Die laughing with Roman Coppola's comic turn


Roman Coppola, son of Francis Ford Coppola and big brother to Lost in Translation director Sofia, is not a funny man.

At least, that's what he thinks. Audiences may beg to differ when they see Die Again, Undead One, a surreal short film he has directed as part a short film series for W Hotels and Intel, which stars his cousin the actor Jason Schwartzman as a leather-clad gigolo and Coppola as a director shooting a low-budget vampire flick.

"Jason is just very, very witty – he's the funny one. I wouldn't say I have that knack. Not in person at least," says Coppola, 47, who is supremely laid-back despite a movie mogul get-up that includes Seventies shades and a shirt emblazoned with the letters RC.

Schwartzman also features in Coppola's forthcoming feature film A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, which stars Charlie Sheen in the lead as a dumped and desolate Seventies playboy trying to piece his life back together post break-up. Schwartzman plays as his best friend and Bill Murray appears as his depressed accountant. It is set to be Coppola's biggest film yet, and it is, say the few who saw it at the Rome Film Festival last month, beautifully nostalgic and retro if a little too dreamy for some people's tastes. Coppola, who also wrote and produced the film, says it is his "favourite" work yet.

Coppola has directed just one feature film before, CQ, which screened out of competition at Cannes 11 years ago to mixed reviews. He has spent more time behind the scenes than in the director's chair, producing several of his sister's films, collaborating as writer, producer and second unit director on several Wes Anderson films (he co-wrote this year's Cannes Film Festival hit Moonrise Kingdom.)

Is there a lot of pressure coming from Hollywood royalty? "No, film is like eating to me. It feels completely natural." Coppola is unfailingly complimentary about all of his family and colleagues: dad is an "inspiration", cousin Nicolas Cage is "pretty far out but super talented". He and Sofia have always worked well together, he adds. "When we were little she used to have a sewing machine – I'd help her make costumes."

It was tough persuading others to hire Sheen, fired last year from TV show Two and a Half Men. "Sure, people were concerned that he wouldn't be reliable. I just had a gut feeling about Charlie. I think he's wildly talented. I'd like to think I'm rediscovering him in the way Robert Downey Jr was rediscovered."

To watch 'Die Again, Undead One' go to youtube.com/fourstories