Photography by Tyler Givens & Christian Coppola
“I like making films that feel like daydreams,” admits 21-year-old NYC director Christian Coppola, whose official short film debut Heartbreak Hotel provides a romantic reverie filled with Old Hollywood nostalgia.
Starring models Jacob Morton and Susannah Liguori, the nine-minute clip follows a sullen Nick (played by Morton), whose plan to check into the Bowery Hotel to end his life gets interrupted by four famous hauntings: James Dean, Yoko Ono, Audrey Hepburn and Courtney Love.
Watch the exclusive BULLETT premiere, below, as Nick sips wine with Hepburn and gets toilet paper wrapped around his body by Love (Goals).
What sparked your desire to tell this particular narrative?
Christian Coppola: “I’ve always had an innate desire to make things that are really pretty, so when this project began to take root, it felt like the perfect opportunity to embellish that. I didn’t want to do something that was heavy in exposition or plot structure; I wanted to make something playful, but also visually and emotionally compelling. I was interested in the idea of putting a group of people like this in a glamorous hotel suite next to someone of Nick’s temperament, and letting it all play out from there.”
Talk about the significance of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel.”
CC: “‘Heartbreak Hotel’ is inspired by a suicide note some unnamed musician left behind in a hotel room, and it explored these ideas that were super melancholic and romantically charged. Elvis being Elvis was able to turn this depressing song, where a guy is talking about how he’s so lonely he could die, into an upbeat Rock ‘N’ Roll song that became his first number one single; that’s definitely something I wanted to emulate in my film in terms of mood. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I wish I was Elvis.”
How’d you go about casting?
CC: “I really wanted my actors to embody their roles to a tee so that everything felt as natural as possible. When I was looking for people who emulated James Dean, Courtney Love and Yoko Ono, I instantly knew where to go, whether through personal friends of mine or mutual friends. It’s funny because most of what you see in the film isn’t necessarily acting. It’s more like playing pretend. My actors were essentially playing themselves, aside from Jacob and Susannah. Dylan and Kaitlin dress pretty much exactly like their characters do in real life, so they were also saving me money on wardrobe.”
Does this film align with your directorial aesthetic?
CC: “From a directorial standpoint, developing my style is an ongoing process. That’s part of what makes this all so rewarding. I see each project as a new way to manifest whatever is going on in my head. As I mentioned before, I wanted to make something pretty, but I also wanted to infuse the film with an air of sophistication that we used to see in Hitchcock films and how movie stars like Grace Kelly were portrayed onscreen. Everyone just looked so immaculate and the imagery was so incredibly romantic, so having an opportunity to elaborate on that felt fantastic. I have a soft spot for Old Hollywood.”
Talk to me about setting; why did you choose The Bowery Hotel?
CC: “I always knew I had to shoot this at The Bowery Hotel—that was non-negotiable. It’s one of my favorite hotels, so I’ve spent a good amount of time there; a lot of my friends in the city joke that it’s my biggest New York haunt. The Bowery has a special quality that few hotels have; it really feels like it’s been lived in and has a rich history to it, which I suppose is where the spirits and haunted rooms come into play. Whenever I’m at a hotel like The Bowery, I always find myself wondering who was in that room before me and what they were doing there. It’s crazy just how much certain hotel rooms have seen, and there’s also that concept of, ‘If hotel rooms could talk.’”
Why did you choose the four spirits James Dean, Yoko Ono, Audrey Hepburn and Courtney Love?
CC: “I never intended to divulge the identity of each spirit; I’d love the audience to have to figure that all out for themselves. I’m also scared that Courtney Love might come after me for pretending she’s dead, so I’d like to emphasize that just because these spirits are emulating certain people, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s who they are. My brother watched the film and said that he thought each spirit represented a different facet of Nick’s personality, which was one of my favorite interpretations. When writing the script, I wanted strong, distinct characters that would be able to get different emotions out of Nick. I loved the idea of each character being Nick’s foil in their own way, and how that would ultimately affect a radical change in him that we hope to see by the end of the film.”