Emma Watson waves as she attends <i>The Bling Ring</i> premiere during The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival.

Emma Watson waves as she attends The Bling Ring premiere during The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival. Photo: Getty Images

Sofia Coppola was just eight when she first came to the Cannes Film Festival. Her father, Francis Ford Coppola, was there to premiere a work-in-progress cut of a film he had spent years wrestling with: Apocalypse Now.

''I have nice memories of Cannes,'' Coppola said in an interview on Thursday on the roof of the Palais, the festival centre.

Growing up in such surroundings, one would think, would have heavily informed Coppola's latest film, The Bling Ring, a deadpan drama about celebrity-obsessed teenagers in Los Angeles who break into the homes of Paris Hilton and other stars.

The Bling Ring, which opened the festival's Un Certain Regard section on Thursday, is Coppola's third film in a row that deals heavily with the famous (2006's Marie Antoinette, 2010's Somewhere).

It is based on a true story, recounted in a Vanity Fair article, about high-schoolers who, after seeing online when certain stars are expected at a premiere or other event, take the opportunity to steal designer bags, shoes and clothes from their homes, lingering to pretend to live in celebrity opulence.

Coppola cast mainly newcomers in the lead roles (Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Claire Julien), with the notable exception of Harry Potter star Emma Watson, who assumes a thick Valley Girl accent. Watson praised Coppola for her easy calm; Chang noted her gentle openness with actors.

The Bling Ring has already drawn comparisons to the recent, day-glo debauchery of Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers. Though Coppola hasn't seen Spring Breakers, she says, ''I can understand that there's this sort of trash culture aspect that's in the air.''

And if there's an epicentre of that culture, it may be Paris Hilton's shoe closet. Coppola shot in Hilton's mansion where the teens rummage through her footwear and lounge in her nightclub room. (The heiress appears fleetingly in the film.)

Like Somewhere, The Bling Ring paints a light, hazy portrait of Los Angeles.

''I wasn't trying to do a story about LA … you couldn't set it somewhere else,'' says Coppola, who lived there in her 20s but now resides in New York with her husband, Thomas Mars of the band Phoenix, and their two kids.

''There's something exotic about it and it's not like anywhere else. To me, it's the centre of this aspect [of] our culture.'' AP

  • The Bling Ring will be released in Australia on July 25.