Emma Watson The Bling Ring

Emma Watson The Bling Ring

Emma Watson The Bling Ring

Cast: Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga, Israel Broussard, Claire Julien, Katie Chang, Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann, Gavin Rossdale, Paris Hilton
Director: Sofia Coppola
Genre: Drama
Rated: MA
Running Time: 90 minutes

Synopsis: In the fame-obsessed world of Los Angeles, a group of teenagers take us on a thrilling and disturbing crime-spree in the Hollywood hills. Based on true events, the group, who were fixated on the glamorous life, tracked their celebrity targets online, and stole more than 3 million in luxury goods from their homes. Their victims included Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Rachel Bilson, and the gang became known in the media as 'The Bling Ring."

The Bling Ring
Release Date: August 8th, 2013

About the Production

Sofia Coppola had heard of the infamous 'Bling Ring," a group of teenagers who had burgled the homes of several celebrities, but it wasn't until she read Nancy Jo Sales' article in Vanity Fair called 'The Suspects Wore Louboutins" that she thought to make a movie about the crime spree and the kids who committed it. After meeting with Nancy Jo Sales, Sofia Coppola discovered there were a lot of interesting stories that didn't fit into the original article and set about writing her script.

Turning this contemporary true-life tale into a script proved to be one of the most challenging aspects of the film for Sofia Coppola, 'there's so much material and I was doing a fictional version. Going through the research, editing it down, and finding a way to make these characters relatable and sympathetic was all very challenging.

As I started on it, Nancy Jo Sales gave me her transcripts of interviews with the real kids. I couldn't believe some of the quotes they said, it revealed so much about them and their goals and our culture. I kind of just let my imagination go from there. Hearing their stories gave me ideas and I took things from my own child¬hood experiences - not directly, but what I remember from being that age, and then just imagined what it would be like being these kids. For the characters, I started with the idea from the real story but then kind of invented my own characters based on that and combined them with real people I know."

Producer Youree Henley had worked with Sofia Coppola on Somewhere and describes her script as, 'very minimal, as most of Sofia Coppola's scripts are. It was exciting to read it and picture it and then sit down with her and have her talk about what she wanted to do. This film is interesting because there's a lot of stuff that's not scripted but is either stock footage or things that take place on Facebook pages or other things that fill out the landscape without it being on the page."

The Cast

The ensemble cast centres around the five teens that com¬prise The Bling Ring. Sofia Coppola and her team of casting directors Nicole Daniels and Courtney Sheinin (with whom she worked on Somewhere) and longtime collaborator/advisor, executive Producer Fred Roos, searched for more than a year to find the ideal mix of actors.

Says Sofia Coppola, 'To me it's really a group of five kids so it was very important in casting to find kids that were authentic and really that age, because it always bugs me to see a 25 year old playing a teenager. I'm happy that most of the cast is close to the age of the real characters. It was fun to discover new talent and was great to work with Emma Watson, who is playing a part so different from how we know her. She worked really hard to get her Calabasas accent, so it was really fun to see her transforma¬tion. It was also great getting to work with these kids who for some this was their first professional job."

Producer Youree Henley continues, 'It's about the balance of the ensemble. It wasn't about what they were going to do individu¬ally but what they do together."

The five actors include: Emma Watson, who is best known for her work as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films: Taissa Farmiga, who was on the first season of 'American Horror Story"; Israel Broussard who was in Rob Reiner's Flipped; and newcomers Claire Julien and Katie Chang.

Says Sofia Coppola of the actors, 'I thought it was really energising and fun to work with our young cast because some of them had never been in a feature film before. They were so open to learn¬ing and were very enthusiastic, and very professional. I mean Emma Watson on the other side is a real pro, but she brought good enthusiasm to tackling this part."

Emma Watson/Nicki
For Emma Watson, she found playing Nicki – the pole dancing yoga teacher - liberating. Says Emma Watson, 'I got to do things that I myself as Emma Watson would never do. It's fun to explore a different side of yourself through a character. It gave me permission to do loads of crazy stuff.

Even though it might seem a stretch for Emma Watson to be playing such a brash character, Sofia Coppola knew she was the right fit for Nicki, 'I met her in New York and really liked her as a person. I mean she has an English accent and is very different from this character so it was difficult to imagine her doing it at first. But she did an audition for me and I could really see her and a glimpse of the character. When she came out to do the film I was very impressed with how she transformed. She could have easily been like a character of spoof, but having her take the part so seriously brought the reality to it. It was great to watch Emma Watson and her transformation and her entire approach to the character."

Taissa Farmiga/Sam
Taissa Farmiga plays Nicki's adopted sister, Sam. According to Taissa Farmiga, 'Sam is just looking for fun. One of the things Sofia Coppola had us do was make a vision board where you cut out pictures and inspirational phrases from magazines to put on a board to display where you want to be in five years, things that inspire you, or things you want. One of the little clippings I found said, -do whatever the f@#! you want' which pretty much sums Sam up. She's just looking for fun and she's going to find it."

Israel Broussard/Mark
Mark, played by Israel Broussard, is the new kid at school and befriended by Katie Chang's Rebecca. According to Israel Broussard, 'Mark's got a lot of self-loathing issues. I can relate to him a lot. Growing up as a kid in Mississippi I wasn't popular at all and I never wanted to go to school because I didn't like my class. I think when you first see the movie, at the beginning Mark is really this lonely, lost kid. He meets Rebecca and they befriend each other. The more time they spend together the more attached he becomes to her. When everything went down, he turned to Rebecca and she betrayed him. He grew up out of that experience.

'I think Sofia Coppola wanted Mark to be the heart of the story. There's something compassionate about him. I hope I brought that out well."
One thing Israel Broussard did find difficult to relate to in his charac¬ter is Mark's love of fashion. 'I remember having trouble with all of that," says Israel Broussard, who had little contact with couture while growing up in Mississippi and South Dakota. 'Sofia Coppola had me meet with an acting coach. She helped me connect with all of that. I'm not into fashion like Mark is and probably never will be but I love music and the process by which it's put together so I was able to tap into that interest - Mark's fashion is my music."

Claire Julien/Chloe
For Claire Julien, who, as the daughter of Oscar winning cin¬ematographer Wally Pfister, grew up in Hollywood's glare, she found it easy to tap into her character.

Says Claire Julien, 'If I were to use one word to describe Chloe it would be -badass.' Chloe is definitely the most badass charac¬ter in all of The Bling Ring. She's funny, and actually pretty smart. She's a very good criminal. It's so much fun to play her. A lot of people tell me I was cast very true to character and I agree to an extent. I wouldn't do the things that Chloe has done or make the same choices she did but I can see the similarities. We have a similar sense of humour, the same music taste, we use the same language.

Also, when it comes to the film industry as a whole, I do feel slightly more jaded, more experienced than others. Not neces¬sarily on the acting front because this is my first movie. But I have a lot of experience on set, with crews. Talking to everyone, watching how it works, helping out. It's always interested me. It's always been the best thing ever whenever I get to visit my dad on set, whether it's across the world or at Warner Brothers studios."

Emma Watson agrees, 'Claire Julien is amazing. She is Chloe. She's my source for all knowledge of all L.A. slang and everything else L.A. so she's been an amazing help."

Katie Chang/Rebecca
Newcomer Katie Chang takes on the role of Rebecca, the ring¬leader of the group.

'She's kind of intense," says Katie Chang of her character. 'She's very sneaky and a little misleading at times. She is obsessed with this world of celebrities and this flashy, glamorous life she thinks she deserves to have. The trouble I had initially with the character was that Sofia Coppola's scripts are known for being very bare bones because they are very minimal. Her work is very visual with the colours and the feeling. So as an actor I took the character and built underneath layers that I could use to put all the superficial stuff out there."

Says Sofia Coppola of Katie Chang, 'I'm just really impressed with how different she is as the character as she is as a person. She's such a sweet, kind girl and then she can turn into an ice queen on camera."

Adds Youree Henley, 'Katie Chang is wise beyond her years. She's been uprooted from her life in Chicago and thrown into scenes with Emma Watson and she's doing great. That's a big deal."

Co-star Emma Watson agrees, 'Katie Chang is perfect for Rebecca. She looks so good in all of her costumes and she's just a sweetie and I think it's really interesting casting because you want to hate her, but there is something very human and alive and intriguing about Katie Chang."

Georgia Rock/Emily
13-year-old Georgia Rock plays the younger sister of Nicki and Sam, Emily. 'She starts out as a good girl," says Georgia Rock of Emily. 'She's close to her mom - kind of like me. But she ends up going down the wrong path because she gets involved with the robberies as well. I think she's just your average 13-year-old girl trying to fit in."

Leslie Mann/Laurie
Leslie Mann is known for her comedic roles in films like The 40-Year Old Virgin and This Is 40. As Leslie Mann, the former Playboy model and clueless mother to Nicki, Sam, and Emily, she brought sincerity as well as a kookiness to her character, 'I think Laurie is someone who went out on her own really early in life and doesn't have very strong mothering skills and is just doing her best in trying to raise three girls but failing a lot of the time. I think that she is more interested in being friends with them than being a mother to them and lets them get away with way too much."

Says Emma Watson of Leslie Mann, 'I have girl crushes on women who are funny, because I haven't done a lot of comedy so far, so I'm always amazed when women have the confidence to hold the room and make people laugh and Leslie Mann is one of those women. It was just so fun to get to do scenes with her and for us to be able to bounce off each other. People have been saying to her, -oh you're perfect for this role' and she says, -I don't know what to say about that - that's such an awful thing to say.' But it's true, she sells it a thousand percent and you hate her and love her at the same time."

Gavin Rossdale/Ricky
Bush frontman and burgeoning actor Gavin Rossdale took on the role of sleazy nightclub promoter Ricky. Says Gavin Rossdale, 'This is my fifth film actually. It's one of the first films where I don't die, so I'm moving up the thespian ladder.

My character is a sleazy club promoter. I was pretty flattered that I came to mind for that," jokes Gavin Rossdale. 'He's one of the least likeable characters I've ever played. Plus he makes out with underage girls. That gave me one sleepless night, which I'll never get back. Sofia Coppola owes me for that."

Fred Roos sums the cast up: 'You have Emma Watson who's lived her life on sound stages and you have four other kids who have done very little but I think they will all have big careers. I'm pleased with all of the performances of all of the kids."

Paris Hilton
Pop-icon Paris Hilton spent a day on-set playing a cameo role in a key scene and also generously opened up her home for filming. As a victim of the real Bling Ring criminals, Paris Hilton understood the story better than most.

'My friend Stephen Dorff called me and told me that Sofia Coppola wanted to talk to me about something," recalls Paris Hilton. 'So I was really excited and we started emailing back and forth. She told me about this project. And of course I know a lot about the actual story because I was involved with it in real life, so I was very excited to get her call and to be a part of this. I really was at clubs with these kids who were wearing dresses they had stolen from my closet right in front of me and I had no idea.

'Just being in a Sofia Coppola movie is an honour. She's one of the most incredible women directors of our time and I admire her so much.

The rest of the cast was just as excited to be working with Paris Hilton. 'I was told, your scene is after Paris Hilton's scene," says Gavin Rossdale, 'and I thought that was in some ways a showbiz milestone because everybody who wants to be somebody has to wait for Paris Hilton at some point, plus I think she's great. And the movie is based on terrible things that happened to her which made it ironic, and even more relevant."

'It was fun and surreal," says Emma Watson. 'She said goodbye to me and she said -nice to meet you, gorgeous' and I was like -woah, my life just got really weird.'"

Shooting at Paris Hilton's house was an amazing opportunity for the production because her home is so unique, it would have been nearly impossible to re-create on a soundstage.

Sofia Coppola says, 'It was definitely pretty exciting being in Paris Hilton's shoe closet and filming there, I felt in my element. That was such an exotic location. It was exciting to be able to shoot in her real house where these burglaries took place, and that she let us into her private world."

Echoing Sofia Coppola's sentiment about Hilton's shoe closet, Katie Chang says, 'I've never been a shoe person but I think I became a shoe person because of Paris Hilton's closet."

True Hollywood Story

Although the film is a fictional account, the story it's based on is true and the filmmakers and cast all put in a fair amount of research to ensure authenticity which, for many of them, included marathons of watching 'Pretty Wild", the reality show about the Neiers family (on which the film's family of Nicki, Sam, Emily and Laurie is loosely based).

According to Georgia Rock, who is an Angeleno native, 'I didn't do specific research but I knew all about the Bling Ring before. I read all the articles about it. I watched the reality show. So I knew about it before I was even cast. However, I wanted to take my own spin on it instead of being exactly like the person Emily is based on."

The entire cast echoed this idea of using the real people as inspi¬ration but taking the characters and making them their own.

Says Taissa Farmiga, 'Because Sam and Nicki are based off of the girls from 'Pretty Wild", Alexis Neiers and Tess Taylor, Sofia Coppola sent me the DVDs and I watched the whole season. Even though the characters are based off them, you're still going to take some things from yourself and put it all together so you have the character. To prepare for the film I started watching things like 'The Hills" and watched season one of 'The Simple Life". I have magazines at home, but for me it wasn't as much about the fashion as it was just having fun and letting go."

Emma Watson adds, 'I did do a lot of research. I mean it was important to me that a lot of the dialogue is actually things that Alexis Neiers said. But at the same time, she was being fed things when she was on a reality TV show, and a lot of people are aware now that reality TV isn't really reality TV. These women are actresses of themselves and they have scripts and have stories that are written for them. So yes it's based on a real person but it was based on a person who was acting and reading lines herself. So it's sort of like two levels of separation."

Leslie Mann also watched 'Pretty Wild" and went the extra mile, 'I followed her on twitter," says Leslie Mann. 'She tweets a lot about animals. I followed all of her kids on Twitter - I still do. I didn't get to meet her but I talked to Sofia Coppola about her and then did my take on it."

The City Of Angels

Because The Bling Ring was based in Los Angeles, there was never any doubt that the city would serve as the setting for the story.

Says Sophia Coppola, 'I think Los Angeles is so the centre of American culture right now because of all these reality TV shows, like the Kardashians, that are set in Hollywood and L.A. And the red carpet culture has become so influential around the whole coun¬try - this story could only take place here.

'There were so many locations," says Sofia Coppola. 'I didn't realise when I was writing the script how many locations there were - we have like 20 some locations. I love them all because it shows so many different aspects of L.A. and feels authentic. We got big mansions in Calabasas, the high school, and then we also got to shoot in Paris Hilton's actual house. We really took advantage of being in L.A. in getting to show so many locations."

Many of the cast are not native to the city and being in L.A. very much inspired their performances.

Says Katie Chang, 'Even just driving around and seeing the lights and all the different things that come at you at once and just the overall feeling of being here really just put the cherry on top to creating this girl."

'Growing up in Mississippi and South Dakota, it's very rural and spread out a lot," says Israel Broussard. 'I never felt like I belonged there. L.A. is much different - much faster pace - every¬body's moving. But that's more me. This is what I call home."

Those who do call L.A. home felt a responsibility to showcase it properly. 'I'm the only one from L.A. other than Georgia Rock," says Claire Julien. 'It was kind of my responsibility to show the cast around and let the cast know about L.A., the real side of L.A. I was telling everyone the best restaurants, shopping areas, hangout areas."

Adds Producer Youree Henley, 'I grew up in L.A. and any kind of L.A. story, I love. This is my third movie in L.A. I felt very responsible for having great locations because this is my city and I needed to represent."

The Bling-Ring A Cautionary Tale?

In a culture obsessed with celebrity, the cast and crew found themselves often answering the question, does The Bling Ring serve as a cautionary tale?

Sofia Coppola sums it up: 'I think it looks at our culture today and the reality TV phenomenon and how that has affected this group of kids and I've tried to tell the story in a way that you can get into it from the kids point of view and see how it's fun and exciting and then hopefully by the end of it you get another perspective that they have taken it too far.

'So I hope not to be judging them too much, but I'm definitely looking from a distance at them - there is a critical aspect to it. I feel like you can get caught up in the teen/fun/bad behaviour side of it so I hope I'm not glamorising their bad behaviour. I think there is a mix of both glamour and critique in the film, but that, in the end, it will give audiences something to think about."

The Bling Ring
Release Date: June 25th, 2013


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