The movie, written and directed by Roman Coppola, stars Charlie Sheen as a brokenhearted playboy and Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman as his best friends, who try to pull him out of a surreal spiral after the love of his life dumps him hard.
A24, a brand new New York-based indie distributor, has acquired the U.S. rights to the movie and is announcing plans today to debut it in February 2013.
Check out some first photos from the film after the jump, along with an exclusive EW interview with Coppola, who explains the strange, soulful journey of this star-crossed character, who asks: Is it possible to love and hate someone at the same time?
Coppola, the son of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, previously directed the 2001 retro sci-fi movie CQ and is a frequent collaborator of director Wes Anderson, co-writing The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom and working as a second unit director on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is also set in a stylized world, a skewed version of contemporary Hollywood where Swan, a famous graphic designer, has a charmed life that begins to fall apart when girlfriend Ivana abruptly ends their romance.
Swan turns to his fellow travelers Kirby (Schwartzman), Saul (Murray) and sister Izzy (Patricia Arquette) when the going gets rough.
EW: Is Charles Swan a wild man character? Because when you hear the name Charlie Sheen, that’s what pops to mind these days.
Roman Coppola: Charlie is so perfect for the role, but he’s not perfect because of the public profile we’ve seen in the news. He’s incredibly talented as an actor, he has tons of charisma, he’s very witty. He’s very funny and charming. You can use your charm sometimes as a problem solver — and my character, that’s what he’s been doing. He’s been sliding through on life, using his charm and wit and charisma to get past some problems. But the problems are still there, and that’s the story of the movie.
Are we talking about Charlie Sheen or Charles Swan now?
To relate it to Charlie as a person, he has all those qualities. But to say “wild man,” it doesn’t quite … it’s not what I would choose, those words. There are many similarities, but not what you’d expect. He’s not someone who’s out of control. I even hate to bring all that up because it only reinforces it.
I see the line in the film’s synopsis saying “Charles’ life falls apart and he swirls into a downward spiral of doubt, confusion and reflection.” It’s easy to think, “Oh — you know who would be perfect for this part …?”
[Laughs] Exactly. Well, I can say there is something that really fits, but it’s due to his great acting abilities. On the surface you could make a lot of parallels, but when you see it you’ll appreciate this character is one we invented together, and he as a performer drew from whatever talents and inclinations he has.
Is it kind of a “lost weekend” story?
It does take place over a short period of time, and there’s a lot of confusion, and there is a “lost weekend” evening where Charlie goes out and drinks a lot of Brandy Alexanders and gets a little crazy. So that’s part of the story.
The movie is called “a glimpse inside the mind …” So I imagine things can get pretty weird, pretty fast. [Click for a larger version of the photo above for an example.]
It’s not strictly realistic. In the film, because some of the sequences take place in the imagination of the main character, it goes to fantastical circumstances and settings. There’s a western sequence, there’s an underground spy-agency sequence. There are some playful touches that, for me, are cued off this main character, whose professional life is creating imagery, stylized imagery like album cover art.
Is there a symbolic value to the graphic-design component? That’s a job about control of perception.
I never thought of that consciously. But there is something about controlling your world. It does pertain to creating the world around you. The way you dress and the people you surround yourself with. It’s a very sensual profession, where the touch and look and color is very much your world. The kind of designer this character is has a love of the female form, so there’s a lot of imagery about women and women’s bodies.
Let’s talk about the women! The lost girlfriend is named Ivana — who did you get to portray this ideal woman-of-his-dreams?
She’s played by Katheryn Winnick [a recurring charactor on Bones, who had small roles in Love & Other Drugs and Killers]. She’s done some TV performances and Cold Souls [a 2009 film with Paul Giamatti]. I just came across her randomly, watching television, and I tracked her down and looked her up. There was just something about her. Casting is mysterious. Sometimes something just infects you a little bit, and you fall in love with them. That’s how I felt about her. And I liked that she was less known, and therefore you kind of get to meet her as a character rather than a personality playing a role.
Aubrey Plaza and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are also in the film. How do these women shape the things going on in his head?
Aubrey Plaza is the producer of his design studio. She’s trying to keep him on the ball in terms of keeping him focused and applying his energy to getting his work done. His business is foundering a bit. And Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays the best friend of his girlfriend who just broke up with him. She is not so supportive of their relationship.
Tell me about Swan’s friends – Kirby, Saul and Izzy. Let’s go one by one – Jason Schwartzman as Kirby [Pictured above, in full beard, on horseback.] Who is he?
Kirby is Swan’s best friend. He’s a recording star and stand-up comic. He’s a very successful comic, and they know each other because Swan did all his album covers. The premise is when Swan loses his girlfriend and it really pulls the carpet out from under him, all he can do is reach out to the people he’s intimate with, and Kirby is his best friend. It’s a very familiar thing if you’ve ever broken up with someone. Maybe you haven’t …
I definitely have … [laughs]
Then you know, you want to talk about it. You want to understand it. You need to reach out. “Do I love her? Do I hate her? Was she a bitch, or was she great? Did I screw up? Did she screw up?” You tend to lean on your friends.
Bill Murray, who is possibly Earth’s coolest human, plays Saul. How does he fit into Swan’s life?
Bill Murray plays his business manager, who’s also a good close friend. I thought it was interesting that with Kirby, Jason is younger than Charlie, so he’s someone with a younger perspective, but his business manager is more mature and has another perspective on relationships and what happens when you spend more time with a person — and the good and bad of that.
Kind of a father figure?
In a way. I think you could say that. The idea is they are business colleagues, but once they get through business they really talk about their feelings. Bill plays it beautifully with this combination of being someone very professional, and then all of a sudden he totally shifts gears and goes personal.
The way you’re describing it makes him sound like a mentor-type.
But they’re all kind of flailing around. He’s a father-figure to some degree, but he needs advice just as much as Charlie’s character. He’s been together with his wife of 20 years and she wants to break up with him, so now he has to deal with similar feelings of confusion and alienation.
That brings us to Patricia Arquette as Izzy …
Izzy is Swan’s sister. They’re very close. I mean, I have a sister who I’m very close with. [Lost in Translation and Somewhere filmmaker Sofia Coppola.] It’s familiar to me, and she brings a woman’s perspective — someone who can shed light, and challenge him, and prod him. The hope is that through all these friends and family and colleagues, you work your way through it and everyone gives their advice and tries to guide you and gets frustrated. Her role is to be the loyal, beloved sister who can speak very frankly. She tells him he’s gotta get his s—t together, but at the same time can be compassionate.
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