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About A Guy:

Israel Broussard

Israel Broussard went from rural Mississippi to a starring role in The Bling Ring, but he still feels weird taking selfies.

Interview by Hazel Cills

So what attracted you to The Bling Ring script? Had you already known of the Vanity Fair article and wanted to be a part of this immediately or were you not totally familiar with the crimes beforehand?

I hadn't read the Vanity Fair article until I had met Sofia but I think what attracted me to this project was my character Mark. He was very relatable and I felt that I could express him in a way that I knew and in a way that I was comfortable with. Sofia gave me a lot of grace and a lot of freedom with him. It was fun and I think I portrayed him well and I had the whole cast and team behind me.

Tell me a little bit about the character you play in the film. How would you describe him?

He's very insecure and he's not sure where his heart or his head lies. He doesn't have many friends and when he meets Rebecca [the ring leader] she kind of takes him under his wing. In appreciation of that, he's very loyal to her and gets in trouble by doing all these things he normally wouldn't. She accepts him, so he follows her but eventually learns from it. He's a very intellectual character. He won't show it but in the end you're like, "Dang! He's got a complex thought process."

And your character is sort of loosely based on Nick Prugo, right? Do you feel like you have a better understanding of The Bling Ring members or the crimes after making this movie?

Yeah, I'd say so. I'd say that I have a gift of stepping into other people's shoes. I'm an understanding person. So, in certain situations and moments you take hold of them and go with it. Sometimes you end up in a sticky situation and realize, "Oh why did I do that?" I felt he was very relatable to the public and I think people will see Mark as very compassionate. He is strong and has been through so much growing up and everything that happened throughout the story. Audiences will really sympathize with him even though he was part of all these crimes and terrors, if you will, for celebrities.

Did you do anything special to prepare for the role and the film? Did you watch any reality TV?

Oh yeah. A week before filming we had rehearsal week and we all went shopping and got the L.A. atmosphere and then even before then I was watching Pretty Wild. Since then, I've been hooked on Kim Kardashian and her little stories. And I also met up with Greta Seacat and she really taught me how to break down the script into each moment and act it out through each moment and dream about my character. But yeah, I did research for it. I read the Vanity Fair article, watched the TV shows, and kind of got into the whole "L.A. Glam" style, you know?

Yeah, I think it's really funny that you all went shopping before to prepare.

Yeah, right? A great way to spend time together!

So much of the script is based in reality and from quotes taken from interviews and such. Were there any moments reading the script where you were just like, "These kids can not be real This is ridiculous?"

Well, no not really. I like to adapt to different situations and meet all sorts of people and try and understand how they are and how they think. Rumor or not, they're real people and you have to treat them like real people

In terms of how Sofia directed the cast, were you and the actors given room to improvise? I feel like a lot of the robbery scenes where you're all playing in the closets feel so natural.

Sofia is an amazing director. She's a very smart woman and I put all my trust in her for this project and she gave all of us a lot of freedom to do what we needed to do to bring out the best in each character. I think because of that the chemistry thrived so much more. She taught me how to get my blood flowing and how to improvise. When you're on set and you're rummaging through all these clothes you're like, "What do I say? What do I do?" but after a few takes you get used to it and have fun with it. She hardly cut and she just let us do our thing and we all got into it and created the scenes pretty much from scratch.

Filming the movie, tell me what the energy was like on set. You’re partying, you’re doing drugs, and you’re robbing houses. Did anything crazy happen on set?

We filmed at some great locations like Paris Hilton’s house and Frank Sinatra’s house and those alone are amazing, outstanding memories. Then there were mishaps like Claire accidentally throwing a picture and hits Emma in the eye [laughs] there was stuff like that, like Emma getting her toe busted. We all became a family on set and Sofia did a great job selecting the cast and pairing us up. First week on set felt like we had known each other forever.

Is there a particular line or scene from the movie that's your favorite?

The gun scene with Taissa, which you see a little clip of in the trailer. That one and just having a gun waved in my face was a little scary. But, the entire time I was trying not to laugh. Afterwards I was like, “Oh my god, I just totally blew that scene.” When I saw the movie it was alright but the entire time Taissa’s waving a gun in my face I’m thinking “don’t laugh” and when you think that, I’m trying my hardest not to express that, but luckily it came out seriously.

The Bling Ring robbers and the characters in the film are obsessed with celebrity culture, but I feel like everyone in America is to some extent, these kids just took their star worship too far. Do you think there's a bit of a Bling Ring fantasy in everyone?

Oh I’m sure, especially where social media has taken us these days. If you’ve got a crush on someone you just look up their name and for The Bling Ring it was as easy for celebrities. I bet it’s definitely a big dream to spend the day with Paris Hilton or spend the day with Johnny Depp. These people, they idolize them, because they’re relatable. They want to live in their shoes and will take it to another level. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen again.

Exactly. And you mentioned social media, so would you say you take more or less selfies than your character does in the movie?

Honestly, I don’t like cameras. I don’t even like having my picture taken. But since the movie I’ve been more open and understanding of it. I’m self-conscious and always looking at the little things so when I’m taking selfies it’s like I’m constantly judging myself.

Well, I think you’re really going to blow up with this movie and will probably be having your picture taken a lot more. Maybe one day you’ll be super famous and crazed teens will come to your house. Let’s hope not!

[Laughs] I’m from rural Mississippi, trust me, they won’t want to do that.