Somewhere: Interview with Star Stephen Dorff

Stephen Dorff stars as Johnny Marco in "Somewhere," directed by Sofia Coppola. The film, which also stars Elle Fanning, is being released by Focus Features on December 22. 

An opportunity


Dorffstates, “After making around three dozen movies, I’ve gotten a gift of a part. Somewhere is special – poetic, sweet, and truly in Sofia’s style.


“The opportunity came out of nowhere. Sofia, whom I’ve known for years but hadn’t talked to in a while, called and asked if she could send me the script for her new movie. After reading it, I called her the next day to ask her if I could come to Paris immediately to meet and talk about the film. On my last night there, I got the call from Sofia that I had the part. I started bawling, because it was the one-year anniversary of my mom’s passing, and I felt her smiling in that moment; this was the kind of role she’d wanted for me. Right after I hung up, the Eiffel Tower lit up.”


Living like Johnny Marco


The actor admits, “I know what it’s like to live as an actor like Johnny Marco. I get who he is. I’ve had times where I’ve coasted. When we meet him, Johnny is lost in a monotonous rhythm and a decadent lifestyle. He’s a nice guy, but he’s drinking and popping pills. I don’t think he’s proud of a lot of the films he’s done – like his new one, Berlin Agenda. He hasn’t gotten his Somewhere yet. Then his little girl shows up, and even though he’s thinking ‘I can’t handle this,’ he spends more time with her than he has probably since she was a baby – more than just an afternoon.


“Sofia and I talked about Johnny’s back story, so I was able to plan where he starts [out] and where he goes [in his relationship] with his daughter, who is becoming a little lady. We filmed so much of it in sequence, which was a joy.”


Dorff confides, “I always get a little nervous before I start a movie. But I’ve got to say that on this one, I felt that I knew what I had to do. I felt it when I [had first] read it. My mom always wanted me to play a Steve McQueen-type character. She would say, ‘He’ll be flawed, a ladies’ man, but he’ll have heart.’ That’s who I saw in Johnny, as Sofia had written him.”


Getting a handle on Fanning


Dorff credits his relationship with his younger sisters as helping him to get a handle on Elle and her character. He comments, “My sisters are, or have been, near Cleo’s age and I’m very close to them. I pulled from that a lot for my scenes with Elle – who is a brilliant little thespian and also a real, sweet girl.


“Being around Elle was a change for me, since I don’t have a child. I felt this when was driving her in my car one day [before filming]. Now, usually I’m in my car smoking and cursing when someone cuts me off – because we do have the worst drivers in L.A. – but I had to stop doing all that. [Instead,] it was ‘Seatbelt on!’”


Living at the Chateau


Dorff remembers living at the Chateau for “four or five months; I had my 21st birthday there. I remember it always being trendy, but I don’t remember it being so popular. It’s now quite a hot spot at night.”


Dorff says, “It was kind of a trip to be back staying at the Chateau, not going back to my own home every night. By living there, because people might know or recognize me, I experienced a lot of what Johnny would have; every night, I would wonder, ‘Do I go out to dinner, should I play piano, should I go downstairs, go out to a movie?’ Many times I would think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to see anybody; I’m going to order room service.’”