Cannes 2012: Roman Coppola Interview for Moonrise Kingdom & A Glimpse Inside...

Cannes 2012: Roman Coppola Interview for Moonrise Kingdom & A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

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Roman Coppola is currently in Cannes promoting Moonrise Kingdom but he’s also got a new film on the horizon. He “just finished the sound mix” on the film before speaking to me (in fact he said, “it’s shot, it’s wrapped, it’s mixed, it’s done. Yesterday I just got the sign off on the final shot”), so in addition to talking to me about working on Moonrise Kingdom he also shared a lot of details about his latest too. He also showed me two images related to the film and I have included details about them within the interview as well.

Moonrise Kingdom is out in cinemas 25 May

His new film is entitled A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III and stars Charlie Sheen in the lead role. Coppola’s first film was CQ, a film I am extremely fond of and urge you to seek out if you have not done so already, but there has been a long period between that and his latest. This new project certainly sounds like a very intriguing one and is sure to garner a lot of attention, at least in part due to the casting of Charlie Sheen.

Coming on board Moonrise Kingdom and his role as a “rescuer” (a phrase Wes Anderson has reportedly used to describe him).

It’s flattering to be considered a rescuer. We’re friends and we’re always checking in about one another’s work. So I would ask him, and I saw the first 15 pages, but then after a while there was not much more to see, so I was eager to hear more and learn more. It was through my eagerness to hear more details and those sessions that I was able to unlock something. I seemed to be able to ask the right questions that helped to find it. Then when he asked me to participate we had a lot of sessions where we just improvised together and the story unfolded rather quickly.

…With this film there wasn’t really that process of living it that we had with Darjeeling. Basically he had thought about it so much that he had all these notions and images and feelings about it but it was just bottled up. It was just the act of me asking the right questions. For example, he would say that this boy is a Khaki scout and he knows that he runs off and he had that. And I would say, what about his parents and he would say, ‘I don’t know if he has any parents’. And I would say, ‘is he an orphan, does he have a foster family?’. It was that type of enquiry that helps to define it and once the story is in motion the boy has escaped and the cops are going to be looking for him. So, who is the cop. Then it kind of happens under its own momentum.

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.

It stars Charlie Sheen and Jason [Schwartzman] and Bill [Murray]. I’m excited about the cast, particularly Charlie because people are intrigued by him and like to make fun of all the craziness but he’s a really tremendous actor and I feel very lucky to be the one that got to present his new… y’know… I think he gives a very strong performance.

It’s a story about a guy who has a very unpleasant break-up, this girl got her claws very deep in his brain, and he’s just trying to deal with this feeling of being dumped. He reaches out to the people he’s close to, his sister (Patricia Arquette), Jason who is is his best friend and Bill Murray who plays his accountant. These guys trying to figure out what it means to go through that.

Whether it was written for Charlie Sheen.

Yes and no. I had the idea and I knew the character was very outlandish. He’s the kind of guy that drives a 1941 Cadillac with fried eggs painted on the side. He’s a bit of an outgoing crazy guy. When you think about who to cast, Charlie pops up.

Shooting in Roman Coppola’s own house and using his own clothes.

It was the type of thing where I was very passionate about making the movie happen and it’s very difficult to make a movie, as you know, to get the money and get the support. So I just started shooting without much resource so it compelled me to shoot at my house, use my stuff, ask Jason. I bought some clothes on Ebay for him to wear. So it came out of that urgent need to make the movie however I had to.

Whether there are any strong reference points, as there are in CQ.

Not so much. It’s set in California in the mid-seventies in the world of graphic design. Charlie’s character is an album cover designer. It’s kind of ironic as there are no album cover designers any more because there are no album covers. But in those times there was a lot of creative work that was happening with album covers so that’s a point of reference, that world of graphic design. The artists whose work I use in the movie, that’s kind of a subculture that I’m putting out. It’s not really a movie about cinema, like CQ was, where there’s a lot of cinematic references but it bears some resemblance to All That Jazz. That’s a film that I admire. It’s about a guy who is kind of outgoing, a lover of women and trying to keep it together. It’s kind of a similar tale.

His personal connection to A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.

As a writer or a filmmaker you’re very proud and you want to share that it’s your life but at the same time nothing ever happened. It’s similar to Wes’ movie where it’s a fantasy of what you would do and it’s sort of based on your impulse but not any impulses that you acted on. The opening scene of my film the guy has just been broken up with and he drives his car into a swimming pool. He’s that kind of rock ‘n’ roll, Keith Moon kind of guy. It’s not really me but it’s kind of a fantasy version of me.

The tone of A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III – like real life or more fantastical.

It’s more fantastical than real life. We see how he feels about his relationship through his fantasies. So it has a lot of scenes that are fantastical.

[He then showed me two images from the film so that I could get “a flavour” - one of the images was of Sheen, Schwartzman and Murray dressed as cowboys in a “Western fantasy scene”]

[He then showed me an image of Charlie Sheen looking very slick, against a black background] Charlie plays a kind of West Coast guy. He’s not in a bowling shirt, losing his mind with strippers.

The possible difficulties of promoting A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III considering Charlie Sheen’s rather unique persona and whether there may be any need to ‘explain’ the film.

I don’t think so, I think it speaks for itself. I’m just very excited. If we have the opportunity to go to a festival like Venice or Toronto, to see Charlie in a tuxedo and to present the movie and the performance he gives – so much contrast to some of the imagery that people have in their minds. I think it’s a great asset. People are very curious about him. Everyone knows that he’s very witty and has this zanyness but many people know that he’s a great actor, I believe. I don’t think it’s a problem, I think it’s kind of cool because people will wonder ‘what is this thing?’ I think it’s a virtue. I don’t know if you could tell from the photo but the way I kind of groomed him is kind of classy which is counter to the way he’s been presented recently.

What could be next after A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.

I have a few things. I have this idea for a kids film I’d like to do in the spirit of Bugsy Malone, with an all kid cast. So I have something like that that I want to do one day. I tried to do it one day but I couldn’t lift it off the ground. But that’s something I would go back to. And I have a new film Jason and I have been talking about working on together. A few things. And it’s true that you get into a groove once you do something that you feel, ‘oh wow, I’d like to do something’. So I hope there won’t be such a long period between things.

Craig is passionate about film and film criticism. Loving a wide range of films he is a keen film festival attendee, enjoying finding new and exciting films from film-makers across the world. Follow him on Twitter @cskinner.
  • liliou

    I can’t wait Roman i just can’t wait !! I loved CQ i love Roman Coppola work in general and yep Charlie Sheen is a great actor when he has great material..too bad he doesn’t do much movies anymore maybe it will be his way to come back in the quality movies circus..i hope and above all i am really curious.