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December 26, 2010

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Daughter heeds dad's direction

SOFIA Coppola grew up around movies as the daughter of "Godfather" maker Francis Ford Coppola. The 39-year-old has written, directed and produced her fourth film, "Somewhere," which is in theaters now.

The film, which won the top prize at the Venice film festival earlier this year, takes place at a legendary Hollywood hotel, the Chateau Marmont, and it follows a famous actor (Stephen Dorff) who drifts through life until his daughter (Elle Fanning) shows up. Her visit forces him to rethink his ways and his relationship with her.

Coppola discussed "Somewhere" and how her own life has affected her filmmaking.

Q: Where did the idea for an LA-centric movie come from?

A: When I wrote it, I was living in France. It was after I had done "Marie Antoinette." I was thinking about being far from home, from California. I was seeing the Chateau Marmont in tabloids and this idea of a movie star adrift at the Chateau Marmont was appealing to me.

Q: As a mother of two, do parenthood themes creep into your movies?

A: When I started writing "Somewhere," I had just had my first daughter. The idea of parenthood was on my mind because I was experiencing it. I was thinking about how it changes your perspective and how it would affect this kind of character. It made me think of my own childhood and I tried to put in memories of that.

Q: So is this film autobiographical?

A: Not autobiographical, but it's personal. My childhood was very different than in the movie. But the world is familiar to me so I tried to put personal things and memories into it.

Q: Like what?

A: When I was writing the father/daughter story, I tried to think of little moments that I thought were fun as a kid to get to do with my dad - going into worlds that kids don't usually get to see. The scene where they're in the casino and he's telling her about craps was something I remember doing.

Q: Did you live in hotels growing up with your father?

A: We would go on location with my dad when he was making films so I lived in a lot of different hotels. I always thought it was fun. You're away from real life, and you can run around and see interesting people and order room service. I still think it's fun.

Q: Chris Pontius - from your ex-husband Spike Jonze's "Jackass" TV show and films - plays Stephen Dorff's buddy in "Somewhere." Were you apprehensive about approaching him since you and Spike are no longer together?

A: No. I knew Chris back in that other part of my life but I felt that I could approach him. He was always friendly with me. I've seen him with my friend's kids and he was always sweet and funny with them. I thought it'd be fun to have him with Elle Fanning.

Q: Elle has been working in films since she was a child as have you, appearing in many of your father's films. Do you ever look back at those films you were in?

A: It's fun that I was the baby in "The Godfather" (the baby boy in the christening scene) because I can always see myself as a baby. That's why my dad did it, so we could always have a record of those moments.

Q: Has that come in handy for you?

A: My kids look so much like their dad (French musician Thomas Mars) but when the second one was born, people said she looked more like me. It was great that I got to look on YouTube and pull up that scene to look at the similarities.

Q: You won an Oscar for writing "Lost in Translation." You were also nominated for directing it - making you one of the few women in history to get a directing nomination. When Kathryn Bigelow won earlier this year for "The Hurt Locker," did you feel a sense of pride or kinship?

A: I appreciate that she's doing her thing, but I don't relate to her work more than a guy's just because she's a woman. I was happy that she won because it was especially fun seeing her win against her ex-husband!


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