In 2008 and 2009, seven Los Angeles-area teenagers and young adults stole approximately $3 million worth of cash and goods from well-known celebrities.
Dubbed “The Bling Ring” by the media, this star-obsessed band of burglars famously vandalized the homes of Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, Rachel Bilson, Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr and Brian Austin Green and Megan Fox. And earlier this year, the group’s unbelievable heists came to the big screen in Sofia Coppola’s crime comedy “The Bling Ring.”
Now available with XFINITY On Demand, “The Bling Ring” stars scene-stealing newcomer Katie Chang as materialistic ringleader Rebecca, a high school student who seduces an introverted loner (Israel Broussard) with plots of rich-and-famous rip-offs, and eventually brings her equally misguided friends along for the ride. The film costars Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann and Gavin Rossdale.
I caught up with Chang to talk about the movie, her celebrity obsession, visiting Paris Hilton’s house, working with Hermione and much more.
David Onda: What was your reaction the first time you heard the “Bling Ring” story in the news?
Katie Chang: I was pretty shocked. I couldn’t imagine that somebody would be stupid enough to break into celebrities’ homes and not cover their tracks. These kids put a lot of the evidence on Facebook and it was quite easy for the police, once they had their names, to figure out who was involved in what. And I thought, if anything, that was kind of shocking and, in a way, almost funny. The level of ironic humor – you just can’t believe that something like this could happen.
Onda: How much research did you do on this group and Rachel Lee, the real-life person your character is based on?
Chang: I did a lot of research. I have a whole binder of stuff I printed out online. I got my hands on any article I could find on the internet about these kids, and I read the Vanity Fair article [“The Suspects Wore Louboutins”] and I watched interviews with the victims. I tried to do a lot of research on, specifically, the girl that my character was based off of, but there’s not a ton out there about her. She kind of disappeared, and maybe that’s a good thing for her. At the end of the day, the research is really important because it creates the setting for the character, and then you’re able to fill in whatever gaps you have left.
Onda: Rebecca seems to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Was it hard to play a character like that?
Chang: It was difficult, because she’s very easy to hate. One thing about Rebecca is she’s quite enticing, and she makes you want to be her friend, but at the same time she’s so hateful. And as an actor, it’s hard to play a character that doesn’t have a lot of good qualities, because it’s difficult to not judge the person you’re playing. But if you put in a lot of really sly, subtle things in the character – there’s a scene where Rebecca, after she’s arrested, the detective says that he spoke with all the victims, and all Rebecca cares about is hearing what Lindsay Lohan had to say about her and what they did. It’s funny and it plays as this ridiculous, shocking thing, but for me to read that and realize that this character was so obsessed with these people, it made me feel very sad for her. It’s really easy to completely detest her, but I think she should be pitied as well, because she’s so far gone into this obsession with celebrity culture. She doesn’t realize that what she’s done is so completely unrealistic and invasive.
Onda: We’re all guilty of a certain level of celebrity obsession, like Rebecca with Lindsay – do you have any star obsessions?
Chang: [laughs] For a good four years of my life… I was obsessed with a pop-punk band called All Time Low. I swear, up until about 2009, I could quote every single interview they’d ever done. I knew all their songs, I knew everything about them. What I realize now is that, that kind of obsessive quality that I had then provided more of an escape, if anything. You know, high school is tough, and once I found a group of friends I really enjoyed being around, and once we realized that we had this great thing in common – All Time Low – it provided an escape from the crumbiness of high school. If anything, I could identify with that and bring that into my character.
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Onda: You filmed parts of “The Bling Ring” in Paris Hilton’s house. What were some of the craziest things you saw there?
Chang: I was just amazed that she has so many pictures of herself, and of different things that she’s gotten to do, and different pictures of her with really amazing people. I was amazed at all of that. She has a ton of animals. She has a pot-belly pig, and I really wasn’t expecting to see a pot-belly pig at her house. It definitely felt very surreal, and it was really important to Sofia that we didn’t really judge the house that we were in. If anything, we just went into the house and completely let ourselves be amazed by how crazy it was. It was a lot of fun. It felt like we were on a movie set, and not in someone’s real house.
Onda: How did Sofia’s female perspective lend itself to a movie with a mostly female cast?
Chang: What’s interesting is that, often in Sofia’s films, the sympathetic center of the film is a woman. However, in this film, your sympathies really lie with Mark, who’s a boy. So, that’s something that you’ve never seen from Sofia before. What’s interesting is that Sofia’s a female who grew up in L.A., and she’s making a movie about the downfall of young women growing up in L.A. I think she added something very special from her experience and her knowledge of people in L.A. when she was younger.
Onda: You were a kid during the height of the “Harry Potter” mania. Did you have a geek-out moment working with Emma Watson?
Chang: I have read the “Harry Potter” series about 15 times over, so I am a huge “Harry Potter” fan. I’m a huge book reader, and “Harry Potter” has been a huge part of my childhood. To work with her was so exciting, and to meet her and realize how kind she is and how professional she is was so awesome. You grow up knowing her name, and you always wonder if she’s as kind as she comes off – and it’s true, she’s a fantastic person to work with.
Onda: Do you have a favorite scene in “The Bling Ring”?
Chang: I really love the shot when we’re running through Audrina Patridge’s house. It was quite special to me, and Israel and I got so close over the filming, so to get to do a scene just with him was really cool. I love the scenes when we’re just driving in a Porsche. I mean, that’s pretty awesome. I got to actually drive the car. I don’t know why they let me drive the car – they thought it was a good idea. So I got to drive around L.A. for three days in a row in a Porsche, and it was pretty hilarious.
Onda: Why should movie fans check out “The Bling Ring” with XFINITY On Demand?
Chang: It depends on what kind of a person you are, and what you’re going to get out of the film. If you’re having a fun night with your girlfriends, this is a perfect movie, because it’s outrageous and its funny and it’ll wash over you and you can take from it what you want. If you’re really looking for something that’s going to have an important message, this film also delivers that, too. This film is so great to come out on On Demand, because it has a little bit of something for everybody. It’s got drama and it’s funny and it’s crazy and it’s intense and it’s also very vapid. I think it’s made for all different types of people.
“The Bling Ring” is now available with XFINITY On Demand. Click here to begin the process of ordering at home.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.