GofG Video Interview: Sofia Coppola Talks Hotels and "Somewhere"

by Chloe Schildhause · December 13, 2010

Sofia Coppola has a mysterious fascination with hotels, from the high-rise in "Lost in Translation" to the Petite Maison in "Marie Antoinette." In Coppola’s latest film, "Somewhere," the iconic Château Marmont becomes a character in its own right. Eli Obus's video above explains this fixation.

"Somewhere," which premiered last night in New York at the Tribeca Grand Hotel, is the story of an lost-actor (Stephen Dorff) who reunites with his daughter (Elle Fanning) in this legendary Hollywood setting.

Hotels are always a little world in themselves," Coppola said. "It’s fun to see who stays there. And in this story, it just seemed like the right place.”

Coppola spent a lot of time at the Château in her early 20s, and her experience there almost breathed life into the venue within her cinematic creation.

Sophia wrote the third character as the Château,” said Stephen Dorff, who has his own personal memories associated with the location. “I had my 21st birthday party there. It’s always been a place I’ve loved, and to shoot a movie there was just incredible. It wouldn’t have been able to been made anywhere else.”

The film may seem autobiographical, with its heavy dose of father/daughter bonding and focus on what it’s like for a young girl to grow up in the movie business. But Coppola said inspiration came elsewhere.

It was based on things in the news and people I’ve met,” Coppola said. “The little girl is based on a friend of mine but who I could relate to--being a kid being around a grown-up world and Hollywood.  So I tried to put my own memories into the story. So it’s not autobiographical, but there are personal moments.”

Elle Fanning, the 12-year-old actress who plays the little girl, told us she viewed the hotel as a new playground.

“I’ve only known it as the place where Marilyn Monroe stayed because I’m obsessed with her.” Fanning said.

Through filming "Somewhere," Fanning found a new home as well as a new recipe that has become an obsession for Dakota, her sister.

Right after I did that macaroni and cheese scene I went home and I tried making it by myself," the young actress said. "It was actually really good, so every time my sister asks me ‘can you make that for dinner?’ [laughs] It has a lot of heavy cream in it, a lot of cheddar cheese. It’s just sort of comforting.”

As much as the film is about a young girl and her celebrity father, "Somewhere" also explores the unseen life of the lonely actor. Stephen Dorff brings likability to a character that could easily be seen as smug.

He’s giving,” Dorff said of his character, Johnny. “Even to that actor that says, ‘can you help me out? I want to know about acting!’ It’s the last thing [Johnny] wants to talk about, but he still gives them advice. Or the masseuse that wants to get naked to give him a massage, you know, he doesn’t punch him. There’s a sweetness to him.

That dual-faceted character, one who confines himself in a room's isolation and branches out into the sociable corridors and parlors, comes best portrayed through hotels and confirms the power of Coppola's fascination.