“I never expected to win a prize for anything for my films,” says writer-director Sofia Coppola, who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2004 for Lost in Translation and whose latest, Somewhere, recently took home the Best Picture prize at the Venice Film Festival. When RT caught up with her recently, the quiet, modestly spoken Coppola seemed humbled by the attention, preferring to talk about vintage camera lenses and sound-mixing Ferrari engines rather than the Awards-season circus.
Indeed, the image that opens Somewhere — Stephen Dorff’s Hollywood drifter doing laps in his Ferrari in the desert — was the impetus for the film. “I imagine these guys with sports car collections, they have to bring it to some track outside the city to have to be able to drive them,” says Coppola, “so I imagined him in the middle of nowhere, kind of going around in circles, to introduce the state he’s in. I started with him and the Ferrari, and then I thought about the Chateau Marmont and the stories of people I knew, or things I’ve heard, around there, and sort of put them all together.”
“I pictured Stephen early on, just as kind of this lost, bad boy LA actor,” the director continues. “I just felt like he was the right guy for the part; I’d met him and I knew him over the years and I always thought he was a good actor.” It’s a subtle, affecting performance from Dorff, whose character — a bored actor adrift in the purgatory of his own fame — comprises a lot of wordless, long takes. “Stephen’s so sweet that I felt like that would help make you care about watching the character,” says Coppola. “He’s so flawed that you could easily not be interested, but I felt that he’s got so much heart that he could connect people to it.”
Curiously, Coppola shot the film using old Zeiss lenses once used by her father, Francis. It’s perhaps ironic that Coppola senior is now once of digital’s biggest advocates, and at one point had even wondered why his daughter would want to film on archaic stock. “I think he appreciates it now,” she laughs, “but I remember he and George Lucas a while back saying, ‘Oh, you have to start shooting on digital — why are you using film?'”
Well, that explains the first of her five favorite films…
I love that it’s an art film about teenagers. I just love the way that it’s shot — I love those old lenses, those Zeiss lenses; they have a softer feel. [Coppola and her DP, Harris Savvides, used the lenses from Rumble Fish to shoot Somewhere.] Roman [Coppola, her brother] and I are just sentimental about film.
The Godard version. [On the similarities between the moving car jump cuts in Somewhere:] I guess I was going through that whole New Wave thing… coming from a documentary background.
That was one of my favorite films when I was growing up, and I’ll still watch it every time it’s on.
I love Kubrick. I love the way he put that film together, the way it’s filmed. Just some of the shots he did there, like the reverse shot in the car window with the monster.
It’s just a beautiful film.
Somewhere is in theaters this week. Click here to read our chat with Stephen Dorff , who also talks his five favorite films.