CANNES -- Few people can call watching reality TV a professional obligation. But Emma Watson found herself in just that position researching the role of a celebrity-obsessed thief in the fact-based "The Bling Ring."
"I had a lot of work to get into the character of Nikki," the actress, 23, told reporters at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, referring to the member of the nihilist burglar team she plays in Sofia Coppola's new film. "I watched a lot of 'Kardashians' and a lot of Paris [Hilton] and a lot of 'The Hills.'"
In the movie -- which premiered at Cannes on Thursday night and hits U.S. theaters June 14 -- Watson portrays one of a group of real-life young people, primarily four women and a man, who for nearly a year broke into the homes of celebrities including Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson and Orlando Bloom. There they pocketed jewelry, money and even ornamental rugs in a bid to live the celebrity high life. (The story -- and movie -- also has had some implications for the LAPD, as my colleague Amy Kaufman writes.) Coppola tells the tale in a fly-on-the-wall style; there are rarely digressions into their thought process beyond a desire for thrills and shiny things.'
Though "Bling Ring" contains plenty of party scenes, the actresses said that didn't necessarily come easily. "You have to put your morals aside and learn how to be a wild party girl," said Taissa Farmiga, one of the other actors, noting that her real-life persona was more low-key. (She waves a gun around in the film, so we'd hope so.)
The at-times phlegmatic Coppola said she had her own adjustments to make. "Tabloids and reality TV aren't familiar to me from my upbringing," she said. "So I make it from the kids' point of view and let the audience experience it [that way]."
Coppola's last trip to Cannes, in 2006, was marred by booing for her stylized take on French royalty in "Marie Antoinette." But on Thursday she refrained from firing back at those who jeered her film. "I'm always happy and excited to come to Cannes to show a film," she said when a reporter asked her if memories of that year were charged. "It's great having every reaction. Some people loved it. Some people hated it. It's great to have people engaged."
Though her new movie is about the underside of celebrity obsession, Watson, also the most famous of the actors, sidestepped questions from reporters about whether that obsession had gone too far with the entertainment world's explosion on tabloid coverage and reality TV.
"I don't know what to say about L.A. and Hollywood. When there's a demand for a type of shoe or an image, people will supply it," the former "Harry Potter" star told reporters. "Reality TV is just another way of telling a story."
She did offer an insight into the characters' motivations. "It wasn't about stealing. It was about pretending for two hours they were Paris Hilton."
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