Sofia Coppola talks about the inspriations for her latest film, Somewhere, which is playing in competition in Venice.
Sofia Coppola’s new film is about a Hollywood star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) who lives in the Chateau Marmont in LA and is trying hard to make sense of his own celebrity. His relationship with his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning) from his failed marriage helps anchor a life that is threatening to run adrift. In Somewhere, Coppola is returning to the world of Lost In Translation. The setting may be Los Angeles, not Tokyo, but she is dealing with similar themes - alienation, boredom, friendship and the perils of celebrity. The day after her Venice premiere, Coppola reflected on the new film.
Why did you decide to set the film in LA?
I was thinking about those iconic LA movies like Shampoo and American Gigolo and wanted to do one today. It felt like we hadn’t had one in a while. When I was writing this, I was thinking we hadn’t had a movie about modern-day LA - and Greenberg, which was shot around Silverlake, hadn’t come out yet!
You wrote the movie in France?
Yes, I was living in Paris, thinking about LA from a distance. LA seems to have changed in some ways from what it was when I was in my early 20s and living there. We would go to Chateau Marmont but there wasn’t quite so much of this fascination with celebrity culture. They didn’t have reality shows and there wasn’t the same tabloids and paparazzi. I was just looking at how it is now. I was maybe a little homesick for America because I was in Paris.
What did you make of the Chateau Marmont? It’s a strange place - a fake castle.
It has a lot of romance and history. There are so many stories of people who lived there so I think it is something that young actors want to do - get to the Chateau Marmont. It’s Bohemian and not too fancy. If actors stay there, their friends won’t think they’re too fancy.
It’s four years now since Marie Antoinette. Why so long between films?
After Marie Antoinette, I had my first daughter and was taking time off to be with her. When I started thinking what I wanted to write about, it was on my mind what it is like to become a parent and how it changes your perspective. I think that when you have a kid, you also look at your own childhood and parents. I tried to put all that into the story.
You’ve suggested that the scenes in which Johnny Marco visits the junket in Milan with his daughter in tow were inspired by trips you took as a kid with your father (Francis Coppola)?
Our whole family travelled a lot when my dad was working. When I was the age of the Elle Fanning character, I did go on a few trips with him. He liked to write in Las Vegas. I went with him there. That scene showing Johnny teaching his daughter craps comes from a memory of my dad teaching me craps. It was exciting as a kid because usually people don’t tell kids about that stuff. It was fun to be in a grown-up world with him.
Your characters are often very lonely. Why’s that?
I like writing about characters when they’re in a moment of transition.
It wouldn’t interest me to do something about when they’re really comfortable and everything is going good. I prefer looking at a time when you’re going through some inner conflict.
Johnny has a difficult time with the media in Somewhere. What do you feel about the rigmarole of press junkets, press conferences and interviews?
Actors complain about doing press and Johnny in Somewhere is hungover and doesn’t want to have to go sell this movie that he doesn’t really care about. That’s different with me because I do care about this movie and I am glad to talk about it. It is a little unnatural, though. I feel that I make my movie to talk about certain things and it’s a little harder for me to articulare them in a discussion. It’s hard to talk about it when I feel I express myself better in that format (of the film).