“Sofia’s the only person that could make a movie like ‘Somewhere,’” actor Stephen Dorff said.
In 2004, Sofia Coppola made history with her work “Lost in Translation,” becoming the first American woman nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards.
Since then, Coppola has continued to make what she calls “personal films.” Her latest project, “Somewhere,” sees Coppola once again setting her sights on the destructive effects of stardom.
Telling the story of Johnny Marco, a B-movie star undergoing an existential crisis, “Somewhere” has already received international acclaim by winning the “Golden Lion” award at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.
“The Johnny Marco character came to mind … when I was living in Paris after ‘Marie Antoinette,’” Coppola said. “I was curious to do a portrait of this guy in Hollywood, this kind of drifting movie star in Los Angeles today.”
“It started with him and then I thought because I’d just had my daughter, I was thinking about how much that changes your perspective and priority … So I was trying to put what I was thinking about into my writing and decided to bring in this character of the daughter.”
While Coppola denies that Johnny Marco is a reflection of her own celebrity father, Oscar-winning Director Francis Ford Coppola, she admits to using childhood memories as inspiration.
“Writing the character [of Cleo], I drew on memories of being a kid. Like this scene where [Johnny’s] teaching her how to play craps, that comes from visiting my dad in a casino and him teaching me craps, but using it as a metaphor about life and taking risks.”
“I saw it as a movie about an adolescent father becoming a man,” Dorff said, who plays Johnny Marco in the film. “I don’t think we see movies like this very often,” Dorff added on the film’s minimal dialogue and long duration shots. “Sometimes it’s so invasive that you’re uncomfortable.”
Coppola agrees with Dorff’s assessment. “I think there’s more of a tradition in Europe of this kind of slower-pace, less action-oriented [film], but I feel like it’s refreshing for an American audience to see something that’s not the typical thing [they] usually see.”
Reflecting on her own experience shooting the film, actor Elle Fanning found working with Chris Pontius (from “Jackass”), who plays Marco’s friend, particularly memorable.
“Chris was definitely crazy,” Fanning said, laughing.
Recalling Pontius’ tendency to adlib his comical lines, Fanning said it was an interesting and fun challenge. “He would tell Sofia the things he wanted to say and she’d say, ‘Oh that’s great, but don’t tell Elle because I want to get a real reaction.’ So every time she’d say ‘action’ and I was doing a scene with him, I’d get so nervous. It was like, what is he going to throw at me this time?”
“Somewhere” opens in Santa Barbara on Jan. 21 at the Paseo Nuevo Cinemas.