On the Record: The Bling Ring’s Israel Broussard
Vox caught up with actor Israel Broussard for a Q&A last Thursday at the tail end of a nationwide press tour for Sophia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, which opens in theatres June 21st. You can read Vox’s review here.
Broussard, who plays the male lead, grew up far away from all the glitz and glamour the film exhibits, despite starring in a highly publicized movie about the now-infamous gang of San Fernando Valley kids who robbed the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Orlando Bloom. He was born in Mississippi and lived there until he and his family moved to Los Angeles several years ago.
Despite the big city’s opportunities and now being a movie star himself, he has little awareness of modern celebrity culture. Somewhat ironically, he watches no television and doesn’t like movies. “I can’t sit there for two hours. I need to be doing something,” he said.
Broussard became an actor almost by accident. “I wanted to be a musician, not an actor. But, why not?”
He was cast for the movie based on a minute-and-a-half long video in which he spoke about himself to the film’s directors. And despite being a lead in the film, Broussard still finds himself nervous for the Q&As publicizing it. “I find it difficult to explain things, which is why I’m usually hoping I don’t bomb these things.”
That vulnerability enabled him to connect with the part of Marc, based on real-life Bling Ring member Nick Prugo.
“What attracted me was how vulnerable he was. [Marc] had no self-confidence or self-worth, so I just went back to my childhood growing up. That’s how it was in elementary school for me.” The youngest of four children, his three older sisters tormented him as only older siblings can. He was quick to assure Vox, “There are no grudges now.”
Once chosen to play Marc, he and the rest of the cast began a crash course of shady L.A. and celebrity nightlife. The first “bonding” activity the cast embarked on was a mock robbery of one of Sophia Coppola’s friend’s houses. They were given a treasure hunt-style list of items to bring back, and were told to break into the house to get a feel of what it felt like for the real-life Bling Ring.
Although Broussard only experienced the better half of the Bling Ring saga, he is empathic towards the real group.
“There are points in your life where you need to get slapped on the wrist,” Broussard said. “I feel like I understand why they did it. Definitely my character wanted to feel accepted, he wanted the attention, he wanted to feel like he was somebody.”
As he was subject to these insecurities, Marc picks up a drug habit. Throughout the film, Broussard is shown indulging in cocaine and marijuana. The cocaine “…was lactose, I think. It didn’t hurt because it was so light…it just stuck to the outer layer” of his nose.
The movie-marijuana, on the other hand, was awful. “Every time you see us [taking a hit of] something, I’m just trying to keep a straight face… It’s like watching a little kid taking a shot.”
While he enjoyed the making of the film, the ramifications of the film are a real criticism of the current popular culture that many perpetuate. Even though celebrities aren’t usually portrayed as victims, they were in the case of The Bling Ring.
Broussard, though he is now a celebrity himself, has no troubel stepping into the make-believe role: if he were part of a real-life Bling Ring, who would he rob? The Obamas. No sweat.