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Stephen Dorff, Going Hollywood In 'Somewhere'

In Sofia Coppola's latest film, Somewhere, Stephen Dorff plays a lonely, aimless Hollywood star named Johnny Marco who seemingly has it all. He lives at the famous Chateau Marmont hotel; he has money, buzz and adoring fans; and he's coming off a role in a major Hollywood action film.

But in between the more public moments of his life, Marco is bored -- and depressed. He's between roles, divorced and adrift. His life is his sports car, the women who throw themselves at him, the parties in his room.

"I had to lose a lot of myself to play Johnny Marco," Dorff tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "At the same time, I think the isolation, the emptiness that can happen in a performer's life ... when the lights go down, when the phone stops ringing, when the responsibility of our performance is finished -- there's kind of a weirdness that happens. It's kind of like you're left alone."

Dorff says he had to strike a delicate balance between staying in character and just acting like himself, because the scenes he filmed felt so real.

"If I had been mugging for the camera, or [there had been] one little subconscious thing that became conscious, I think it would have unraveled the whole movie that Sofia was trying to make," he says. "It was a lot of responsibility on my part. I think that's what the challenge was."

Interview Highlights

On filming the movie in real time

"One line in the script might say Johnny smokes a cigarette in real time on the couch, in the evening by himself. I didn't know that scene was going to be five minutes long. There's certain things that [Coppola] is holding back from me, letting me know as I go. But I love the process. I find that scripts in general tend to be too long and tend to be overwritten and have monologues that explain everything."

On living in the Chateau Marmont himself when he was younger

"When you stay in a hotel for that long, and you have friends come join you, you kind of host the party every night, so I'm paying for everything -- and ... it can add up every time you have a coffee. It was a good lesson to learn. I then ultimately had my 21st-birthday party there, which ended in a big ... synchronized-swimming party in the pool, which ultimately [in Somewhere] I do my underwater tea party with [onscreen daughter] Elle Fanning in, so there's been all these moments there."

On preparing for his role as the transsexual performer Candy Darling in I Shot Andy Warhol

"I was Naired and all of the hair comes off. I was waxed. The one thing I didn't want to do was take hormones, because that's how Candy got in trouble with her health in the first place. So I said 'How do I get this voice?' because I have a deeper voice. [The director] had sent over some Kim Novak movies, and she thought I had a good ear from doing other accents, so I could mimic this voice. Everything was given to me -- the makeup, the outfits, the garters. I [talked] with some of Candy's friends, people who were close to her. I always call her 'her.' She was just so beautiful. ... I didn't see a man. I saw a woman."

Copyright 2023 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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