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Sofia Coppola Talks About 'Somewhere'

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Sofia Coppola on the set of Somewhere

Sofia Coppola on the set of 'Somewhere.'

© Focus Features
Writer/director Sofia Coppola examines the strained relationship between a father (played by Stephen Dorff) and his 11 year old daughter (Elle Fanning) in Somewhere, hitting theaters on December 22, 2010. Dorff plays Johnny Marco, a bad boy actor who makes his home at the famous Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood. His hard-partying ways are put on old when his daughter, Cleo, shows up unexpectedly for an extended visit. As Johnny readjusts his lifestyle, he finds himself fighting to reconnect with his daughter and trying to become more than just an absentee father.

"I think I just started with this character and wanting to do a portrait of this guy at this moment in his life, but I think it's about points in your life when you have to look at yourself and decide what kind of person you're going to be which I feel that everyone has to look at sometimes," explained Coppola at the LA press day for the Focus Features film. "Also, I'd just had my first daughter and so I was thinking about how having a kid changes your priorities and perspective. I wanted to put some of that in the story. So I think it's also about a father/daughter relationship."

On casting Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning:

 
Sofia Coppola:   "When I was writing the script Stephen Dorff came to mind. I knew him a little over the years and I just thought that he would be the right guy for this part and was the right age. I think he's such a great actor, but we haven't seen the more sensitive side to him. I also knew from life that he's such a sweet guy and sincere and the character is so flawed that he could be unlikable, so it needed someone with a lot of heart to make you want to watch him for a whole movie. And then Elle Fanning, we just met her when we were putting the movie together. I was writing and I was thinking of a friend's daughter, and then when we met Elle I was just taken with her."

On creating the character of Johnny Marco:

Sofia Coppola:  "I based it on people I've seen and stories that I've heard, and it's a very extreme lifestyle. I tried to imagine what that was like and I relate to it in some ways, but I don't really feel like him because my life is so different than his. His is pretty out of balance."

On getting the father/daughter bond between Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning, and having Dorff actually stay at the hotel:

Sofia Coppola: "He stayed in a room, the same room that we shot in just a floor up. So he was in his Johnny Marco character the whole time. It was funny, in the morning he'd come to set and tell me all the Johnny Marco moments that he was living in the hotel. He would stay up late and be kind of trashed in the scenes that we needed him to be. But then the character, as he evolves, he's fresher and you can really see it, I think. It's subtle."

"It was important to me that they feel connected and not like they'd just met a few weeks before. So I asked Stephen to pick her up from school and take her to do stuff, and then we did improvisation together in the hotel. I felt like when we were shooting then that they had all this repartee and private jokes. It felt like they had a connection, and also because so much is unsaid we did improvs with the mother of Elle. She only has one scene, but although they barely say anything I think you can feel a whole dynamic between them because of the improv that we did before."


 
On remaining grounded and why some people can and some can't:

Sofia Coppola:  "I think it's up to the person, but I can imagine that if you became famous quickly and had a lot of life switches and girls throwing themselves at you all the time and people offering all kinds of things, I could see how someone might go out of balance for a little bit."

On drawing on her own experiences traveling with her famous father as a young girl:

Sofia Coppola:  "When I was writing that part of the story I tried to think of memories, and I remember it as exciting as a kid getting to go with my dad to, occasionally, to places that kids don't usually go. So I thought that I'd try to put some of that into the story that connected to something real."

On her memories of the Hollywood hotel:

Sofia Coppola:  "I feel like in a lot of ways it hasn't changed, but there are aspects [that have]. There weren't weekly tabloid magazines and so people didn't go there to be photographed and stuff. I just think of the Chateau Marmont as being this kind of iconic Hollywood place with so many interesting people staying there and lots of stories. It has this kind of decadent feel."

On shooting in Los Angeles:

Sofia Coppola:   "I really wanted it to look like L.A. and I thought about iconic L.A. movies that I love, like Shampoo and American Gigolo, and I wanted to do like an L.A. movie of today. So just driving around and the kind of bright light in the middle of the day and the view out of window of palm trees and mini-malls. It just feels very specific to me of L.A."

On directing a child actor as opposed to an adult:

Sofia Coppola: "I think with actors, you want to be sensitive to them because you're asking them to be vulnerable and she's so smart that I never felt that she was a kid. I guess you're aware. You don't want people to be talking about something inappropriate around an 11 year old. So I felt protective, but I felt protective of Stephen and all my actors."

On creating the visual style and pacing of the film:

Sofia Coppola: "Luckily I could do whatever I wanted with this movie because I kept the budget small enough. So I didn't have a lot of pressure to make it more conventional, but it was hard with the editor. We went back and forth with the timing because I wanted to push it and really have you feel stuck in his life with him and experience what he was experiencing, but then not totally bore the audience. So it was hard to keep perspective of how long we could push things and how much was too much. It's hard for me to tell because I've seen it too many times and it seems like forever. I'm so uncomfortable in the screenings, but I hope for someone seeing it the first or second time that they can get into the rhythm and go with it."

On her father's reaction to Somewhere:

Sofia Coppola:  "I don't generally have a thing about, like, 'I'll only show final cut,' but on this one I wanted to show him when it was all put together. He was really touched by it and said to me that it was a movie only I could make and that we should make movies that only we could make. I appreciate that in other movies, when you see the person behind it and it's not just that anybody could've made it. But we didn't talk about specifics. That character isn't based on him, but of course I put the kind of tender father/daughter moments that are significant to me."



On the recurring theme of melancholy characters yearning for what they don't have:

Sofia Coppola: "I feel like it's related to this idea that you don't pick the world that you find yourself in and then finding what kind of person that you want to be and what you really want your life to be. So I think it's related to that. I think there are moments like that. I'm interested in characters that are in transition or self-reflection and usually those kinds of moments I feel like there's isolation. I didn't want to write about the times between that when you're feeling great because you don't learn anything. I don't feel compelled to write about that. So I feel like it's more there are times when you're looking at yourself and trying to learn about that."

On selecting the music for Somewhere:

Sofia Coppola: "This one, the whole tone of the movie I wanted to be minimal, so I tried to do the music minimally and have a lot of silence. When I did pick music I just picked music that feels right for the atmosphere of the story, and I tried to have the music be source music that the characters could really be listening to so that you believe that could fit in there."

 
 
  
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Somewhere hits theaters on December 22, 2010 and is rated R for sexual content, nudity and language.

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