Gia Coppola on James Franco: ‘He is a Great Teacher, I Look Up to Him’

Palo Alto Premiere James Franco Gia
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The Los Angeles premiere of Gia Coppola’s “Palo Alto” unspooled at the Directors Guild Theater Monday after months of festival play for the first-time director’s portrayal of disaffected youth.

The film, based on a book of short stories by James Franco, owes a debt stylistically to aunt Sofia’s assured lensing and tonal control but also Franco’s life-imitates-art, imitates-life, imitates-art circle of confusion. The multihyphenate appears in the film as a high school soccer coach who has an affair with a teenage girl (played by Emma Roberts) — not dissimilar to the actor’s recent Instagram troubles with a minor.

To his credit, Franco stayed mostly out of the way during the production after giving his blessing to Coppola to adapt his prose. “I asked Gia to do it and the way I helped her along, because she had never directed a feature before, was very similar to the way I work with my graduate film students,” Franco said. “I basically had her do a 45-minute test, and once I saw that I just knew she had it. She didn’t really need my help. She could come to me as a sounding board but I had total faith.”

Coppola said: “He is a great teacher. He does so many things and I am inspired by his work ethic. I look up to him.”

It took five years to cobble together financing for the film, and once on set, it took Coppola a few days to adjust to the new reality of feature filmmaking. “It took a while to believe it was actually happening. That first day I was sort of in shock and really surprised,” she said.

What sets the newest Coppola apart from her filmmaking relatives? “I think my job is hopefully to connect with people emotionally and to feel less alone or understand things in a certain way,” she explained.

Stars including Aubrey Plaza and Demi Moore with daughter Rumer Willis headed down the street to the Chateau Marmont for the penthouse afterparty.

(Pictured: Emma Roberts, James Franco and Gia Coppola at the Los Angeles premiere of “Palo Alto,” sponsored by Far Fetch)