Today sees the release of The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s modern-day parable about youth, celebrity and consumerism, and which follows the real life story of a gang of L.A. teens who robbed millions' worth of designer clothing, jewellery and money from celebrities including Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, and Audrina Partridge. Led, it’s thought, by Valley kid Rachel Lee, the teens used gossip sites and social media to target their victims, famously breaking into Paris’ home after she tweeted about her absence. Dubbed the Bling Ring by tabloids and later, the Entire Media, Coppola based her script on Vanity Fair article written by journalist Nancy Jo Sales in 2010 which is now a book. We had a quick chat with her...
Grazia Daily: Hi Nancy. Your brilliant book, The Bling Ring, was inspired by your 2010 article in Vanity Fair. What was it about very modern celebrity tale that prompted first a longform piece?
Nancy-Jo Sales: The story of the Bling Ring immediately attracted me because it seemed like a culmination of themes I had been reporting on for almost 20 years. It was kids, crime, celebrities, the Internet, all wrapped up in this one crazy package. I did the story, then Sofia optioned the film, and it wasn't until after the film had already been shot that Harper Collins asked me if I would like to do a book.
Grazia Daily: How involved were you in Sofia’s film?
Nancy-Jo Sales: We met several times over the course of the year that she was writing the script. We discussed the characters, the story, the kids' attitudes, the community they came from, as well as the broader themes of the story: celebrity obsession, the changing nature of celebrity in an age of social media and reality television, materialism, conspicuous consumption, etc. We also talked about the amazing details, like Paris Hilton leaving the key to her house under the mat—and then replacing it with another key when the kids took that one. We talked about how Starlets and how their courtroom appearances had become like runway walks.
Grazia Daily: 2008 was a very rarefied time in celebrity culture. Incidentally, victims Paris Hilton and Rachel Bilson (who were both media fodder around that time) have since dropped off our the radar. What was it about these celebrities that attracted the Bling Ring to rob them back then?
Nancy-Jo Sales: I talk about this a lot in my book, what attracted the kids to these particular targets. When I started researching the book I looked into the profiles of all the victims and thought about what they represented to the burglars. It turned out that all of them had been part of media products that promoted fame and wealth as values—Paris Hilton on The Simple Life, Rachel Bilson on The O.C., Audrina Patridge on The Hills, etc. I thought this was very striking. Also I noticed that all of the female victims had appeared on the cover of Maxim, which promotes an image of women that is very porny, in keeping with the backlash to feminism we have seen in the last 20 years. Of course the kids wanted to emulate the lifestyles of these stars—Nick Prugo told me the great line, that is in Sofia's film, "We just wanted to be part of the lifestyle that everybody kind of wants."
Grazia Daily: Have you heard back from any of the gang since the book?
Nancy-Jo Sales: Nick Prugo and I met in LA and had dinner together. He is doing very well, getting his life back together. For me Nick was the sympathetic character because he told the truth. Alexis Neiers was upset with my original article and complained about it on her reality show, Pretty Wild. She continues to tweet at me rather angrily because she says I misidentified a pair of shoes she wore to court. She reportedly received $100,000 to consult with Sofia on the film.
Grazia Daily: Are you pleased with Sofia's adaptation?
Nancy-Jo Sales: I think it's a brilliant film and a defining one about the age we live in.
Thanks for talk to us. Everyone, go and see the film soon but as it's sunny now, start with the book.