Stephen Dorff Somewhere

Stephen Dorff Somewhere


Cast: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan
Director: Sofia Coppola
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rated: MA
Running Time: 98 minutes

Synopsis: Writer/director Sofia Coppola reunites with the film company with which she made the Academy Award-winning hit "Lost in Translation." Her new film is an intimate story set in contemporary Los Angeles; Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a bad-boy actor stumbling through a life of excess at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Hollywood. With an unexpected visit from his 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning), Johnny is forced to look at the questions we must all confront.

Release Date: 26th of December, 2011

When he got the call inviting him to work on the new movie from writer/director Sofia Coppola, veteran producer G. Mac Brown sensed that it was just the challenge he needed. Not that he had been lacking for challenges; as he notes, "My last two film projects had budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars and each shot for more than 100 days.

"I don't want to say that Somewhere was easy, because everyone worked really hard. But this was such an intimate, small movie that it was easy to stay focused on the heart of the story, which is between a father and daughter."

Sofia Coppola's brother Roman Coppola, who was already on board as producer of Somewhere, remarks, "Keeping away extra stuff that can pile onto a movie was important for us. Sofia Coppola was modeling this project in a European, intimate style as well as in her own personal style, which is simple and no-nonsense.

"One of my duties was to encourage the notion that less is more. While it was important to save money, it was far more important to create the intimacy that Sofia Coppola wanted in the filmmaking process. The spirit of the movie meant recruiting people who would embrace it; I live in L.A. and Sofia Coppola hasn't lived here in a while, so she relied on me to refer local crew to her."

G. Mac Brown offers, "There's a saying that the two most expensive words in the movie business are 'what if,' and that necessitates a lot of equipment and staff to make sure you're ready for any eventuality. We tried to remove those two words from this production's vocabulary; Sofia Coppola is so clear about what she wants. For me, it was a sea change in figuring out what is essential to getting a movie made."

The shoot would impact the storytelling, and vice versa; as G. Mac Brown comments, "If you can have anything you want to have, it's hard for you to decide what's right."

When contacted and contracted, everyone joining the production realised that they were going to be part of something different than any picture they'd done before. Stephen Dorff, cast in the lead role of Johnny Marco, states, "After making around three dozen movies, I've gotten a gift of a part. Somewhere is special - poetic, sweet, and truly in Sofia Coppola's style.

"The opportunity came out of nowhere. Sofia Coppola, whom I've known for years but hadn't talked to in a while, called and asked if she could send me the script for her new movie. After reading it, I called her the next day to ask her if I could come to Paris immediately to meet and talk about the film. On my last night there, I got the call from Sofia Coppola that I had the part. I started bawling, because it was the one-year anniversary of my mom's passing, and I felt her smiling in that moment; this was the kind of role she'd wanted for me. Right after I hung up, the Eiffel Tower lit up."

The actor admits, "I know what it's like to live as an actor like Johnny Marco. I get who he is. I've had times where I've coasted. When we meet him, Johnny Marco is lost in a monotonous rhythm and a decadent lifestyle. He's a nice guy, but he's drinking and popping pills. I don't think he's proud of a lot of the films he's done - like his new one, Berlin Agenda. He hasn't gotten his Somewhere yet. Then his little girl shows up, and even though he's thinking 'I can't handle this,' he spends more time with her than he has probably since she was a baby - more than just an afternoon.

"Sofia Coppola and I talked about Johnny Marco's back story, so I was able to plan where he starts [out] and where he goes [in his relationship] with his daughter, who is becoming a little lady. We filmed so much of it in sequence, which was a joy."

Stephen Dorff confides, "I always get a little nervous before I start a movie. But I've got to say that on this one, I felt that I knew what I had to do. I felt it when I [had first] read it. My mom always wanted me to play a Steve McQueen-type character. She would say, 'He'll be flawed, a ladies' man, but he'll have heart.' That's who I saw in Johnny Marco, as Sofia Coppola had written him."

The already-cast Stephen Dorff was screen-tested with Elle Fanning, then the front-runner for the role of Johnny Marco's astute pre-teen daughter Cleo. In keeping with the production's aesthetic, Roman Coppola operated film and video cameras recording the duo and G. Mac Brown wielded the boom microphone, while Sofia Coppola gave direction to the two actors and took photographs of them. The only other crew member with them was a hair stylist who gave Stephen Dorff a cut beforehand, and then left. "We got right to the core of how Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning would work together, without any pressure or tension," notes G. Mac Brown. The young actress was officially offered the part later that same day.

It was important to the writer/director that the on-screen father and daughter relationship play out authentically, so she arranged for Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning to spend time together before the start of production. Elle Fanning reports, "Stephen Dorff and I have a lot in common. He went to the same school that I go to. We both bite our nails. We're both from Georgia, and we both like our food well-done - really crispy! We now have a father/daughter-type relationship outside of the movie."

Though only 11 years old at the time of filming, Elle Fanning has been making movies since around the time she learned to talk. In reading the script, she saw Somewhere as "a movie where everything felt real, including Cleo's relationship with her dad."

Like Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning still wonders about just how things will go when she steps onto a film set. But on Somewhere, she "was never nervous, never felt rushed. If you had something to say or an idea, you could tell Sofia Coppola and she would listen to you. If Stephen Dorff and I had an inside joke or something, we'd ask her if we could incorporate it into a scene. She's one of the nicest people I've ever met, and she doesn't put pressure on. She gets things done without yelling."

When asked how she would prepare for the film's more emotional scenes, Elle Fanning says simply, "I just do; I put myself in the character's place. Acting is making believe, then being natural - and going with whatever happens."

To train for the rink sequence early in the movie, Elle Fanning took to the ice from 7:00 to 8:00 A.M. for six weeks. "I was excited," she remembers. "I had started learning for another movie, but [in that one] I didn't have to be that good; for this, I learned to skate backwards. Now I can show off to my friends."

Former competitive figure-skating champion Renee Roca was engaged to teach the young actress, and can be seen on-screen as Cleo's instructor. "The day I met Elle Fanning, an hour later we were on the ice working hard," marvels Renee Roca. "Sofia Coppola got [what would be the accompanying] music [, the song, "Cool,"] to me and told me she wanted for the scene - for Elle Fanning's skating to be dreamy and free and elegant.

"Once Elle Fanning had learned to skate, and could do jumps and spins, I choreographed what Elle Fanning would be doing. We did it several times every single day until it became muscle memory [for her]. Elle Fanning was a perfect student; she was determined to get it right, and she never complained."

Stephen Dorff credits his relationship with his younger sisters as helping him to get a handle on Elle Fanning and her character. He comments, "My sisters are, or have been, near Cleo's age and I'm very close to them. I pulled from that a lot for my scenes with Elle Fanning - who is a brilliant little thespian and also a real, sweet girl.

"Being around Elle Fanning was a change for me, since I don't have a child. I felt this when was driving her in my car one day [before filming]. Now, usually I'm in my car smoking and cursing when someone cuts me off - because we do have the worst drivers in L.A. - but I had to stop doing all that. [Instead,] it was 'Seatbelt on!'"

En route to playing the role of Johnny Marco's friend Sammy, Chris Pontius remembers getting "a phone call that Sofia Coppola wanted to meet with me. I hadn't seen her in a long time, and after we started to talk and catch up, she said she thought that I might be the one for the part of a wild man who's not too bad. I met with [executive producer] Fred Roos and the casting people, and I could tell Fred Rooswas a big-timer. I looked him up online when I got home - and was glad I hadn't before I went because I would have been anxious! A week later, they told me I'd be in the movie, and I was psyched."

While acknowledging that he is best known for his participation in the Jackass TV programs and movies, and as the host of his own reality adventure show, Wildboyz, Chris Pontius muses, "What I do on Jackass and Wildboyz is mostly improvisation and us playing off of each other, though we have things planned out that we're going to film. In the Somewhere script, my character would only have one or two lines written, so a lot of my part was improvised. I did make up histories in my head and remember stories to have in mind.

"Sometimes I would go in with an idea of where to take [a scene], but then when we started filming, all of that would go out the window because of something someone else said. I got a kick out of shocking Elle Fanning sometimes; I said extra-crazy stuff to her in some scenes. But I know when to be vulgar and when not to be."

Pontius found that he and Stephen Dorff had friends in common, "so we hung out. We had a blast; whether we were filming or not, it didn't feel much different."

To play out more provocative scenes opposite Johnny Marco, Playboy models Kristina and Karissa Shannon were cast after being brought to Sofia Coppola's attention by a friend. When the writer/director met with the twin sisters, "she didn't tell us anything about the roles," says Karissa Shannon. "She just said it was [roles written] for twins. We were excited to [be asked to] work with her."

Kristina Shannon adds, "She asked us if we could dance. We love dancing, and we're good at it. Because I'm more girly and Karissa Shannon's more of a tomboy, that's how we got our [respective] parts [assigned by Sofia Coppola]. I get to kiss Stephen Dorff, and Karissa Shannon gets to smack him."

The Shannons had to spend a minimum of three hours a day for three weeks prior to production training with choreographer Robin Conrad and learning their two demanding pole-dancing routines. Kristina Shannon remembers, "We had bruises from head to toe, with all the climbing up and down."

Somewhere was the first feature for the twins, and Karissa Shannon notes that "working together on such a small production, we got to see everything that goes into making a film. Kristina Shannon and I would love to do more [movies]."

The Shannon sisters filmed their scenes during the first three weeks of shooting - all of which was done on location at the celebrated Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, playing itself for the first time at length on-screen.

"The Chateau doesn't allow a lot of filming," comments G. Mac Brown, who entered into negotiations with the hotel early and often. "If and when they do, they can charge a very high location fee and it probably has to be done in the middle of the night. None of this was the case with Somewhere."

The Chateau's general manager Philip Pavel elaborates, "There have been other major motion pictures shot at the Chateau, but they were limited to one or two short scenes. Sofia Coppola approached the owner of the hotel, André Balazs, and he had an inherent trust of her deep knowledge of what makes the Chateau so special, and that it would be brought to her movie.

"What spoke to me was Sofia Coppola's appreciation for Romulo Laki. He's been at the Chateau for well over 30 years and is known as 'the singing waiter.' He loves to serenade the guests with his guitar. Sofia had a memory of him singing 'Teddy Bear' to her in the lobby, and incorporated that into her script. I'm excited for people to see that in the film, because they might not know about the Chateau's sweet side. I believe it's what makes the place so special; there is a homey feeling, and a feeling of safety."

He adds, "The Chateau was originally built as a deluxe apartment building, so we have large suites and full kitchens. Each room feels like a great old New York or Los Angeles apartment. So it's understandable why someone coming into L.A. to shoot a film or record an album would want to stay here."

Roman Coppola reflects, "The Chateau is such a beautiful place. I have affectionate memories of it. The place is its own little world, peaceful and very European. It's charged with history and personality."

Stephen Dorff remembers living at the Chateau for "four or five months; I had my 21st birthday there. I remember it always being trendy, but I don't remember it being so popular. It's now quite a hot spot at night."

Sofia Coppola felt that the actor would be more immersed in his character's world if he again took up residence at the Chateau. Stephen Dorff says, "It was kind of a trip to be back staying at the Chateau, not going back to my own home every night. By living there, because people might know or recognise me, I experienced a lot of what Johnny Marco would have; every night, I would wonder, 'Do I go out to dinner, should I play piano, should I go downstairs, go out to a movie?' Many times I would think, 'Oh, I don't want to see anybody; I'm going to order room service.'"

With an assist from the production, Stephen Dorff reports that he "also got my own Johnny Marco/Chateau Marmont stationery, since Johnny Marco is in residence there. So I started sending notes to people and I got mail at the hotel - as Johnny Marco. On this movie, I tried to live the part more."

Production designer Anne Ross was reteaming with the writer/director, and reveals that "Sofia Coppola and I always work from the details out, and she is very specific on those; [before production,] she will assemble a book with images that tell the story. These are things and ideas that she pulls together; with people helping her implement them, it's what the film ends up looking and feeling like. Some of them show up on-screen, and some of them don't. There are threads in her work[s] visually, which is one reason I love collaborating with her.

"The goal with Somewhere was to maintain the iconic feeling of the Chateau, so that no one would know that we did anything [in the way of adjustments to the interiors], that they would say 'They just went in and shot.' Now, there were things in the hotel that we had to change only because they weren't conducive to filming. But whatever was done, we did with an eye towards keeping things true to the essence of the hotel. It is, after all, a character in itself. While we were there, we found out different pieces of history about the Chateau."

The "renovations" were subtle. "When you're in your hotel room, you want a big TV," notes Anne Ross. "But on film, you need something a little smaller or it will eat up the frame. We had to change all of the art in Johnny Marco's suite because none [of the existing pieces] is cleared. We picked ones that were in the spirit of the artwork.

"We also reupholstered some of the furniture with fabric that's reminiscent of the lobby. We wanted to bring some of the beautiful, lush look of the lobby in there because the rooms at the Chateau are often stark and sparse; they're painted all white, and I love that, but that can be too harsh for filming in such an intimate space. We didn't change a thing in the lobby."

With the color palette at the Chateau's interiors so neutral, Anne Ross relied on pops of color to break up the space. She notes that the production dubbed one color "Somewhere yellow; it's an electric, acid-y yellow that we tried to bring into the sets themselves or with the props throughout."

In introducing more color into the hotel settings, Anne Ross closely coordinated efforts with costume designer Stacey Battat. Anne Ross reports that "even though Stacey Battat and I hadn't known each other [prior to filming], because we both know Sofia so well there was a shorthand. Sofia Coppola knows what she wants; she will calmly give a concise opinion about why she likes or doesn't like something.

"Stacey Battat would show me what she planned to dress Cleo in, and my team would try to complement that with the luggage we chose for the character. When Cleo shows up, things get more colorful - in a literal way. Because we were not building [sets or rooms], the palette was in many ways dictated by space [within the Chateau]."

Stacey Battat says, "Anne Ross and I showed each other our reference books to collaborate. Working with a production designer is like building a doll house; the production designer builds the house, and I make the dolls."

For Johnny Marco's sartorial style, Sofia Coppola asked Stacey Battat to look to Bruce Weber photos and Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho for inspiration. The costume designer offers, "We knew we wanted Johnny Marco to wear work boots, and the brown boots we ended up using were vintage Red Wings from the 1940s. We wanted him to recall Marlon Brando, wearing T-shirts and vintage Levi's jeans. Even though he's a movie star of today, he wears classic clothes.

"His wardrobe is reflective of his personality, but also that he is messy. He will sleep in his clothes, and doesn't own pajamas. When he goes to Italy with his daughter, he realises he needs pajamas - so, in my imagination, he went to the fancy shop and got the polka-dotted ones you see in the movie."

With the character of Cleo, Stacey Battat took even more artistic license. She remarks, "Though the character is in part inspired by a certain girl of that age, Sofia Coppola and I decided that Cleo should be our concept of an 11-year-old. She carries herself as an adult in some ways; it's not that she looks or dresses like one, but she's more styled and chic than a typical kid. So, for example, she wears a little Hermès bracelet."

Stacey Battat cites the twins' matching costumes as "my favorites of the movie. It was a challenge to make them be sexy but not trashy. For the tennis outfits, we searched around until we finally found what we wanted, with sneakers that look like tennis shoes but are high-heeled.

"One of my favorite sequences overall was the Telegatto Awards, for which we watched a DVD of the [actual 2008] ceremony. At the Telegattos, Cleo is sitting in the audience and there's such a contrast between her and the people sitting around her. She looks natural, while with their sequins, glamour, and tans the others don't; to me, they represent the excess in Johnny Marco's life, while Cleo is there as this pure soul."

Of working with director of photography Harris Savides, who on Somewhere was also camera operator, Anne Ross states, "He makes everything you do look better, look so much better than you even thought it would because he's so talented."

Stacey Battat adds, "You always have to factor in that some things won't work on-camera. But with Harris, nearly everything does because he's a great DP; he can light a scene in a way so that the white is not too bright or so that stripes don't waver.

"Sofia Coppola was so good at steering us to make the visual elements line up exactly how she wanted them to."

The departments' coordination was made that much easier because the production had bought out the whole fifth floor of the Chateau to set up shop on for the three-week shoot; there you could find, as location manager Stephenson Crossley recounts, "the camera room, the grip and electric room, the production room, the art department room, the hair and make-up room, and the [Johnny Marco] room that we were shooting in. There was a balcony around the outside, so we could move from room to room along the balcony."

Stephenson Crossley found the Chateau to be "amazingly quiet for being so close to the Sunset Strip. Even room to room, it's quiet; with the thick floors and ceilings, we wouldn't hear each other. It's a little island unto itself.

We always felt protected; the staff was amazing. Many of them have worked there for decades and are like a family."

With the production pared down and largely filming in Johnny Marco's room, the movie got made while the hotel remained open and operational the entire time. Stephen Dorff's room, with a layout almost identical to Johnny's, was one floor up.

Pavel admits, "Having a production crew in a 24-hour, fully functioning hotel was not without its difficulties. Despite that, we loved having Sofia Coppola, Roman Coppola, G. Mac Brown, and their team here."

Following shooting at the Chateau Marmont and at various locations around Los Angeles and California, the unit decamped to Las Vegas for one day of shooting. The final leg of production took the unit all the way to Italy.

Elle Fanning says that she "had never been to Italy, and I had been told that Milan is the fashion capital of the world, so I was excited to go. I liked visiting the places that were from another era - and the pasta and pizza were so good!

"Many of the crew there didn't speak English, and I don't speak Italian, so we had to get someone in to translate. It felt like we were always playing the game of Telephone; you're telling someone what to say, they're repeating it..."

Roman Coppola describes Milan as having "a certain amount of chaos that's just part of the culture there, and we were far away from home turf."

Yet the spirit and the letter of the production remained intact. G. Mac Brown says affectionately, "Everything in Italy starts out 'impossible!' and then it becomes 'maybe' and eventually they give you the go-ahead. I think the Italians learned a lot from us because we were a smaller production. I kept telling them that we didn't need so much."

As the project's veteran of big-budget productions, G. Mac Brown feels that Somewhere is a film of moments rarely found in movies these days. He explains, "There's a scene where Johnny Marco lights a Camel Lights cigarette and smokes it, in real time, all in one shot. It comes at a point in the movie where we're on board with this character and understand where he is at in his journey.

"I know that Harris and Sofia Coppola and [film editor] Sarah Flack all agree that when you call out 'cut,' or make a cut, you're controlling the emotion rather than letting the filmgoer experience it. The style of filmmaking, and of telling the story, on Somewhere was to let the emotions go and to let the scenes roll out in a natural way. That frees everybody up."

Stephen Dorff reflects, "There were these moments that Sofia Coppola wanted to be in real time. I've smoked in movies before, but I've never smoked a whole cigarette [straight through]. To sit in a room on-camera for minutes on end and not get self-conscious was a challenge. Sofia was there and crew members were there, yet it felt like I was alone with my own thoughts. It was an enlightening way of working on film, one I'd never experienced before as an actor.

"The emotions in Somewhere are real, but subtle. Sofia Coppola, being both open and precise, created a foundation where Elle Fanning and I could get to them. It had been a long time since I'd been on a set where there wasn't a bunch of monitors being watched; Sofia Coppola would always be watching us."

Interview with Sofia Coppola

Question: Can you address the frequency of hotels in your work?

Sofia Coppola: Oh, yes - Versailles was like a hotel, too, in Marie Antoinette!

Question: It dates back to [the segment of New York Stories that you co-wrote,] "Life without Zoe" -

Sofia Coppola: Yeah. When I was writing Somewhere, I thought, "Oh, here I am in a hotel again." When I was growing up, we spent a lot of time in them, off-and-on, going on location with my dad [Francis Ford Coppola] when he was filming in different places. As a kid, I always thought it was interesting to see the people staying in hotels, and fun to be in hotels. They become their own world inside.

Question: Overall, how does place relate to and/or influence the character you're writing? In Somewhere, it would seem that the Chateau becomes identified with Johnny's feeling trapped and unable to mature.

Sofia Coppola: When I'm starting writing, I usually start with the character and then the location is next, closely following the main character; which city? Which hotel? [laughs] That shapes it.

A couple of years ago, I was working on a different script, a vampire story. There was this Hollywood movie star character who popped into that story. He kept coming into my thoughts and demanding my attention, and I figured that he really needed his own movie.

So, on Somewhere, I started with this character of Johnny Marco. I thought, "He lives in the Chateau Marmont," because it seems like every young actor I've talked to has a story about living at the Chateau. They've all done a stint there; "Oh yeah, I lived there a year," or "I lived at the Chateau for a couple of months."

It's kind of a rite of passage; it's so linked with making it in Hollywood while showing that you're still down-to-earth.

Question: That mindset probably took root back in the 1960s and 1970s, in the [Chateau-neighboring] Sunset Strip heyday

Sofia Coppola: It's always had a decadent appeal. I went there as a kid, before its latest incarnation. I remember in the 1990s, there were stories of actors or rock stars trashing their rooms. These stories became fragments of scenes when I started writing this script, connecting them to the Johnny Marco character.

Question: Could you elaborate on the title a little?

Sofia Coppola: It's funny; Somewhere was a temporary title, but it just stuck. Since I wanted the movie to be like a tone poem of this time in this guy's life, it reflected his knowing he needs to go somewhere - but he doesn't know where exactly.

The movie is set in modern-day Hollywood, but it's not really about the film business, and you don't see him working as an actor; anyone can relate to the universal themes of family and personal crisis.

Question: Speaking of the exact locale, you've gone all over the globe to make movies but you've never done an "L.A. story" until this one. Your initial description of this movie was as "an intimate story set in contemporary Los Angeles." Did you just feel it was time to explore that city?

Sofia Coppola: When I was [living] there [in California], I wrote about faraway, distant places. I was living in Paris after our daughter was born, and maybe that distance or some homesickness for America made me want to look at California.

But I've always loved those iconic movies about L.A., like Shampoo and American Gigolo, and I couldn't think of one recently that had captured the mood and the feeling of L.A. today. In starting with the character, I thought of American pop culture today, its fascination with fame and what that brings with it.

Question: The films you just referenced notably have male protagonists who pretty much have it all, are swaggering, and are brought low by varying degrees during the course of the stories.

Sofia Coppola: Right, but I wasn't thinking directly of those characters - more of the [movies'] mood. I was thinking of successful movie stars who had died or made suicide attempts. I was curious; if you're in a nonstop partying lifestyle with girls and drugs and all, what is that like in the morning? Do you take a moment to reflect when you're alone with yourself?

Question: In going back to L.A. to make this movie on location, how did you feel the city has changed in the 21st century?

Sofia Coppola: Well, I lived in L.A. in the early 1990s, and it wasI don't want to say "more innocent," but it was before US Weekly [relaunched], tabloids [flourished], and so many celebrity party people. It had a different feeling; the Chateau Marmont wasn't getting paparazzi, and there weren't reality shows. It seems that there's an abundance [of those shows] now, and it seems like people were checking into the Chateau just to be photographed. The Chateau Marmont used to be more of a private world, but now it's become the center of that part of pop culture.

Question: It became more of an open secret; "It's private here -"

Sofia Coppola: But I want to be photographed.

Question: In terms of logistics, after your previous film Marie Antoinette, this was going to be much simpler to make. But is it in fact hard to make a movie in L.A. today?

Sofia Coppola: I didn't find it to be [so]; we were working under the radar and didn't have superstars, so we could move around and do our thing. After Marie Antoinette, which had so many costumes and extras, it was liberating to have a smaller crew and so something closer to my experience with Lost in Translation. This was the most low-stress, pleasant shoot I've ever had.

For me, this was a good experiment; centering a movie around just two characters, focusing on their intimate story and also spending a lot of time with one [of them] alone. I didn't want [anyone watching the movie] to be aware of the filmmaking, so you can just be there with the character.

Question: So the aesthetic was informing the story as you were writing it?

Sofia Coppola: Definitely - what it was like when he's alone with himself at the Chateau; that moment of having to look at yourself, which is always scary for anyone. There are so many distractions in modern life, especially in the culture around show business in L.A. You can distract yourself forever; when do you put those [distractions] aside and really look at yourself? The intention was to take the time to be alone in the room with Johnny; the script was very minimal.

Question: Did you have a plan B if the Chateau did not agree to host the filming? Was there any hotel on back-up?

Sofia Coppola: No. It had to be [the Chateau] - it was an essential element, the third [main] character in the movie. A lot of times, I don't have a plan B; I just have to find a way to make it work. Or then rethink the whole thing.

Luckily, the owner, André Balazs, and the general manager, Philip Pavel, were very gracious to open it to us.

Question: And you didn't have to ask to move or knock down any walls?

Sofia Coppola: Right. [Director of photography] Harris Savides is impressive, because he can shoot wherever [you request]. He's up for it! I thought with the twins [sequences], we'd have to be in a bigger room, but we managed to move things around and make it work.

Question: How did you come to team up with Harris?

Sofia Coppola: My friend Anne Ross, our production designer, had worked with him. I had met him over the years, and had always admired his work. Anne was a bit of a matchmaker; she said, "Oh, you'll love working with Harris." We ended up shooting a commercial the summer before [filming Somewhere]. We worked really well together; also, I was working on the Somewhere script around when we did the commercial, and talking with him about movies and filmmaking inspired me to try this more minimal style and got me excited to work in a way I hadn't before.

Harris and I like similar photography; he gets fashion references, because he's worked in that world. He embraced the minimal and naturalistic style on this movie; we weren't encumbered by a lot of set-up time and equipment, and we could be free in how we approached shooting it. I loved the way he shot it in natural light. I'm not one of those people who storyboard everything or plan everything before; I like to try things and then figure it out as we go, and Harris is open to working the same way.

Question: Yet the movie seems classically shot, not on-the-fly - and it was on 35-millimeter film, rather than in hi-definition [HD] digital.

Sofia Coppola: I've always shot on film. My dad is really into HD, and he thinks it's sweet that my brother Roman and I are so sentimental and love film. It has a beautiful quality that is unique, and I hope that we can shoot on it for a little while longer.

The set of lenses we used to shoot Somewhere were the actual ones that my dad shot Rumble Fish [(1983)] on. Roman said that we had them, Harris wanted to try them, and Rumble Fish is a favorite of mine. So I thought, let's use them. The lenses were in storage, and we had them all cleaned up and restored. These are Zeiss lenses, which have a softer quality; we're so used to super-sharp with hi-def, but with this I wanted to have a romantic feeling [in the cinematography].

Question: There's no romance in the movie per se, but rather the great love of a father and daughter. How close to you is the character of Cleo?

Sofia Coppola: The character of Cleo was inspired by a friend's kid that age whose parents are in show business, but also by my memories of having a powerful father that people are attracted to being around and having a dad who did things that were kind of out of the ordinary. It's not all me, but there's things from my childhood.

In everything I do [as a writer/director], there's a personal connection. Your life experiences are going to inform what you write about. After Lost in Translation, this is my only other original screenplay [to have been filmed]. I feel that those movies are more personal than ones based on a book or something else, because you fill them with your own experiences and thoughts. I admire personal filmmaking, movies that come from a point of view unique to that person making it. So I try to do that. I try to make personal films.

Question: But you're still open to writing and directing adaptations?

Sofia Coppola: Yes, because I enjoy adapting. With The Virgin Suicides, I loved that book, and I wanted to make the movie version. What's fun is figuring out the puzzle of how you're going to adapt. It's a little less scary than writing an original screenplay, where you have nothing to look at [first]. Writing original screenplays can push you to make something that you maybe didn't know you were interested in.

Question: With your films' lead characters, you come down on the side of empathetic rather than judgmental or condescending.

Sofia Coppola: I want to tell their stories, imagining what it's like for that person at a point of transition in their lives. On Somewhere, I wanted to be in Johnny's head. Because this [character] was a guy and my other films have been more about women, I asked Stephen a lot of questions. But I also had a sense of Johnny from people I knew.

What you try to do is, try to show a point of view that someone might not otherwise see. I've seen privileged worlds; if you're outside one, you might think it would completely fulfill you, but that's not necessarily so.

Question: Any frequent moviegoer has their own Johnny Marco - actors or actresses we are loyal to but who maybe haven't made the most of their potential.

Sofia Coppola: There's ones that you like, actors that you're rooting for. There have been bad-boy actors who either grew up a little, chose to have families, or went the route of being the old guy at the club and never evolved. I wanted Johnny to be right at that moment in his life where he has to look at himself and choose - which I feel is something that anyone can relate to, having to make that decision of what kind of person you're going to be.

So Johnny was a mix of people I know or have met, and stories heard. There were people that I talked to who thought it was them [that Johnny was based on].

Question: What were your conversations with Stephen like?

Sofia Coppola: I counted on Stephen to collaborate. I've always thought he was talented. I've known him a while and I wanted to see him doing something he hadn't [yet] done - a side he hadn't shown audiences. When I sent him the script, he said, "I get it. I totally can relate to this guy." Stephen has a reputation for being out and about with girls, but he also has a little sister around Cleo's age that he's close with.

Question: Did you write the script with Stephen in mind?

Sofia Coppola: When I was working on that other script and this character came into my head, I pictured Stephen from the beginning. Other actors were suggested to me [later], but I came back to my first [choice], Stephen.

Question: How did Elle Fanning come to your attention to play Cleo?

Sofia Coppola: I was in L.A. meeting with [executive producer] Fred Roos and he told me that he had seen Elle at a screening of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which she had a part in and which he said she was great in, and that in person she just had something about her - and that we should meet her. I was thinking, "Oh, she's going to be this pr


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