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'Somewhere' hits home for Sofia Coppola

A smattering of the filmmaker's memories and life experiences do manage to find their way to the screen.

December 20, 2010
  • In "Somewhere," a hard-living Hollywood actor is forced to examine his life after a surprise visit from his 11-year-old daughter.
In "Somewhere," a hard-living Hollywood actor is forced to… (Merrick Morton / Focus Features )

Sofia Coppola's personal experiences and intimate familiarity with the inner celebrity workings of Hollywood suffuse "Somewhere." Here, we provide a scene-by-scene guide to spotting specific Coppola family references that helped inform the action:

In the film's opening, Johnny tools around a racetrack in his Ferrari at top speed. And toward the end of "Somewhere," he drives daughter Cleo to Las Vegas for the night in the sleek vehicle, taking off the following morning — literally — in a helicopter to drop her at summer camp. Turns out those scenes were informed by Coppola's cousin Nicolas Cage's penchant for luxury autos and her father's love of the grand gesture. "I thought of the Ferrari because [Cage] had a bunch of sports cars, and I thought he'd have to take them to a track because you can't really just drive them around," the filmmaker said. "Renting a helicopter for a day is something my dad would do. He has that over-the-top sense of fun."

For a sequence in which Johnny impulsively spirits Cleo off to Milan, Italy, to attend the country's prestigious Telegatto Awards and promote his schlocky action blockbuster-within-a-film "Berlin Agenda," Sofia set the action in the same opulent suite at the five-star Hotel Principe di Savoia (complete with indoor swimming pool) in which she had stayed with her family. "I went to that hotel and awards show with my parents and brothers about eight years ago," she said. "It was so not like anything I had seen before — so over the top."

In the Las Vegas casino scene, Cleo gleefully observes the spectacle of Johnny on a successful craps-table run — never mind that her character is technically way too young to be there. It's something Coppola took in at a similar age during her father's frequent writing sojourns at Nevada casinos in the early '80s. "When I was trying to think of things he could do with her, I tried to think of things that were exciting to me as a kid. Going to a casino when you're 12 was one of them," Sofia said. "[My father would] go visit Las Vegas or Reno. I remember him explaining craps to me and how it works — but also as a metaphor for life."

The writer-director's family affair extended behind the scenes as well. Her husband's Grammy-nominated band Phoenix provided the film's musical score. And Coppola's daughter Romy, now 4, was a frequent presence on set. "Many times Romy would be in her lap and she'd say, 'Action,'" Fanning recalled. As well, Coppola's brother Roman served as a producer on the film, helping to preserve his sister's stated intention of filming in "a really small way." "He kept trying to cut out extra stuff," Sofia Coppola said.

"It was nice to ask my big brother for help. I felt like he protected me."

— Chris Lee

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