Bling Ring Israel and Katie

Imaginary Interview: talking about peer pressure, excess, and music with The Bling Ring's Katie Chang and Israel Broussard

{The Bling Ring opens in Seattle on Friday, 6/21, and is screening at SIFF Cinema Uptown, The Guild 45th, AMC Pacific Place, and Oak Tree Cinemas} 

Sofia Coppola's new film, The Bling Ring, screened at SIFF for this year's Closing Night gala. The film is about the real life "Bling Ring": a group of teens who robbed celebrity houses and then flaunted their scores all over the Hollywood club scene and Facebook. It's a story steeped in excess, and Coppola based the screenplay heavily on a Vanity Fair article called "The Suspects Wore Loubitons" by Nancy Jo Sales, and footage from the E! reality show Pretty Wild, which featured two of the ring members, Alexis Neiers (played in the film with eerie attention to detail by Emma Watson) and Tess Taylor. 

I was lucky enough to get an early peek at the Director's take on what happens when a group of spoiled rich kids takes their love of celeb culture and designer duds to a new level, and even luckier to get to sit down with the film's stunning leads, Katie Chang (Rebecca) and Israel Broussard (Marc) to chat about teen peer pressure, the culture shock of L.A., and working with Sofia. 

The two young (goodlord does spending time with an 18 and 19-year-old make me feel like an OLD lady!) actors were remarkably composed, polite, and accommodating. They even indulged my request for a Bling Ring-style selfie at the end of the interview! Hey, Katie and Israel? I LIKE YOU. And I hope I get to see you in more stuff soon. 

TIG: First off, I was curious if you two grew up like the characters you play in this film. Or, if not, did you know kids like that? Basically, how familiar were you with that world? 

Katie Chang: Well, I grew up in a pretty affluent part of Northern Illinois, right north of Chicago. So the way that I grew up was very much mid-western small town, but you go a couple minutes East and you're on the lake, and I knew a lot of kids on the lake. So I wasn't unfamiliar with kids who were both rich and bored. 

Israel Broussard: No, I grew up about a block from the trailer park in Mississippi, so I was not at all familiar with it until I first got to L.A. 

Katie: NOTHING can prepare you for L.A. 

TIG: Did you find yourself getting pulled into that L.A. culture at all? 

Israel: Well, now — it's kind of hard to say [presumably after The Bling Ring comes out] No! I mean, presumably we both have level heads on our shoulders, so we're not easily swayed by Gucci. Or anything … snotty, I guess. 

Katie: I think the difference between us and some kids in L.A. is that for me, whenever I go there, I'm always with my parents. And we have really good teams around us that go with us everywhere, and make sure we're doing the right things. 

Israel: Yeah, they take good care of us.

TIG: What do you guys think about all the excess that's shown in the film? Is is overwhelming to think about people like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan having so many things that they wouldn't even notice stuff missing? 

Katie: YES. 

Israel: Hey, if that was my closet, it would be a little more organized. Like maybe in those vacuum bags. [smirking] 

Katie: I think the excess makes us both uncomfortable, since we didn't come from it. 

TIG: But you did do a really great job falling into those roles and making it look like you had lived it. I'm sure part of that is because you do know what peer pressure is like, and you could understand why those kids would go along with it to be popular.  

Katie: That's what interesting, is that the peer pressure, and all of those typical teenage things, are still prevalent in these kids, regardless of how abnormal they were otherwise. Like, what they do after school is rob celebrity homes. At the end of the day, they were still just stupid teens. 

TIG: Did you guys watch any of that Pretty Wild reality television show before filming? 

Israel: Yeah, we did our research. We watched Pretty Wild, and I think they [the girls in the cast] watched The Hills a lot. I watched Fashion Police. There was lot of work before we filmed it, and Katie and I definitely had to get in the groove of L.A., and the fashion culture. She was in it a little more than I was … 

TIG: Oh, you don't normally walk around in stilettos?

Israel: No. That's not my thing. [chuckling] 

TIG: I was just wondering, since a lot of the lines your characters have come verbatim from the Vanity Fair article or that show, and they are exactly what your real-life counterparts said. 

Katie: Yeah, almost word-for-word. That's a pretty gutsy move on Sofia's part. It was kind of difficult for all of us to play these parts, because we were coming from a perspective of "Oh my god, I can't believe this happened!" But the great thing about Sofia is that she really gives you room to push yourself as far as you're willing to go, and encourages you to go that extra mile. It was really cool to have the freedom to be as free and as open and as nonjudgmental as we could be of our characters. 

TIG:  I'm sure it was a great experience for you guys! Do you know what you're going to do next? 

Israel: I'm pretty excited about a music video I've got coming out for M83, for their song "Claudia Lewis." It's directed by Bryce Dallas Howard, and Lily Collins is in it. And we're waiting for that to come out, and it's gonna be fun! 

Katie: I did a film last fall called A Birder's Guide to Everything that just went to Tribecca, and it's with Sir Ben Kingsley and Kodi Smit-McPhee and couple other really cool actors. So hopefully that will get picked up soon, and we'll see it out in the world. But as of right now, my biggest project is preparing to go to Columbia [University]. I'm excited! 

TIG: Cool. What kind of music are you guys listening to right now? 

Katie: When we were filming I was listening to music that just doesn't make any sense for the filming process. I went through a HUGE Michael Jackson phase, and like, Amy Winehouse, and kinda jazzy stuff. I don't know why. It just happened at the same time. But now my favorite band is Third Eye Blind; it has been for a very long time. So I'm kind of going back to that … and I really love The Lumineers and The Head and the Heart.  

Israel: I am a man of variety, but I don't dig "hey, let's go to sleep" music. I mostly base myself around hip-hop and R&B. But I appreciate Country and Pop. I enjoy Enimen, Lil Wayne, and Asap Rocky's been coming up on my radar. Yellow wolf too. 

TIG: How do you feel about Macklemore? 

Israel: I like Macklemore; he's got a unique sound, but I'm not yet sold. But "And We Danced" is an amazing song. 

Katie: I like Macklemore because he's intelligent. The things that he writes about and raps about make sense, and are really socially conscious. 

TIG: Anything else you want to say about the movie? 

Katie: Just that it's INSANE. And you should go see it! 

Israel: Yes, please go see it. 

Channelling my best, "I just ripped off Lohan's Birkin and am partying with these young, beautiful people" impression.

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