Sofia Coppola's "Bling Ring" at Home in Decadent Cannes

"The Bling Ring," which opened Cannes' Un Certain Regard section, is Coppola's third film in a row that deals heavily with the famous.

By Jake Coyle
|  Thursday, May 16, 2013  |  Updated 5:39 PM EDT
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From left, actors Claire Julien, Emma Watson, and director Sofia Coppola pose for photographers as they arrive for the screening of the film "The Bling Ring" at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, Thursday, May 16, 2013.

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Sofia Coppola was just 8 years old when she first came to the Cannes Film Festival. Her father, Francis Ford Coppola, was there to premiere a work-in-progress cut of a film he had spent years wrestling with: "Apocalypse Now."

"I have nice memories of Cannes," Coppola said in an interview Thursday on the roof of the Palais, the festival center. "I remember coming here as a kid and then my first movie, 'Virgin Suicides,' had our first screening ever here. I feel like my career started here."

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Growing up in such surroundings, one would think, would have heavily informed Coppola's latest film, "The Bling Ring," a deadpan drama about celebrity-obsessed teenagers in Los Angeles who break into the homes of Paris Hilton and other stars. But Coppola says the movie world she grew up in isn't the same as today's star-crazed culture.

"I definitely noticed that people would act different around my dad. It was just part of my growing up," Coppola says. "This world feels unfamiliar to me, this kind of reality-star, tabloid culture."

"The Bling Ring," which opened Cannes' Un Certain Regard section Thursday, is Coppola's third film in a row that deals heavily with the famous. Following her "Marie Antoinette" (her modern-styled take on the French royal) was 2010's "Somewhere," a minimalist drama about a renowned actor and his 11-year-old daughter.

"The Bling Ring" is based on a true story, recounted in a Vanity Fair article, about high-schoolers who, after seeing online when certain stars are expected at a premiere or other event, take the opportunity to steal designer bags, shoes and clothes from their homes, lingering to pretend to live in celebrity opulence.

There's wry irony in premiering such a film at Cannes, the decadent French Riviera resort town of high-end boutiques and luxury hotels.

"It seems like the perfect setting for 'The Bling Ring' when you see people walking around in their heels," says Coppola, who favors a less flashy style. "It's a glamorous place, so it feels appropriate."

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Coppola cast mainly newcomers in the lead roles (Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Claire Julien), with the notable exception of "Harry Potter" star Emma Watson, who assumes a thick Valley Girl accent for her character. Watson praised Coppola for her easy calm; Chang noted her gentle openness with actors.

"The Bling Ring," which will be released in the U.S. on June 14, has already drawn comparisons to the recent, day-glo debauchery of Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers." The differences between the two films are many, but both feature the thrill of young, attractive girls breaking bad for the sake of glorious superficiality. (The movies also share a new distributor, A24 Films.)

Though Coppola hasn't seen "Spring Breakers," she says, "I can understand that there's this sort of trash culture aspect that's in the air."

And if there's an epicenter of that culture, it may be Paris Hilton's shoe closet. Coppola shot in Hilton's mansion where the teens rummage through her footwear and lounge in her nightclub room. (The hotel heiress appears fleetingly in the film.)

Like "Somewhere," ''Bling Ring" paints a light, hazy portrait of Los Angeles.

"I wasn't trying to do a story about L.A. I just came across this article, and you couldn't set it somewhere else," says Coppola, who lived in L.A. in her 20s but now resides in New York with her husband, Thomas Mars of the band Phoenix, and their two daughters.

"There's something exotic about it, and it's not like anywhere else. To me, it's the center of this aspect our culture."

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