Interview: 'Somewhere' Director Sofia Coppola, Star Stephen Dorff In Sofia Coppola's film Somewhere, Stephen Dorff plays a Hollywood star whose personal life isn't nearly as glamorous as his public persona. In an interview with NPR's Melissa Block, the two talk about how to convincingly put inert unhappiness on the big screen.

For Coppola, Dorff, A Realistic Look At 'Somewhere'

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Here are the key characters in the new movie "Somewhere," from Sofia Coppola. A divorced Hollywood actor named Johnny Marco, numbed by booze and pills and lots of women. His sweet, 11-year-old daughter, Cleo, who arrives unexpectedly. And the L.A. hotel the Chateau Marmont is also a key player in the film. It's where Johnny Marco lives, and comes to terms with the emptiness of his life.

In this scene, father and daughter are in his black Ferrari. They're driving back from her ice skating lesson.

(Soundbite of movie, "Somewhere")

Mr. STEPHEN DORFF (Actor): (as Johnny Marco) You're really good.

Ms. ELLE FANNING (Actress): (as Cleo) Thanks.

Mr. DORFF: (as Johnny Marco) Where'd you learn how to ice skate?

Ms. FANNING: (as Cleo) I've been going for three years.

Mr. DORFF: (as Johnny Marco) Really?

BLOCK: That's Stephen Dorff as Johnny Marco. He joins us from New York along with Sofia Coppola, who wrote, directed and produced "Somewhere."

Hi to you both.

Ms. SOFIA COPPOLA (Writer, Director and Producer, "Somewhere"): Hi. Hello.

Mr. DORFF: Hi.

BLOCK: And let's talk about this character, Johnny Marco. He's got the Ferrari. He has twins coming to his room to do pole dances for him. But he also has no real connections in his life. And he seems very unhappy. Sofia Coppola, tell us about creating this character, where he came from for you.

Ms. COPPOLA: I was thinking about this kind of guy I've seen - these kind of successful, movie-star types with - have a party lifestyle and, you know, lots of different women. And I just wondered people - they go, it looks really fun, but I imagined what the other side of his life might be like, and what it could be like in his private moments. And yeah, so his life has become out of balance when we meet him in the beginning, and he's drifting.

BLOCK: And Stephen Dorff, you're drifting. You're also falling asleep a lot of the time. You fall asleep during that pole dance that I mentioned. You fall asleep - actually, at one point - during sex.

(Soundbite of movie, "Somewhere")

Unidentified Woman (Actress): (as character) Johnny? Johnny?

Mr. DORFF: Yeah, he sleeps a lot, Johnny Marco. Yeah, it took some good sleep acting.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DORFF: I tried to be really tired because I always find in movies that people waking up or falling asleep, it always seems a little acted. So it felt very real, everything in this film.

BLOCK: Sofia, you've called this movie a tone poem, which is more about mood than about action or speech, really. And I just wonder if with the pacing being as languid as it is, do you worry about losing viewers who are really used - by now -to fast cuts and a lot of stuff happening quickly?

Ms. COPPOLA: Yeah. I mean, I think it's refreshing for an audience to get to, you know, just have a little space to breathe and be with this character. And we tried this - the pacing was different than most movies today. I feel a lot of times, you're just bombarded with images and music. And we were trying to - I was trying to make something more minimal - and give the audience breathing room, and just a moment to kind of be there with the character. And it was a balance, I think, to be able to try this style where it's a slower pace but also still keeping the audience engaged.

BLOCK: Well, the empty life that Johnny Marco is living at the Chateau Marmont is upended when his daughter arrives - Cleo.

(Soundbite of movie, "Somewhere")

Ms. FANNING: (as Cleo) Hi, Dad.

Mr. DORFF: (as Johnny Marco) Hey, Cleo.

BLOCK: It's interesting because they clearly have a wonderful connection even though he obviously doesn't know her very well. How did you rehearse for that? How did you try to create a bond, a father-daughter bond between these two characters?

Ms. COPPOLA: Yeah. For me, it was really important that they - you know, that you really felt their connection, not just that they had met a few weeks before. So we did rehearsals and improvisations, and I asked Stephen to pick her up at school and really take her to do some things. That's something I learned from my dad - where he used to do that with actors, where they would have family scenes and whatever, to give the characters memories.

BLOCK: You learned this from your dad, Francis Ford Coppola?

Ms. COPPOLA: Yeah. He would do that with, you know, with rehearsing and put the families together. And I've done that with my other films, and that's - I found it really adds a lot to it so - but it was cute; Stephen and Elle would come back and tell me the things they did together.

BLOCK: Stephen, what would you do with the actress who plays your daughter, Elle Fanning?

Mr. DORFF: Well, Sophia, the first thing was - I was cleared by her family, by Elle's family to pick her up from school. And I think the initial shock was, you know, I asked - I think - Sophia, is there going to be a guardian or anybody? And she's like no, no, it's just you guys. And I was like, OK.

And then as I was driving over there, my car was kind of smoky because I smoke, and I was kind of worried about like, being responsible. And it was kind of neat because it kind of put me - being, obviously, not being a father yet; I don't really know what it's like to really hang out with an 11-year-old in my car, and drive her around town and where she'd want to go so - and the weird thing was that I went to the school that she goes to, so it's kind of strange.

So I was pulling in, and I picked her up in my car. And I'd kind of sprayed some air freshener and asked her to put her seatbelt on, and really focused on my driving. And we went for a yogurt together because she didn't want ice cream. We went to Pinkberry. And then we went to this cool place called Color Me Mine, which is a pottery place...

BLOCK: Oh, yeah.

Mr. DORFF: ...where we could, you know - kids can like, make stuff and then they cook it in the oven, and then you pick it up the next day. And so we had this like - kind of little adventures on our own. And what was great was, we got to kind of fight through the awkwardness and the nervousness of just meeting each other, and kind of develop the friendship and a trust.

And so much of the movie was like, working with my equal. I had to try to sometimes remember - oh, Elle's only 11, you know, because she's such a great actress, and such a great girl. I went to her volleyball games. It was just kind of nice that Sophia gave us that time. So then when it came time to come on the set, we really could do anything.

Ms. COPPOLA: Yeah, I felt by the time we started shooting, they had a rapport and all these kind of private jokes, and I think we feel - their bond comes through.

BLOCK: Well, Stephen Dorff and Sophia Coppola, thanks so much.

Mr. DORFF: Thank you.

Ms. COPPOLA: Thanks for having us.

BLOCK: Sophia Coppola wrote, directed and produced the new film "Somewhere," starring Stephen Dorff.

(Soundbite of music)


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