Entertainment & Arts

Sofia Coppola returns with 'intimate' film at Venice

Sofia Coppola with actors Stephen Dorff (l) and Elle Fanning (r)
Image caption Somewhere was premiered on Friday at the Venice Film Festival

It is directed by Sofia Coppola, it has a slightly unreal setting and it is a love story with much left unsaid.

But this isn't Lost in Translation. It is Coppola's new film Somewhere, which had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Friday.

Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning star as a father and young daughter living a privileged but dislocated life in Los Angeles.

"I look at pop culture and reality shows today and the tabloids, and I wonder why on earth so many people aspire to be famous," explains Coppola.

"When I was writing the script, I had just had my first baby and I was thinking how much it impacts on you.

"I based this on a friend who has a daughter that age whose parents live in Hollywood. I also drew on my own childhood memories of trips I took with my father."

As the daughter of director Francis Ford Coppola - who also acted as producer on the film - Coppola's childhood memories are of the movie industry.

These feed into the film's depiction of Johnny Marco, an actor who doesn't know what to do with his success.

Image caption Elle Fanning - sister of Dakota - plays Dorff's daughter in Somewhere

Johnny, played by Dorff, lives at Hollywood's famous Chateau Marmont but spends hours either sitting on his couch or driving his Ferrari.

His loneliness is transformed when his 11-year-old daughter Cleo, played by Fanning, comes to stay.

"I think Johnny would have liked to have a movie role in a film like Somewhere," smiles Dorff.

"He's a guy who wanted to be known for this kind of thing, rather than Berlin Agenda - the movie role which has made him successful.

"He's not ready for that success and has spun into isolation. He's lonely and sad, yet he has a sweetness that comes entirely from Sofia.

"She wanted him to be lost but a good person. Ultimately, he's an adolescent father who becomes a man in this film."

"I'd known Stephen for years," adds Coppola. "He has so much heart and is so sincere.

"Johnny is a flawed guy. I needed someone with that heart to play him and to bring that sweetness to his relationship with his daughter."

As she did with Bill Murray in Lost in Translation, Coppola has brought 37-year-old Dorff back into the spotlight. The actor certainly considers the role an opportunity of a lifetime.

"Sofia fought for me to be in the movie, which says a lot about knowing what she wants as a film-maker," he says.

"It is hands down the hardest role I have ever played as there are no tricks; there's nothing to hide behind. There's also the challenge of saying things without actually saying them out loud.

"I'm not a father myself, but I do have two young sisters and I had to try and develop that kind of relationship with Elle Fanning.

"So I used to pick her up from school and take her to her volleyball games, and that gave me a taste of responsibility.

"But the more time we spent together, the more we bonded and by the time we were shooting, we never felt like we were having to try.

"I actually couldn't have asked for a better director or actress."

Coppola's last movie, Marie Antoinette, was booed by the press when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2006.

But Somewhere - which marks a return to the methods she used in Lost in Translation - received a much warmer reception in Venice.

"When I made Marie Antoinette, there were hundreds of extras and costumes, which was great," she remembers.

"But after that I thought, 'I want to go back to making an intimate film, exploring one or two characters.'

Image caption Kirsten Dunst played Marie Antoinette in Coppola's 2006 film

"I wanted to make this as close to real life and as natural as possible. I love the moments in life where there are things left unsaid between two people, but there is a perfect understanding."

Venice is one of the traditional launch pads for potential Oscar contenders, and there is every chance Somewhere will figure in the upcoming awards season.

For now, though, Coppola accepts that as a director she will always be living up to her 2003 success.

"I get people saying 'I love this film, but I really loved Lost in Translation,'" she says. "So did I, but what can I do? I can't make it again.

"I'm glad it opened up doors for female directors, though, and I'm humbled when friends' daughters come up to me and say 'I want to be like you.'

"So many more women are making films. I'm so glad as there will be plenty more points of view of the world to see."

Somewhere is due out in UK cinemas next year.

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