A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III sees Roman Coppola return to the director's chair.
The film is a project that has almost been a passion project for the director and sees him bring together a fantastic cast.
We caught up with him to chat about the film, the inspiration behind it and what lies ahead.
- A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III has just been released on DVD but for anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet can you tell me a bit about it?
Well, where do I begin? I mean the movie is a character study; it’s a portrait of an eccentric character, a guy named Charles Swan the third who’s a very cool dude. Someone who has a very big imagination, but someone who’s dealing with a personal crisis, sort of a midlife crisis, triggered by a breakup.
And so it’s a character study and a portrait of a relationship of a person, a person dealing with and processing this relationship. It also follows how he gets through it and how it triggers all these memories and feelings and episodes from his past, and from his fantasy life.
That wasn’t a very eloquent way to say it, but those are some of the things that come to mind.
- You are back in the director's chair as well as having penned the screenplay, so where did the idea for the script come from?
Well, you know for me when a project begins there’s sort of a feeling, an intuitive feeling, just a little buzz at the back of your brain like you feel something is brewing. In this case, it began with a feeling of a character.
I did a film called CQ. Which had a very internalised character, someone who’s quite modest and very internalised. I kind of had this vibe of doing something about a character who’s very outgoing, very outrageous, very imaginative, very balls to the wall, very full on.
Someone who really, you know, kind of lived in this very imaginative way, got a very strong imagination and acted on it, and whose life is, you know, rather wild. So that was the beginning, was this character.
Then I though what if his going through a crisis, a personal crisis, something to do with a break up and that gave a whole other set of ideas. And I thought it would be rather interesting to tell a story in reverse, an inverted story where we begin with the break up and then we kind of go back in time through his recollections, through his memories and even fantasies as he processes it.
So the viewer becomes acquainted with what happened, as the story progresses kind of in a backwards fashion. And that appealed to me and then that was kind of fused with the notion of telling a story that was set in a kind of quasi mid-seventies period, and to use all the graphic design and style and the imagery of that time, to make a movie.
Something that I’m very drawn to is the album cover and poster art imagery of that early mid-seventies period and certain heroes of mine like Charles White lll, Peter Palombi, or David Willardson or Peter Lloyd, Michael Salisbury, Eiko Ishioka
All these designers and brilliant artists or painters have made this imagery I wanted to get more acquainted with their work and to use it and to make something that was equally or aspired to be as funny and sexy and pop and wild and imaginative as the work they had done.So all these things kind of came together to mean something that made me feel there was a movie there.
- How much did the story, plot and characters evolve from the initial idea that you had to the final film?
Well certainly things evolve, you know at the very beginning there was just this Colonel, whom I described and it’s just an on-going process as it unfolds, and you get more detail. So nothing really changed from, for me when there’s a movie, in all the things I’ve been involved with there’s that raw DNA and the movie is sort of, derived from that so it never really changes.
I mean it evolves and it develops and unfolds but that core intuitive feeling is what you, are, is your sort of, guide post or, north star whatever you want to call it and it doesn’t really stay from that because that the whole point is to find out what that is.
The movie certainly surprises me as it unfolded but always kind of in harmony with that initial idea.
One interesting thing that relates to this is that it took a long time to write this screenplay, many years, six or seven year not full time but ultimately even longer frankly, eight nine years and I realised that the movie would not be this movie if it hadn’t taken that long.
I mean I could of written something in a shorted period of time but it would be very different and the fact that it took so long, you know, months would pass and something would flash in my mind and oh that’s very Charles Swan and I would put that in that pile.
I’d have a daydream about western scene or something and I’d go oh that would be good for that movie so this movie is rather scatter shot and wild and unusual, and I attribute part of that to the fact that it took forever to find it.
But those pieces, when they presented themselves, I grabbed on to them, and they were so evident that they were part of this piece.
- You have assembled a fantastic cast with Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Patricia Arquette all on board, so can you tell me a bit about the casting process?
All of the people are people that I have some kind of relationship with Jason is my cousin; Charlie is someone I’ve known since I was twelve.
Patricia Arquette was married to my cousin; Bill Murray is someone who I’ve been friendly with through Sophia’s work and Wes’s work and in things we’ve done.
So,you know, making a movie is a very difficult thing to pull off, and on a practical level to reach out to people you know, that you have a rapport with is just like you making a movie with your friends and your family that’s what you do you reach out to people that you can reach out to.
Many actors are very guarded and it’s very hard to penetrate through all the agents and what-not so to be able to reach out to people in your life has a great value.
So it was a fusion of working with people that I admire, that I love, that I trusted, that trusted me and also just need to make is happen and reaching out to people who I could get access to.
- How did you find working with such an experienced and talented cast?
I was so delighted with the cast I pulled together as they are all wonderful people and brilliant actors. Everyone brought so much and err that they believed in this movie and wanted to be a part of it is very meaningful to me.
There’s a wonderful feeling of support and comradery, and you know the movie was shot in a very short schedule twenty four - twenty five days, and we really had to hustle and there was a wonderful intimate feeling of let’s make this happen.
I don’t even know what to say except that all the actors were so wonderful and talented and were so generous to believe in what I wanted to do and jump in. I feel like everyone had a wonderful time and felt that it was a good experience.
- How would you describe your directing style? Would you consider yourself a collaborative filmmaker when it comes to developing characters with your cast?
I think I’m pretty collaborative. When you’re shooting a movie in a short amount of time and with not a lot of resources you just have to make it happen. Sometimes you just have to say look we’re going to do this, you’re going to stand there and let’s do this and be rather assertive in an open way but at least to have a plan.
And you know I think this is a better question to ask my cast, but I think they appreciated that I had a reasonable amount of decisiveness in terms of what should happen and where it should all go down but there are many instances: particularly with Bill Murray and Jason in which they have such a knack for improvisation that it would be insane not to welcome that.
Part of my job as a director is to get the most out of my ingredients and to invite that kind of improve that they did bring was a big part of it in terms of my style it’s just hard for me to say in a sentence.
I think I’m collaborative at the same time it took me a long time to write this, a long time to prepare it, and I was rather eager to make it happen, so I didn’t dilly-dally or I wasn’t vague I was, you know, just eager to put it all down.
- And how have you found the response to the film so far?
Well, to be honest I shouldn’t have to answer this question, but I will because these questions are intelligent. You know the response wasn’t particularly good in terms of critical response and the film wasn’t so wildly seen.
However, to the people that I have a rapport with, people in my circle and my family and my friends and peoples who’s opinions I have regard for I was very delighted to have people recognise what it was I was trying to do and to appreciate it and enjoy it and to think it was unique and creative and a portrait of, in effect a portrait of me and a lot of people have said oh the movie is so you, and I feel that that is a really wonderful thing.
If more films out there were really a reflection of their filmmakers, I think that we would have a lot of wonderful, even more wonderful movies, so I’m very proud of the film.
- A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is your first film since CQ back in 2001, so what has taken you so long to get back in the director's chair?
Well that question’s come up a lot. The truth is that it’s hard to make a movie and to pull it off, to get the ingredients together, to get the material together and to write the script, to prepare the script, to get the cast, to figure out the financing. There’s a lot of stumbling blocks.
There’s no exact one reason, you know I have other careers outside of making features so doing other writing projects, doing certain inventions, doing my directing for commercials and running a production company and being involved in other endeavours.
I have a lot of things that I’m drawn to and so that sort of interrupts your time and makes things get dragged out, but there is no real reason.
I think if any reason it’s just I wanted to; this was the movie I really wanted to make, and I had to work very hard to pull it off. I wasn’t not going to make it so it just took some time to get it all together.
However, this one was something where I didn’t listen to any no’s I just made it anyway. The movie business has a lot of short-sighted people that just like to make the same thing over and over again, and they were not going to support this so I just did it anyway.
- Finally, what's next for you?
I am just off to other adventures. I just finished today shooting a commercial; I have a bunch of website app type projects that I’m involved with.
I have a TV Show called Mozart In The Jungle that is getting ready to be produced and my sister's film Bling Ring came out recently that I’m a producer on that, so I have a lot of different things I’m involved with.
In terms of directing I have a few ideas but I haven’t firmly decided what it’s going to be so hopefully I’ll think of something, and it will come along before too long.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is out on DVD now.