By Steven Zeitchik
1:51 PM PST, December 26, 2012
Charlie Sheen hasn't garnered much attention for his big-screen activity lately, and when he does, it's for mainly stunt-y turns.
But when the tiger-blooded one isn't busy taking on cameos or loaning Lindsay Lohan money, he’s actually been flexing his filmic muscles.
Sheen plays the lead role in the Feb. 8 release "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III," a part in which he -- wait for it -- plays a well-off charmer who begins to come undone.
Hollywood mainstay Roman Coppola, who wrote, produced and makes his return to feature directing with the film, says Sheen will surprise a lot of people with his turn.
"There's a lot of stuff in it we haven’t seen Charlie do," Coppola told The Times. "He learned to speak some Spanish and Portuguese; he plays guitar. Giddy is a weird word, but I'm delighted I get to be the one who puts Charlie back on the screen where he deserves to be."
Coppola said he believed Sheen, who seems far removed from his cinematic heyday of "Wall Street" and "Major League," brought “acting soul” to the part.
In the film, set in the 1970s, Sheen plays a successful graphic designer felled by his own clueless overindulgence. His girlfriend ends up leaving him, among several other travails.
So it’s fair to assume, then, that Sheen didn’t exactly have to go Method to prepare for the role?
"It's a portrait of a guy who is dealing with a personal crisis, a person taking stock of their life, as they try to understand the breakup they'd just gone through,” allows Coppola. “So yes, some things are similar on the surface -- this is a character who has gotten by for a long time with his charm.”
But the filmmaker says one shouldn't be too quick to draw parallels; certainly, Coppola says, he was not trying to create a roman a clef for Sheen's life, no matter what the part (and the title) suggest.
“In many ways the character is quite different from the real Charlie," the director said, noting that while Swan is a bit of a misanthropic loner, Sheen "loves his baseball, loves hanging out with his pals."
Coming out from the new independent distributor A24, “Swan,” Coppola said, has a certain whimsical quality. "It’s told in a playful way that hopefully captures people's imaginations,” he said of the movie, which also stars Bill Murray. “I wanted to make a kids movie, but for grownups.”
Coppola has been busy in all sorts of ways lately, producing sister Sofia’s upcoming fact-based “The Bling Ring” and co-writing this year’s indie awards darling “Moonrise Kingdom.”
He also recently oversaw Four Stories, a shorts competition that solicited screenplays from up-and-comers and that integrated the W hotel and Intel. Then, established filmmakers such as Spencer Susser, Lake Bell and Coppola himself directed them.
Despite the requirements that the brands be name-checked in the films, Coppola said he didn't think they undermined the creativity.
“You can be cynical about it or say that it’s a writing challenge,” he said. “A lot of times as a writer you need some boundaries, and the fact that these had to be set at a hotel or integrate a computer were really interesting boundaries.” Besides, he added, “if you’re a brand sponsoring something, why not sponsor a young filmmaker making a movie?”
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