In “The Bling Ring,” Sofia Coppola’s flashy zeitgeist neo-noir based on true events of teenaged Hollywood bandits, Israel Broussard takes lead-role reins as a gay L.A. transplant befriended by a chick clique of thieving punks. Marc, together with his four girlfriends (including one played by Emma Watson), loot the cribs of the rich and famous – Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Megan Fox – to get their own glam on.
In a recent chat, Broussard, 18, talked about Marc’s homosexuality being a non-issue in the film, shooting in Paris Hilton’s actual house and learning to walk in heels.
How did you react when you first read the Vanity Fair article, “The Suspects Wore Louboutins,” an account of the San Fernando Valley teens who stole over $3 million from celebrities?
A lot of people say they were shocked and surprised and maybe even disgusted, but what stood out to me was that they got caught through Facebook – and I thought that was pretty stupid.
What did your audition entail?
The audition process for this one took a couple months. It wasn’t until after I booked it that the script was written, so I wasn’t sure what exactly I was getting into. (Laughs)
You must have known that Marc was gay, right?
Well, reading the sides you can kind of tell, and I talked to Sofia about it; I was like, “What’s gonna come of this?” (Laughs) She said, “It is what it is. He’s not flamboyant or anything like that; there’s nothing over the top.” So I trusted her with that, and I think Sofia does a good job at not explaining it in the movie. There’s no scene where he’s coming out, where they actually point it out – it’s just accepted. It was refreshing to see that. You don’t have to have a big coming-out scene in every movie with a gay character, you know.
Especially if the boy has a thing for heels like Marc does.
Right, right. (Laughs)
What was wearing the stilettos like? Did you need practice?
Yeah, we’d have little fashion shows and I had to learn how to walk in them and do the little runway walk … that was interesting. I’m not meant for heels. (Laughs) But it went well. Katie (Chang) and I would have competitions of who can walk better. She said I won; I said she won. We haven’t come to an agreement on that yet.
It doesn’t sound like wearing heels was that pleasant for you.
No, it wasn’t. (Laughs) You know, I looked at this role as something to overcome personally. I didn’t want to do a gay character or a Disney character or some sci-fi character because I didn’t want to be typecast, so it was important to me that this was kind of brushed over. You can tell in the movie Marc’s gay but, again, it’s not pointed out. I think this was a personal battle I overcame and I became a new person, because I felt like I could expand and do more with my acting. Image is everything … and I like to have control of that image.
Would you play gay roles in the future? And what would that depend on?
Maybe in the future, yeah. And it would depend on how extreme the character was. I definitely want to take a break for a second and do a couple of movies where I’m straight. You know, homosexuality is being accepted more and more into our society. And there’s nothing wrong with it. The sooner people realize that, the better. But at the same time, I don’t want a finger being pointed at me.
As the “gay actor”?
So were you at all worried about playing a real person? Are you more conscious of being as accurate as possible because of that?
It crossed my mind. I wouldn’t say I was worried, though. Sofia was intent on making the movie a fictional film and yeah, there were a lot of true things that happened, but the storyline itself is completely fictional. We never met up with Nick Prugo or Alexis Neiers or any of the real Bling Ring … and we had no intent to. Now, if I were to meet him, it’d be all right. Maybe a little awkward. (Laughs)
How much trash TV were you required to watch to prepare for this role?
I had to watch quite a bit of reality TV. “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” was one of them. I watched “Fashion Police.” Mostly my focus was learning about fashion … and learning how to walk in heels.
Do you have a favorite reality show?
You know, it was “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Kim, Kourtney … man! And then gosh, I forget his name, but Kourtney’s husband – that dude is just like … he’s such a douche!
How were you able to relate to Marc?
In elementary school, I didn’t have many friends. I wasn’t feeling the attention and the acceptance that I felt I deserved, so I just built the character up from that with his insecurities and lack of self-confidence.
Tell me about shooting the scene where it’s just you dancing in front of a webcam, one of the more telling and haunting parts of the film.
Sofia came up to me a couple of days before we filmed that and said, “Hey, have you seen the video of Nick dancing in front of the webcam?” I said “no” and she showed me it and said, “I want you to do this.” You can’t really say no to Sofia Coppola. So I’m trying to figure out how I’m gonna pull this off, because a) I have no rhythm and b) I have no self-confidence – so now I’m gonna walk up to a webcam in front of a bunch of people and start dancing, pretty much half-stripping? I did it and I thought I was bombing it the entire time. Just completely destroying it. When I saw it, it was a little embarrassing, but people were saying it was real and vulnerable – and I don’t mean to toot my own horn with that.
These days, it starts with social media. (People) get swept up and caught in the drifts of what’s cool and what’s not, and that’s when they lose touch with themselves. That scene was the truth.
You get to wear some blingin’ couture in the movie. What’s the most expensive piece of clothing you own?
That I bought? (Laughs) Maybe Hanes. You know what, I’ve got a peacoat from H&M that I bought. I’m comfortable in Levi’s and a T-shirt. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.
What did you learn about fashion from this role?
I learned what lapels are on a suit! (Laughs) And I was surrounded by all these brand names, but it wasn’t until recently actually – when we started doing all the press – that I really kind of dove into fashion and all its brand names. Now I talk to my stylist and I’m like, “How about we switch it from the Marni to the J Brand?”
Filming in Paris Hilton’s house, the site of one of the robberies, were you surprised by how many of the belongings have her face on them?
You know, I was kind of expecting it. It was kind of overwhelming to be in her house. It was like the Garden of Eden, stepping into some place nobody else has really been. Rummaging through all her stuff, I kind of felt like I was part of the Paris Hilton family.
If you could legally break into a celebrity’s house, whose would you break into?
I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’d choose the White House. Think about how boss that would be. (Laughs)