Few filmmakers today have such an instantly recognizable style and sensibility as Sofia Coppola, the woman behind Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. In her new film, she returns to the complicated world of teenagers she first explored in her 1999 debut The Virgin Suicides – but in The Bling Ring, she has written and directed a more high-energy, satirical piece, based on true events. She talks to Rico about Parisian Pillows, self-made celebrities, and singing in the jungle.
Rico Gagliano: The story of “Bling Ring” is based on a series of real-life robberies a few years ago. Were you following news of the events at the time they happened?
Sofia Coppola: I wasn’t following it at the time. I remember seeing it on the news and thinking, what a wild story, but I didn’t get into it. And then, I was on the airplane and a friend had a copy of Vanity Fair and I started reading the article about those kids called “The Suspects Wore Louboutins” that Nancy Jo Sales wrote.
Rico Gagliano: Right.
Sofia Coppola: And to hear the kids’ perspective on it, and it read like a movie to me. I felt like…
Rico Gagliano: Yeah.
Sofia Coppola: Someone’s gotta be making a movie of this.
Rico Gagliano: And it turned out to be you.
Sofia Coppola: Yeah, I didn’t think it would be. And I met Nancy Jo and she had so many more interesting stories that couldn’t fit in the article and she gave me a lot of her transcripts. And the more I read about it, the more fascinating I thought it was.
Rico Gagliano: What about the perspectives of those kids was so fascinating to you?
Sofia Coppola: Just the, they were just so engulfed in that world that they, you know, this kind of celebrity culture that they were into. And the boy talked about all his fans on Facebook, and how they became sort of like these celebrities that they were into.
Rico Gagliano: The thieves themselves… They became celebrities on their own in a way.
Sofia Coppola: Yeah, one of the girls was being interviewed by Vanity Fair and didn’t want to talk about the burglaries, as if they were just there to interview her about her style or opinions and…
Rico Gagliano: Her life. The burglaries were secondary.
Sofia Coppola: Yeah, exactly. So just the whole idea of how they were so obsessed with this kind of tabloid or celebrity culture and how they sort of became a part of it.
Rico Gagliano: You know, it’s interesting. I saw this movie right after seeing Harmony Korine’s film “Spring Breakers.” Very different movies. That one’s more of a noir, and this is is more kind of blatantly fun and satirical. But both of these are about teens wallowing in that shallow culture you’re speaking of. What do you think is in the zeitgeist that indie film is turning to this as a subject?
Sofia Coppola: Yeah, I haven’t seen “Spring Breakers” but, yeah, from what I can tell it’s definitely something’s in the air. I just think just that part of our culture is so big right now, and seems to be growing that it makes sense that we would be looking at that.
Rico Gagliano: Do you have a Facebook page?
Sofia Coppola: I don’t.
Rico Gagliano: Is that by design?
Sofia Coppola: Yeah, I just feel like I’m so busy in my real life that I can’t imagine have a whole other virtual one. But yeah, I feel like I get to share enough of myself through promoting my movies that I don’t have a desire to share more.
Rico Gagliano: You’re welcome, Sofia, I’m helping you do that right now.
Sofia Coppola: Yeah.
Rico Gagliano: I have to ask. Paris Hilton who is, of course, one of the celebrities whose homes were burgled, makes a cameo appearance in the movie as herself. And it’s my understanding you shot the scene set in her home, in her home, is that right?
Sofia Coppola: Yes. We shot the scenes of Paris’ house at her real house. So I think it’s exciting for the audience to get to see the real inside of Paris’ world.
Rico Gagliano: It is, but what do you want us to draw from that? That she was kind of a collaborator with you in this film.
Sofia Coppola: I know. I thought, I tried to make it authentic so I wanted to see her real house. And a friend of mine knew her and said, “Oh do you want to go see it?” And she let us in, and then she wanted to help us, and she showed me some surveillance footage from the real kids in her house.
Rico Gagliano: Oh my god.
Sofia Coppola: And for me, investigating this story, it was so exciting to be in one of the real places. Plus I’ve never seen anywhere like Paris’ house.
Rico Gagliano: I was gonna ask, you come from a show biz family of some means, but that house is extravagant to such an extreme. What was your first reaction?
Sofia Coppola: Yeah, I’ve never seen anything like it. The Paris pillows, and it’s like this kind of girl playhouse. It’s kind of how you would imagine Paris to live. I like that she’s so dedicated to her persona.
Rico Gagliano: That’s true. It takes a lot of dedication and money. But I think some of the power of the film is that we’re dazzled by that, but we’re also, especially in the economic times we’ve just gone through, can be repelled by just the overabundance of wealth in that house. Doesn’t letting the real Paris in on the joke in some way, like collaborating with her, sort of blunt that part of the satire?
Sofia Coppola: I mean, I think she has her whole persona. And I think there’s a playfulness in it. And I think, yeah it’s definitely to excess, but I think there’s a part in the movie that I wanted it to be fun and seductive. And it’s fun to look at but then also it’s too much and have the audience experience how they feel about it and what’s important to them.
Rico Gagliano: Did you talk to her about that? That this is how it might come off? This could be both a good and a bad thing?
Sofia Coppola: No. The fact that she said that she would let us film in her house, I was just like yes, we want to film there.
Rico Gagliano: There was no further….
Sofia Coppola: So we didn’t have long discussions about it.
Rico Gagliano: No further conversation necessary.
Sofia Coppola: But she’s seen it and she likes it, so, she’s much more aware of it and has a sense of humor more than you would expect.
Rico Gagliano: All right, we have two standard questions that we ask everyone on this show. The first one is: if we were to meet you at a dinner party, what question should we not ask you? What is the question that you are sick of answering?
Sofia Coppola: Yea, I feel like right now I’ve been promoting my movie so I’m a little burnt on “What drew you to doing The Bling Ring?”
Rico Gagliano: Sorry.
Sofia Coppola: No, but actually I’m glad to get it out there.
Rico Gagliano: I’m sure.
Sofia Coppola: But about that question, you could ask me anything at dinner.
Rico Gagliano: OK. Invite me over man, I have plenty. Our second question is: tell us something we don’t know. And this can be about anything, it can be about yourself, or just some random piece of trivia about the world.
Sofia Coppola: Oh. Well, that Paris Hilton has a sense of humor. That was something I learned in this movie.
Rico Gagliano: That’s certainly true.
Sofia Coppola: Something that you wouldn’t know. Well I won’t do it, but I can sing the Filipino national anthem. So that’s something you wouldn’t know about me.
Rico Gagliano: You won’t do it? Come on.
Sofia Coppola: No.
Rico Gagliano: This is radio gold.
Sofia Coppola: No, no, no.
Rico Gagliano: Can you even recite it? Like, in Filipino?
Sofia Coppola: No. I don’t think I would know how to. When I was a little kid I lived in the Philippines during Apocalypse Now.
Rico Gagliano: Oh, that’s right. That’s where your father shot Apocalypse Now.
Sofia Coppola: But that’s not that interesting. I’m trying to think of something interesting to share…
Rico Gagliano: That actually is kind of interesting. It hadn’t occurred to me that you would have been like very young when Apocalypse Now was being shot and it would have… Do you consider that kind of your first home?
Sofia Coppola: I mean, I have my early memories of being there, cause I was four or five.
Rico Gagliano: What an incredible childhood, especially on that movie which was known to be kind of plagued by disaster. Were you even aware of, kind of what was going on?
Sofia Coppola: No, no, I just thought it was fun to be in the jungle and being in helicopters….