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Roman Coppola Talks Four Stories Film Series, Charlie Sheen and the Best Breakup Movies

romancoppola.jpgLast Thursday night, a bevy of cool kids (from magician David Blaine to actor Michael Pitt to Chairlift's Caroline Polachek) headed to the W Hotel Downtown to celebrate the launch of the Four Stories Film Series, a contest spearheaded by W Hotels, Intel and director Roman Coppola. (Aspiring filmmakers take note: write a screenplay for a short film which is set in a W Hotel and features Intel's newest computer, the Ultrabook, then upload it here and hope that your script is one of three selected by a panel of judges that includes Roman Coppola, Chloe Sevigny, and Michael Pitt. Coppola's production company, The Director's Bureau, will make the winning screenplays into ten-minute shorts to be played alongside one of Coppola's own.)

At the party, we took Coppola aside for a moment to chat about his new movie, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (which stars Charlie Sheen), how he feels about Westerns, and which breakup movies he thinks really get it right

So how did you become involved in Four Stories?
I was just asked to participate [in the series] to be a judge and a director, to try to encourage interesting things to happen. I am a person who's very curious about stuff so when people approach me to do something I haven't done before I am always curious. It seemed like a good time to try to do something different.

What is it about hotels that makes them such a popular subject for films?
Well, I think when you travel, when you stay at a hotel, it is always filled with adventure. It defines it -- seeing new places, meeting new people, unknown circumstance, surprises, different cultures.

Tell me about your upcoming movie, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.
The story is about this very dynamic guy who's a lover of women and has some child-like qualities, and is going through a personal meltdown because his girlfriend breaks up with him. I'm very delighted with my cast. Charlie Sheen is someone who is a fascinating personality, but also is a great actor, and I'm very proud that I got to show his talents in that way. And Jason [Schwartzman], someone I really love as a person and as actor, and Bill Murray, similarly. It's a very personal movie, made very much from my heart.

Does the film touch upon Sheen's meltdown?
There are, perhaps, some similarities, and people can draw their own conclusions from Charlie's real persona. But I was drawn to him, for one because he is a tremendous actor, and two because he's a friend. We were friends as kids, we knew each other and always had a good rapport. I wanted to use him much prior to the public stuff. In fact that was kind of a distraction, because it made people confused about who he was. So I'm very hopeful that people will see the film and say, "Well, wow. This guy is very good actor." There are more sides to him than just the one, you know, abbreviated version that we got on the web.

You told Interview magazine that the movie a male-centric look at a breakup.
It's based on the personal experience of a break up. My friend was breaking up with his wife when I wrote it. We would just talk about it all day long, like "Oh she did this," or "Yeah, did she do that?", "She stopped paying attention," "I know." There was a lot of bullshitting and shooting the breeze, the process of trying to figure it all out. And you know that brain-melting, kind of flip-flopping that happens as you go through it. The only really male thing about it is that there are a lot of guy characters, and it's seen from their point of view. But a friend, a woman, who saw my movie, said, "Oh, wow. I related to it so much." So I don't think it's guy-centric to a fault, it just happened to have a lot of guy characters talking about relationships for an hour and a half.

I also read that there's a Western sequence in Charles Swan. Are you particularly drawn to Westerns?
I'm not particularly drawn to Westerns, I'm drawn to Hollywood imagery. So, my film has a certain touchstone that relates to the classic B-list serialized Westerns from the '30s, and other kinds of Hollywood imagery that I find very beautiful and interesting. The guy's in a depression, so he fantasizes about all this fantastical imagery. Similarly, in Hollywood, that golden era of all that magical filmmaking happened in the deep pits of the Depression. So, it's kind of your instinct to fantasize and reach beyond where you are at. I think there's a correlation there.

Are there movies that stand out to you as portraying breakups very well?
Well, Annie Hall, very much so. That's a big iconic movie. So great. That's the ultimate one that comes to mind. A movie like All That Jazz is something I love very much, that's inspired me. Or Fellini movies, like .

I know you've talked about doing a Bugsy Malone-esque film. Have you made any headway with that?
One of these days I hope to get the chance to do a kids movie. I love children, everyone loves children, and I like the idea. I'd get a big thrill out of making a movie for children and having a premiere with only children allowed to attend. I think that would be fun.

For those thinking about entering the Four Stories contest, what makes for a good short film? 
Well, a good film is obviously something -- it's very generic to say -- that evolves, and sparks your imagination in some way. It has something you feel an emotional connection with. But, I'm partial to things that are inventive, and unusual and playful. I like the sensation of being delighted, of being surprised. I like things that have a sense of mirth or whimsy. So, you know, the ultimate thing would have, it would be moving, but also be playful. You know, like Fellini, one of my favorite filmmakers -- something that sort of embodies those qualities. That's very playful and stupid and crude, child-like, but also very moving. That's kind of my thing.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

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