band Phoenix.
In her new film, “Somewhere,” which opens Wednesday, Coppola explores fame, Hollywood and parenting from both perspectives, with a style and approach completely distinct from that of her famous father.
Where Francis Ford Coppola embraces new filmmaking technology and high-def cameras, Sofia Coppola prefers classic film and her dad’s old lenses from the 1980s.
Where he is known mostly for dark, action-filled dramas such as “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now,” she prefers simpler stories and character portraits — like those of a displaced college grad and an aging movie star in 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” which won her an Academy Award for original screenplay and made her the third woman ever nominated for a directing Oscar.
She approaches “Somewhere” with similar subtlety.
The film tells the story of Johnny Marco, a handsome, hotshot actor who lives in Hollywood’s storied Chateau Marmont hotel, ignoring the stack of scripts by his bedside to instead fill his time with beer, pills and a pair of twin strippers who carry their own collapsible poles. His smoky haze is interrupted when his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo, arrives unexpectedly for an extended stay.
“I was just thinking about how having a kid really changes your perspective and your priorities, so I was imagining for a guy like that, having a daughter, what that might be like,” Coppola said from a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel, where she was promoting the film. “It was fun to show another side of Hollywood that you don’t normally get to see, because we’re so fixated on celebrity culture today.”
In Coppola’s Hollywood, twin strippers are available for hire and the in-call masseuse might get naked to make his clients more comfortable. Models and topless beauties are everywhere, impromptu parties are the norm and publicists and other handlers are perennially perky.
Coppola said she wanted to take moviegoers inside modern fame and show how its superficial trappings may not satisfy the real needs in life.
“I think that because I grew up around it that I’ve seen another side of it and it doesn’t have the same mystique,” she said.
Never one for Hollywood’s party scene, Coppola no longer lives in Los Angeles. After her divorce from fellow filmmaker Spike Jonze in 2003, she relocated to New York. Now she lives in Paris with Mars and their two girls, a four-year-old and a six-month-old. Coppola said she still likes L.A., “but it’s pretty extreme that the whole city revolves around show business.”
She shot “Somewhere” at Chateau Marmont, a kind of show-biz mecca on the Sunset Strip, where her team filled the hotel’s fifth floor and her star, Stephen Dorff, took up temporary residence. She had to keep the crew small since the hotel was still open for business, and because she wanted to impart a fly-on-the-wall feeling to viewers.
“It felt more like a film-school project or something,” she said.
Like “Lost in Translation,” “Somewhere” evolves quietly, with long shots allowing the characters to slowly reveal themselves.
Dorff said he appreciated the change of pace.
“I love that in this life, where everybody’s busy, everybody’s texting, that Sofia kind of just says, ’Whew. Slow it all down, baby. This is going to be a portrait of my guy, and if you open your eyes a little bit and go with us, you’re going to have a nice reward at the end,”’ he said. “That’s what she does with all her films, and I think this one even more.”
Coppola spent more than two years on “Somewhere,” writing, directing, producing and editing the film. She said she finds writing to be the hardest part, shooting the most exciting and editing the most enjoyable.
The film was a family affair, with her brother and dad serving as producer and executive producer, respectively. Mars and his band made the score.
Coppola said her brother is often the first to see her scripts: “I feel like he really gets me and I trust him, so it’s not so scary.”
Though a woman hadn’t won an Academy Award for directing until earlier this year, when Kathryn Bigelow got the best director Oscar for “The Hurt Locker,” Coppola said she never considered her gender an obstacle in Hollywood.
“My dad treated me the same as my brothers,” she said. “He was teaching me the same, so I never thought I couldn’t do that.”
Still, she didn’t see a lot of female filmmakers when she was growing up and said she’s glad there are many more women behind the camera now than when she made her first feature film, “The Virgin Suicides,” in 1999.
Coppola already has “little ideas” for her next project, but she won’t get to working on them until after the holidays, which she plans to spend with her own Hollywood family.
“We’re going up to my parents’ vineyard and we’ll have some time just with the family,” she said. “I can’t wait to just stay in pajamas all day and have my parents cook.”
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