By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Somewhere is Coppola's first film set in Los Angeles and her first to deal directly with the emotional consequences of a professional Hollywood life. But in order for her to consider Los Angeles a worthy subject, she first had to leave it.
As Lost in Translation neared the awards-season finish line, Coppola and her husband, Spiegel catalog-heir-turned-skate-videographer-turned-quirky-prestige-film-director Spike Jonze, announced they were filing for divorce. Coppola and Jonze, who dated for years before tying the knot in 1999, had personified the creative couple as a brand. The split fueled speculation that Translation's portrait of a bookish young wife floundering under the neglect of a toxic hipster photographer husband was a memoir of Coppola's own marriage, if not a cry for help.
During this period, Coppola moved to New York and then, after winning the Oscar, headed to Paris to prep her third feature, Marie Antoinette. Infusing the story of the Austrian princess/French queen/infamous headless woman with the pop-punk spirit of her own mid-'80s teen years, Coppola presented Versailles as a dizzying adolescent fantasy, positing the last years of the French monarchy as an all-consuming teenage house party, obscuring the Revolution until it reached the palace gates. Soundtracked with anachronistic new-wave dance pop and post-punk, peopled with comic actors (Rip Torn, Steve Coogan, Molly Shannon) and pulsing with sensual energy, it's a satire that slowly, imperceptibly builds sympathy for its heroine without fully letting her off the hook for her solipsism and shallow excess. Coppola refused the tropes of the period biopic—and ended the film before the queen's execution.
"I knew it was sort of obnoxious and ballsy for me to make that movie, but for me that was part of the fun of it," Coppola says. "To do it in that spirit, of being a rebellious teenager."
With its hordes of extras, extravagant set, costumes and location shooting at Versailles, the film reportedly cost $40 million. In the United States, it grossed just a quarter of its budget.
About a month after Marie Antoinette opened in the States, Coppola gave birth to Romy, her first daughter with Thomas Mars, who has contributed music to each of her features. Her new family established in France, she started thinking about where she came from.
"I was living in Paris, and I was homesick," she recalls. "In France, it's so different, and I was thinking about L.A., how it seems like our whole pop culture is so interested in celebrity, and how people all know about the Chateau Marmont. There have been iconic L.A. movies that I always loved, and I thought, 'We haven't had one showing today, this era of L.A.'"
The goal: Take the single-faceted, ripped-from-the-red-carpet "lifestyle," which since the advent of out-of-state tax credits seems to be Hollywood proper's biggest export, and "show another side of that, and to think about how fulfilling that really is. It looks like these guys are having this fun party lifestyle, but what would that really be like? What it's like the next morning?"
"I t's like the flip side of Entourage. I despise that show. This is the opposite."
Stephen Dorff is on the phone from San Francisco where—shades of the movie he's promoting—he's exhausted and borderline disoriented after an all-night flight and grueling schedule.
"I think being an actor is a very lonely job, and that's probably the reason why you read about a lot of people that go off the deep end. In a hotel room, when the party stops, when the camera stops, when the junket stops, it's like, 'What now?'"
Coppola admits that both Fanning's Cleo and Dorff's Johnny contain elements of her personality and autobiography (and certainly, if you read her mother, Eleanor Coppola's, memoirs, you'll find that parts of Somewhere are direct dramatizations of Coppola family history). But Dorff lived this story before it was written: The actor crashed at the Chateau for two months when he was 19, shortly after filming the role of Stuart Sutcliffe in the early-Beatles biopic Backbeat.
"I got back from England, and I didn't want to go home," he explains. "I had all this money, so I decided to just stay at the Chateau until they were like, 'Uh, Stephen, you have to go get another job.'"
Dorff's IMDB page mixes starring roles in undistinguished genre films (Blade, FearDotCom) with interesting indie character work (I Shot Andy Warhol) and straight-to-DVD schlock (Remember .45? I don't). "I could never get the leading man [parts]," he says. "My mom was always getting upset with me. 'Why are you always a bad guy?' 'Ask my agent, ask Hollywood. I don't make those decisions, Mom.'"
His mother died, Dorff says, "right before this movie just kind of dropped into my lap. I was not in a good place at all. I was shooting with Johnny Depp on Public Enemies for like, you know, two years or however long that movie took. It was more like six months, but it felt like forever, and I was very lost."
As Coppola was writing the role of the also very lost Johnny Marco, she had Dorff's image in her head. "I thought of this kind of bad-boy Hollywood actor character, and then he came to mind," Sofia says. "When I finished the script, I sent it to him and asked him to come meet with me because I hadn't seen him in many years and just see, you know, if we were on the same wavelength."