The West

In his father s kingdom
Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, Ed Norton and Frances McDormand in Moonrise Kingdom. Picture: Universal.

It may have been difficult growing up as the son of Francis Ford Coppola yet if ever there was a chip of the old block, 47-year-old Roman fits the bill.

Outgoing and well-built like his dad, even if his younger sister Sofia is quiet and slight, Roman is very much part of the family's filmmaking endeavours, as is his cousin Jason Schwartzman.

Schwartzmanplayed King Louis XVI in Sofia's 2006 film Marie Antoinette while Roman worked behind the camera, on second unit.

The men also collaborated with their friend Wes Anderson on The Darjeeling Limited with each of them writing a character based on themselves. (Schwartzman played his own character while Coppola's was portrayed by Adrien Brody and Anderson's by his good friend Owen Wilson.)

It was only natural, then, that when Anderson was stuck writing the screenplay for his new movie, Moonrise Kingdom, Roman would come to the rescue.

"Wes and I had known each other really only as friends until his 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," explains Los Angeles based Roman. "I told him I'd be happy to come to Italy and help him but he was a little reticent. In the end I happened to be there and just showed up and helped out. Gradually Wes started to relax and realised I could be helpful."

The fanciful story of two 12-year-old renegades who fall in love and run away together, Moonrise Kingdom was a natural progression after their strong collaboration on The Darjeeling Limited. Anderson had been mulling over the story for more than a decade.

"I started by asking him questions," says Roman. "'What happens after the boy escapes? What do the parents think?' 'I don't know, he doesn't have parents,' he'd reply. So I drew it out of him bit by bit. It became very intense and we worked that way for around a month and we finished the whole thing."

This all happened over copious glasses of wine and Parisian dinners.

"I drink red and Wes drinks white so there's a problem ordering a bottle at the table," quips Roman, whose father owns his own vineyard.

Roman in some ways is taking over the mantle from his old man, having helped on executive-produce Walter Salles's upcoming movie adaptation of Jack Kerouac's beat classic, On The Road, which his dad optioned more than 30 years ago.

Has it been difficult being the son of a legend? "I've had a great life of adventure and exposure to art and it's been very positive," he admits. "I love my family; I'm very close to them. We all help each other and the things I've learned and have been witness to have been incredible."

As a child young Roman endured the arduous filming of 1979's Apocalypse Now and was in the magnificent documentary of the making of the film, Hearts of Darkness, which used footage shot by his mother Eleanor.

The 1991 film also chronicled the downhill spiral of the alcoholic Martin Sheen, and interestingly Roman has now directed A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, starring Sheen's prodigal son Charlie. It's his second dramatic feature after 2001's CQ.

"The film's very colourful, very imaginative I think," Roman explains. "It's basically the story of a girl who breaks up with a guy and her claws are in his heart and brain so much that he just can't let her go.

"He goes into a tailspin and he reaches out to his best friend, who is Jason [Schwartzman], and to his other friend who happens to be his accountant, Bill Murray, and to his sister, Patricia Arquette. They are trying to understand what happened to him and we gradually begin to learn about the relationship."

Sounds like the kind of questions we have of Sheen ourselves, though Roman says the actor was the ultimate pro on set.

"He was totally together, he showed up every day, he worked in every scene, he knew all his lines," Roman says before adding with a laugh: "Charlie is very dynamic, he's obviously crazy but when he says he will do something he does it with every fibre of his being.

"With all that [drug-fuelled] craziness that hit the media, he never lied, he never said anything but the truth and that is what I think interested people. People like him and he has something about him that says movie star. So I think now he is back."

So too may well be Roman.

Moonrise Kingdomis now screening.

The West Australian

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