The Bold New Faces of ’The Bling Ring’
From October of 2008 to August of 2009, five LA teenagers targeted the homes of such Hollywood players as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Audrina Patridge ("The Hills"), Rachel Bilson ("The O.C."), Brian Austin Green ("Beverly Hills 90210") and Orlando Bloom, and robbed them of more than $3 million in fashion and luxury goods.
Their modus operandi? Find out where the celebrities live from celebrityaddressaerial.com and Google Maps, and plan the robberies when celebrity websites like TMZ report that the stars are away filming or attending some events.
These are not underprivileged kids, they come from well-off families. And they were brazen: taking pictures with their loot and post them on Facebook. What seems to have driven them is perhaps an obsession to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Their sense of entitlement led to the audacious acts which ultimately landed them in jail. Once apprehended, they became known as The Bling Ring.
Journalist Nancy Jo Sales wrote about them in Vanity Fair, which was read by Oscar-winning writer-director Sofia Coppola. (She won for her script to "Lost In Translation.") If her last film, "Somewhere," dealt with the isolation felt by celebrities (in this case an actor played by Stephen Dorff), her latest concerns those obsessed by them. In fact, Coppola was able to film the actual house of Paris Hilton, the Ring’s best-known victim.
Coppola boldly casts new faces to play the ring of five, with Emma Watson of the "Harry Potter" movies being the biggest star. Newcomer Katie Chang plays Rebecca, the ringleader who started it all, with her sexually ambiguous sidekick Marc, played by Israel Broussard ("The Chaperone"). Well, one can argue that the guy who describes a fellow male classmate as ’hot’ and wears heels in private is gay, but the filmmakers prefer to leave it vague. Rounding up the cast are Taissa Farmiga ("American Horror Story") and Claire Julien.
Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman recognizes that the movie is Coppola’s "acerbically arresting fifth feature, is a tasty contradiction: a clear-eyed, empathetic look at people the movie doesn’t even pretend you can like. It’s a true-life drama of American youth culture gone mad." The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy sees "Coppola’s attitude toward her subject seems equivocal, uncertain; there is perhaps a smidgen of social commentary, but she seems far too at home in the world she depicts to offer a rewarding critique of it."
The relationship between Rebecca and Marc is central to the story of the "The Bling Ring." Marc is the high school transfer who does not fit in. On the brink of becoming the school’s bully victim, he is rescued by Rebecca who is impressed with his ability to score drugs. As the series of crimes unfolds, the interdependence between the two teenagers becomes more pronounced and the audience is left to question what would become of the two when all dust has settled.
EDGE chats with the two young stars Katie Chang and Israel Broussard on their breakthrough performances in this summer’s most intriguing film.
EDGE: Tell me about the mock break-in you did to prepare for your roles?
Katie Chang: That was fun!
Israel Broussard: That was a lot of fun! I think it was a regular Wednesday night. I got a call from Katie over here, saying we are going to break into a house. We got the production assistant, Emma, Taissa, Claire, Katie and I go to a house and jumped the fence.
Katie Chang: Yes, they knew we were coming. We were allowed to be there. That was really fun. That was kind of the moment when we realized we were becoming our little gang, mirroring what was happening in the film as well.
EDGE: Whose house was this?
Katie Chang: We are not sure! Somebody Sophia knew! Somebody she was related to or friends with.
Israel Broussard: There was a connection. They knew we were there.
EDGE: So they would not report on you.
Israel Broussard: [laughs] Right.
The gay character?
EDGE: Katie, this is your first feature and you are playing the lead role in a Sophia Coppola movie, going into this movie, how do you cope with the pressure from yourself?
Katie Chang: This is a fantastic question. It was difficult because on top of filming the movie and being relatively a large part in the film, I also was doing school at the same time. All of that organizational stuff was overwhelming but I think my biggest coping method was having my parents there with me, and getting a ton of support from my fellow co-stars. If it had been any other way, if these kids had not really been friendly or kind and easy to talk to, I think it would have gone so horribly. The fact that we really got along really helped. It was just so much fun to be in a scene with them because it felt like we were just hanging out.
EDGE: Israel, let’s talk about the sexuality of your character Marc. Do you feel it has played a part as in how he feels like he needs to belong in The Bling Ring?
Israel Broussard: I feel that is something that each person has to decide for himself because we don’t really say that he is (gay) or he isn’t. I have spoken to Sophia a little bit about it before. She did not want him to be flamboyant or anything. There is no scene where he is coming out. There is no scene where ’Oh my god,’ he is (gay). It kind of adds a little mystique to it, maybe answers a question maybe why he is standing out. There is no real answer to that because we were not trying to really cover that. It was just something about Marc. I think people are either going to relate to that or just go "Hmmm." I am glad we did not determine that. Everybody needs to have their opinion and go with their imagination.
EDGE: How do you see the relationship play out between both of your characters towards the end of the movie?
Katie Chang: I think it was a really twisted kind of brother-sister love, genuine love for each other, but then it turned into the leader and the follower.
Israel Broussard: Evil.
Katie Chang: Yes, really sinister. I think Rebecca, for the most part, really did care for Marc but only really saw him as a pawn at the end of the day that she could use.
Israel Broussard: (Marc) just wasn’t worth it at the end.
Katie Chang: Unfortunately. What is great about Marc is that he is really the sympathetic center of the film.
Israel Broussard: Something like that.
The Bling Ring opens in New York and Los Angeles June 14 and nationwide on June 21.
Watch the trailer to The Bling Ring: