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Interview: Israel Broussard for “The Bling Ring”

In her new film The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola continues her fondness for films (like Somewhere) that explore the effects of fame.  This time Coppola turns her camera to Calabasas, California, where she creates a film based on the true story of a group of wealthy, fame-obsessed teens who decide to rob from celebrities when they are out of town; such celebrities include Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom and Megan Fox.

Although The Bling Ring stars Emma Watson (Harry Potter), the film is sure to be the breakout performance for actor Israel Broussard. In his first starring role, Broussard plays Marc (modeled after real-life Bling Ring member Nick Prugo), a quasi-sympathetic character that grounds the film, giving the Bling Ring a dose of humanity and realness. Unlike many of the other characters, Marc was visibly stressed during many of the break-ins. He acted like any normal person would when they realize they are in over their head.

Though Marc does participate in illegal activities throughout the movie, he was morally conflicted. Marc was very insecure and had never had a tight group of friends before he met the members of the Bling Ring. Because of this loneliness, Marc gets involved with the wrong crowd. At many times, it seems he is more excited about the new friends and peer notoriety he gains from these break-ins than the loot. As the situation begins to spiral out of control, however, Marc starts to realize the other members of the Bling Ring may not be true friends at all. Broussard’s performance in the film is fantastic, and is easily THE breakout performance for an actor so far this year.

Last week, I had the opportunity to talk to Israel in a roundtable interview with a few other critics. It was awesome getting the inside scoop about the filming process, along with hearing what famous person’s house he would break into if he could get away scot free! Check out his answers below.

Israel Broussard Emma Watson The Bling Ring
Courtesy of A24

Lauren B: Last night at the Q&A you were talking about how you [the actors] did a mock break-in at someone’s house so I was just wondering if you could go into a little more detail about how that brought you together as a group?

Israel: During the whole pre-production week we had scheduled bonding time. We had to go shopping on Robertson. Emma [Watson] got her wallet stolen at Lemonade. Then I got a call from Katie [Chang] saying (and this was a Friday night so I’m expecting to relax) and she’s like “Hey! We’re going to break-in to someone’s house”.

Lauren B: You didn’t know beforehand?

Israel: No it was a very quick process and very in the moment. But yeah, Sofia [Coppola] had a list of things for Katie to grab and Taissa [Farmiga], Katie and I were staying in the same spot and went to go pick up Emma and we went up in the Hills. Yeah, so we pretty much hopped out of the car. Chris Blauvelt, who was the assistant cinematographer, and then when Harris Savides left because he got sick, Chris kind of took over. Harris was still a part of the process, he just wasn’t there. But he [Chris] was with us with a video camera filming it for Sofia but he was all in black and standing to the side…

Lauren B: So Zero Dark Thirty?

Israel: [laughs] Yeah. And yeah we legit hopped the fence and I think it was Emma that opened the door. I don’t know why we didn’t think to check the door. We were expecting this to be hard. And then we walk up to the house and it’s a weird setup. It’s not like there’s a front door. You have to kind of walk up this little path. The door was locked so I immediately start checking the windows that I would leave unlocked if I left like my keys in the house or something like that. And the next thing you know I hear them say “hey we found the window” and I come around the house and here’s the door and here’s the window [motioning side-by-side]. I don’t know why we didn’t think of it. But we started climbing in and I think it was Claire [Pfister] that fell into the window and we started laughing. Then it slowly hit us that these kids were having fun and it was very easy for these kids to get into these houses. They weren’t necessarily robbing it, they were kind of just walking in and we ran upstairs and found the closet and started throwing everything in the bags. As we’re going back, Taissa finds the fridge and starts digging in that and we’re like “No! Let’s go! We’re out of here”. She was hungry. What are you going to do? And then we hopped back in the car and realized we forgot some stuff so we had to do the whole process again and tried to grab it. Then we went to In And Out. That was the first time Katie had In and Out, but we got her animal fries and made sure she was taken care of. So yeah, it was a lot of fun doing that. It was definitely interesting.

Lauren Veneziani ( At the Q&A last night you said that you didn’t meet the guy that your character is based off of and you had more ability and more freedom to do what you wanted with the character. Can you elaborate on that more and would you be interested in meeting him today?

Israel: I think that it would be a little awkward. I think I said that last night. But I’m not opposed to it. What I was worried about is him not really giving me the real thing because if I were to meet him on the side of the street, I could kind of get who he really is but when he knows I am playing him in a movie he’d be acting a lot different. Probably more pitiful so I could feel sorry for him and whatnot. Sofia kind of loaded me with all this information because most of it was new to me. The only thing I related to Marc was how his lack of self-confidence was pretty much his main thing. He needed acceptance and I took everything back to elementary school. So I needed that freedom to kind of experience and experiment with fashion and crime and it was kind of refreshing when you’re doing these scenes and when you’re with a group of people, the energy is really high and it’s different from when it’s just a one-on-one scene. I was glad we got to improvise a lot because otherwise I feel like it would have been awkward and not as natural and the chemistry just wouldn’t have been there if we each had like my line your line her line her line… It bounces off of one another, yes, but at the same time when you have to say it, it’s a little difficult. So the fact we can say whatever, whenever really helped out a lot and I feel like that kind of got the vibe going and doing two or three takes of each scene… and then by the time we did the third take we had that scene down. But a lot of times Sofia would film rehearsals just to get the first impression; the authentic natural real scene and of course the times we messed up, she would take out. There’s a scene when we’re in Paris’ [Hilton] nightclub room and Taissa (Sam) drops her glass… we were rehearsing… after, you know, when you’re rehearsing you still wait for cut because you have to know when it’s going to cut so afterward, I was like I’m glad we didn’t film that. Then next year I look at the screen and “oh shit” [it was in the movie]. That was the biggest thing that stood out but it was a lot of fun.

israel broussard bling ring interview

Lauren B: Not saying that you would ever rob a celebrity but if you could choose any celebrity or a famous person that you would just want to snoop in their house… and you wouldn’t have any repercussions…

Israel: No legal…

Lauren B: No, no legal.. you would go in clean, get out clean…

Israel: It would be the White House. You know what? I know that’s kind of out there but you did say there would be no charges to my record so I’m going to go all the way. Go big or go home.

Lauren V: How many selfie pictures did you guys take during that…

Israel: Wayyy too many. I do not take pictures. That is not my thing. I kind of have to now but I’d rather not. Throughout the entire film it’s selfie after selfie… it’s just WHY?! But no, it wasn’t that bad. There was [sic] a lot of selfies and Sofia had her camera and was always taking pictures. I still want to get that picture of Paris Hilton and I meeting for the first time. The producer Youree [Henley] has an old film camera and he had just gotten it so he was getting used to it, and he said one of the best shots he got out of the whole roll of film was a picture of me. I had sunglasses on and a cigarette dangling out of my mouth and the city background around it… I was like dude where is that picture? I need it.

The Bling Ring hits theaters in DC this Friday (June 21)! Make sure you check it out! I am definitely going to see it again. Also, the soundtrack is FANTASTIC!

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