“I have vivid memories of staying at the Chateau Marmont with my father when I was a little kid. This was in the early eighties, before André Balazs owned the hotel, and it was a lot funkier, with a seedy kind of glamour. Now the Chateau has become a real paparazzi place. When I started writing my film Somewhere I was living in Paris, and friends would visit and bring tabloids and I would read about all the scandalous things that happened there. I was writing about contemporary Los Angeles, and it was very clear to me that the story had to take place in the Chateau. It has such decadence.
“For the month we were shooting Somewhere, we took over the fifth floor of the Gothic hotel. Each department had a room instead of a trailer. Stephen Dorff actually slept in a room identical to the one we shot many of his scenes in, so he stayed in character the whole time. You can’t help but be aware that a lot has happened in those rooms. Naughty things go on, but still, it feels homey and personal.
“The stories and the history of the hotel are what I love the most. Years ago, I met my idol, the photographer Helmut Newton, in the elevator. He lived there for months at a time, and took many of his iconic photographs on the property. I’m pretty shy, but I had to introduce myself. Later that day, he was killed in a car accident in the driveway of the Chateau, so it was the last time, the last possible moment I could have talked to him. That exemplifies the Chateau’s strange, haunted magic.”
Sofia Coppola’s newest film, Somewhere, starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning, opens in theaters next month.