Sofia Coppola takes stark look at a Hollywood life

Sun Dec 19, 2010 11:44pm EST
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By Cassie Carpenter

LOS ANGELES (Back Stage) - In just four films -- two original and two adaptations -- Sofia Coppola has proved herself one of the most fascinating American auteurs working today.

She makes pensive, intimate portraits in which her protagonists often feel growing pains while transitioning into a new stage in their isolated, privileged lives. Coppola's special brand of "cool" marks each film she touches -- a strong sense of personal style that has propelled her far from Francis Ford Coppola's paternal shadow.

In her latest film, "Somewhere," Hollywood star Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is going nowhere in style -- driving his Ferrari, ordering strippers like room service, and partying -- when his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning), who is fast becoming a woman, reappears in his life.

"I thought about how Johnny is at that age in this moment where he can either be a guy with a family or the old guy at the nightclub," says Coppola, a mother of two.

"It's really that pivotal point. I think everybody has to choose what way they're going to live their life eventually, and I wanted to show that."

Shot with a small crew almost entirely at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, "Somewhere" contrasts sharply with her previous film, "Marie Antoinette" -- a grand period production with hundreds of extras in whipped-cream costumes at Versailles. Inspired by the French New Wave films of Godard and Truffaut, "Somewhere" includes a lot of long, lingering takes of her leading man in action that might put off an audience with a shorter attention span.

The character of Johnny was born in a vampire movie script Coppola penned years ago that never went anywhere, and she always imagined Dorff in the role, having first met him in the 1990s. Later, while she attended a film festival in London for "Lost in Translation" -- the script for which she won the Oscar -- she spent an evening with Dorff at a party.

"He was so sweet, and he was such a genuine guy that he came to mind when I was writing this character again, because I thought he could kind of be a mess but that he has this lovable side. Stephen has a lot of heart, and that would add a lot to the character," she says.   Continued...

<p>Director of the movie Sofia Coppola poses at the premiere of "Somewhere" at the Arclight theatre in Hollywood, California December 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>