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An interview with Roman Coppola, writer/director of A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III

“It’s not really my story to tell,” confides a hesitating Roman Coppola, when we spoke over the phone recently. Regardless, he told the story all the same. It was a random one about the difficulties Gene Hackman was having finding his character in THE FRENCH CONNECTION and it somehow involved William Friedkin and a donut. It is the kind of candid insider information that one could only know when one comes from Hollywood royalty and it would be difficult to define the Coppola family as anything other than that.

Roman is the son of Francis Ford Coppola (THE GODFATHER) and brother to Sofia Coppola (LOST IN TRANSLATION) but if you don’t know his name just yet, perhaps you soon will. Not only is he in contention for his first Academy Award this month (for co-writing MOONRISE KINGDOM with good friend, Wes Anderson), but his second feature film as a director, A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III, hits theaters, and unsuspecting filmgoers, this month as well.


Charles Swan is played by none other than Charlie Sheen, in his first film role after his very public firing from his hit TV series, “Two and a Half Men”. Naturally, Sheen and Copoola have been old friends ever since Sheen’s father, Martin, worked with Coppola’s father on APOCALYPSE NOW. “Charlie came to the project near the end of a 5-year writing period. It took some convincing to get him on board but I’m really happy that he did.”

When you meet Charles Swan on screen, it may seem to you that the role was in fact written for Sheen from the start but Coppola insists otherwise. Swan, a successful advertising artist with too much money on his hands, has just ended the first real relationship of his life, after a string of meaningless women. He proceeds to get lost in delusion and drugs for our enjoyment.

“Do you know the guy from those Maxell commercials in the ’80’s?” Coppola asks me, out of nowhere. I do know him. Well, not personally. He was the dude who sat back in the chair with his sunglasses on and was blown away by the sound coming from the stereo. (Click here if you still don’t know who I’m talking about.) Coppola continues after I confirm that I do know to whom he is referring. “Well, I tried to imagine that guy’s story, had he just broken up with somebody.”


Coppola had in fact just broken up with somebody when he decided to write the follow-up to his debut feature, CQ. “It was a very confusing time,” he states, quite unnecessarily given that I’ve seen the film already. “I noticed this clear split between loving someone and hating that same person at the same time. I tried to write from that exact place.”

What came out of that place is many a fantasy to avoid spending any time in the actual present. Whether he’s riding horseback through a desert trying to avoid the over sexualized female indians chasing him or just having your run of the mill “Who came to my own funeral fantasy?”, Swan is almost always trying to be somewhere he isn’t and spinning things his way.

Coppola divulges that this style of writing has both pros and cons. “It can be really freeing because you get to do whatever you want, more or less. But then, you have to figure it all out and somehow piece it together so that it all makes sense.”


Aside from a producer credit on his sister’s next outing, THE BLING RING (due this year), Coppola’s schedule is pretty light in the immediate future, after A GLIMPSE INTO THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III is released, that is. “I’m the kind of person who has to see something through to the end before taking on something else,” he tells me when I ask what’s next for him. “That’s actually just a really long winded way of saying I don’t have anything planned.”

He could always win an Oscar, I guess.

One Comment

  1. I’m so glad that I read this review. I had been on the fence about this film. Bill Murray, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman are, in and of themselves, a glorious trifecta, but I was a little concerned about Charlie Sheen playing the protagonist. After this write-up, though, I think I’m going to have to give the movie a shot. Thanks so much.

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