Pontius at the Marmont

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Published December 16, 2010

CHRIS PONTIUS AND ELLE FANNING IN SOMEWHEREFILM STILL COURTESY OF FOCUS FEATURES

Chris Pontius had a mixed 2010, starring both in October’s Jackass 3D, a documentary of which you have likely heard, and in Venice Golden Lion winner Somewhere, to be released December 22. Pontius plays the childhood friend and garrulous companion of Stephen Dorff’s washing-up actor Johnny Marco. We caught up with the Los Angeles-based Pontius, to find out more about Sofia Coppola’s shooting style and what the Chateau Marmont is really like.

DANIEL D’ADDARIO: Do you like L.A.?

CHRIS PONTIUS: Yeah, I mean, I like it—I was born in L.A. and lived there when I was younger; I never thought I’d live here again. Eventually I decided if I was going to get more involved, to move down here, and then a few months later, Jackass started. I never thought I’d like it. I never wanted to live here full-time. Have you ever lived here?

D’ADDARIO: No, I haven’t.

PONTIUS: Are you in Connecticut?

D’ADDARIO: No, that’s my area code. I live outside New York.PONTIUS: Do you like it there?

D’ADDARIO: [laughs] It’s fine. So did you go see any movies to prepare for Somewhere? Did Sofia give you any homework?

PONTIUS: No, not at all. I knew Sofia from years ago, and I hadn’t hung out with her for a long time, because she’d moved to France, and I hadn’t seen her for years, actually. But I knew her well enough that she knew my sense of humor. I think she wanted me for the part because she’d seen me with a friend of ours’s daughter, and she liked how I was with kids. Most movies that were thrown my way, they’d be stuff that wanted to play off Jackass-y type stuff—not stuff that I would really want to do, it’d just be too obvious. But this is just an opposite kind of thing. I was so lucky and grateful that she thought of me for it. Anyway, I met with the producers, and one of them was this guy that I could just tell was like, he wasn’t cocky or anything, but you could tell that he was just a badass at whatever he did. I looked up his name when I got home, and the guy’s name is Fred Roos and he was a producer on Godfather and Apocalypse Now, and I was like, Oh my God. And he’s won an Oscar—I would have been so nervous if I knew who I was meeting.

D’ADDARIO: Were you ever nervous on the set?

PONTIUS: It was pretty natural, and they all gave me a lot of confidence, and Stephen was cool, and he gave me a lot of confidence. One of the first days we were in L.A., I was just saying a lot of stuff, and I wasn’t sure if I was doing good or not, and I called him and he was super-supportive. After the first day of filming, I think I had a pretty good idea of what Sofia wanted. Before we’d start shooting every day, I’d talk to her about what we were doing and get an idea of what she wanted. I think we understood each other really well, so that made it happen really easy.

D’ADDARIO: It seemed you and Stephen, and you and Elle, had a really natural rapport—did you know Stephen before you made the movie?

PONTIUS: No, I didn’t know him at all. Sofia had us all get together, a few weeks before we started filming. Stephen and Elle had already gotten to know each other, but for me to meet them—the only connection I had to him was that I knew a girl from Ireland that had kind of a, over the years, a romance thing with him, and so I brought her up, and Sofia was like, you should make reference to something like that in the movie. We ended up not using that, but that made me realize that she wanted me to bring a lot of stuff into it. A lot of that stuff was so new to me—I’ve done enough little parts in other movies that I’ve seen ways other directors work. Sofia’s a lot different. Stuff is so natural, and there’s not tons of people. If a couch needs to get moved, Sofia moves it.

D’ADDARIO: So it’s more do-it-yourself—not so dissimilar from Jackass, because that’s just you guys, right?

PONTIUS: We had more people on Jackass. Even on [Pontius’s nature show] Wildboyz, where we travel all over the world, this guy from Maxim or Stuff or FHM was on a trip with us, and in his article he wrote he didn’t believe how many people were with us. It was all necessary people, we have quite a few cameras—in nature, you never know what animals are going to do. Somewhere was pretty minimal with the cameras. The cameraman, the director of photography, Harry [Harris Savides] was so amazing, that guy—he was one of the coolest parts of the movie, huh?

D’ADDARIO: Yeah, it’s an amazing-looking movie. It really captured the mood of the hotel. Had you ever stayed there before?

PONTIUS: I’ve never stayed there, but I’ve been there a lot. I think one of the first times I met Sofia was actually there, at a party that a lot of people she’s still friends with were having. I’ve been there enough. It’d be fun to live there. It’s a weird scene, man. Have you ever stayed there?

D’ADDARIO: No, I’ve only been to L.A. once.

PONTIUS: There’s all these—I don’t know who stays there. Some hotels get a lot of press for having movie stars hang out, and a bunch of wannabes will be there, and go there for the weekend from wherever they live. And, you know, some girl with big fake tits’ll go there and act like she’s Pamela Anderson for the weekend.

D’ADDARIO: Right.

PONTIUS: Chateau Marmont’s not like that. I don’t know, really.

D’ADDARIO: Are there any hotels you really like staying in?

PONTIUS: I like all hotels, really. In New York, I stayed at a bunch of hotels there. For some reason, the Mercer Hotel, we always used to have fun at. You ever been there?

D’ADDARIO: No.

PONTIUS: That hotel’s cool. It was low-key, but it was awesome. I just went to Italy, and I stayed in the craziest hotel room I’ve ever seen. It didn’t have a swimming pool in it like [Somewhere], but it was like, overly elaborate. It had its own garden, and an office, and I was just sitting there, like, Why the hell am I here? Like, I’m a shitbag. And I was in Moscow before that. I can’t believe I’ve even been to Russia. I always wanted to travel a lot when I was a kid—and I did, I was kind of a vagabond from seventeen onward, until Jackass started. A lot of times I was just traveling. And I worked at a magazine where I had a column that would make me enough money to travel around, and I was not livin’ big, but it was a good life, cool lifestyle.

SOMEWHERE WILL BE OUT IN LIMITED RELEASE ON DECEMBER 22.