A glimpse inside the mind of Roman Coppola 

click to enlarge Way out: Charlie Sheen plays the title character in “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.” - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Way out: Charlie Sheen plays the title character in “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III.”

Director Roman Coppola doesn’t deny that his second feature film, “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III,” is a personal movie that may not have mainstream appeal.  

The film, which opens today, is a kind of comical, hallucinogenic dreamscape about a 1970s-era artist (Charlie Sheen) who designs record covers and is suffering as a result of a terrible breakup.

Recently in town to promote the movie, Coppola, who went through a bad breakup himself “many years ago,” says he tried to capture the specific state of mind of someone in such turmoil.

“Your mind is very fractured. You love someone and you hate them, but you’re not sure, and processing, and reconsidering, and recollecting,” he says.

The film features a lot of fragmented imagery, including musical numbers, animation and even a Western-style shootout.

Even though Coppola has a famous film family (father Francis Ford Coppola, sister Sofia) and industry connections, his offers to make this film received nothing but rejections for years.

“To make personal movies that you are the author of, is quite a difficult thing,” he says. “It takes a lot of stamina. I think my stubbornness helped.”

Coppola encountered even more resistance from backers when he picked Sheen to play the lead.

“I can’t tell you how many people thought that was a dumb idea,” he says. “But I think he’s a really great actor. It’s a wonderful performance, and I’m really proud of him.”

Overall, the movie took nearly a decade to make, although Coppola was often busy with other work.

In addition to co-writing the Oscar-nominated “Moonrise Kingdom” screenplay with Wes Anderson, he has handled second-unit direction on some of his father’s films, produced his sister’s film “Somewhere,” and directed several music videos.

But he says spending a long time on “Charles Swan” enhanced it.

“There was something about it that kept me coming back to it,” he says. “And also it kind of benefits from — or at least is informed by — that period of time. It wouldn’t have been the same movie if I’d written it in three weeks.”

Coppola says his greatest asset is a good, strong support unit that provides an atmosphere of encouragement: “It’s nice if any condition that we can create out there gets people to try something wild or fresh. Anything that you think is wild or fun, or can’t wait to see or show your friends, go for it.”


A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray
Written and directed by: Roman Coppola
Rated: R
Running time:
1 hour, 26 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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