By Zorianna Kit
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It's a downward spiral for Charlie, a successful professional whose life slides into despair when his girlfriend breaks up with him.
This Charlie could be Charlie Sheen, but it's actually the fictional Charles Swan, a charming, immature character played by Hollywood's favorite bad boy actor and filmed only a few months after Sheen's off-screen antics got him fired in 2011 from TV comedy "Two and a Half Men."
Sheen stars in "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III," opening in U.S. movie theaters on Friday. The film is directed and written by Roman Coppola, son of "The Godfather" director Francis Ford Coppola.
Coppola, 47, who is Oscar-nominated for his work on the screenplay of "Moonrise Kingdom," talked with Reuters about working with Sheen on the "playful romp" about lost love and revenge fantasies set in a stylized Los Angeles.
Q: Did you write the film specifically for Charlie Sheen to star in?
A: "I didn't write it for him in mind. I was excited to write a piece about a very outlandish lead character, someone charming, immature, struggling and full of imagination. As I was finishing it, I kind of realized Charlie Sheen would be perfect. Both are larger than life. They use their wit and charm to smooth over problems in their life to not deal with things. But it's a coincidence that it's the same first name."
Q: Both of you are part of Hollywood dynasties. Your father is Francis Ford Coppola and his dad is Martin Sheen. When did you and Charlie first meet?
A: "We met as boys when we were around 11 years old on the set of (the 1979 film) 'Apocalypse Now' (which Francis Ford Coppola directed and Martin Sheen starred in). Our families were in the Philippines (for the shoot) for many months so Charlie and I became pals. We have a lot of fond memories hanging out together in that exotic location."
Q: What type of memories?
A: "I remember being with him when they built the (fictional) Kurtz Compound. Charlie and I would cruise around (the set) and there would be all sorts of skulls and weapons and things that are interesting to 11-year old boys. I was also interested in theatrical makeup, so I introduced Charlie to the hobby of making scars."
Q: Did you get any pushback from family, friends or financiers when you decided to cast Sheen in "Charles Swan"?
A: "Basically there was no film company willing to finance the movie with Charlie. Insurance companies didn't want my business, nor did any bond company. There was very little support in the film community to finance that picture. So I had to be very crafty about getting the financing."
Q: Were you surprised at that?
A: "I was surprised to some degree because I had other talent attached to it like Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. You'd think that would tip people's curiosity. When people say 'No' or 'Why would you want to cast Charlie Sheen?' it makes me feel like everyone else is crazy."
Q: But it's Charlie who conjures up the images of crazy - public battles with "Two and Half Men" creator Chuck Lorre and his ex-wives, Denise Richards and Brook Mueller. He is the one who was in rehab for drugs, who damaged hotel rooms, lived with porn stars, and called himself a warlock with "tiger blood" and "Adonis DNA."
A: "But that's very comic book, that's not a real person. That's a portrayal that comes from wanting to make stories. He's an individual. He's obviously a talented guy and talent doesn't go away. Ten years ago we'd be having this exact same conversation about Robert Downey Jr. and how crazy and irresponsible he is. Now we know he's at the top of his game. So to me it's kind of immature to cotton to that kind of stuff. It's gossipy and phony."
Q: So none of that was prevalent during the shooting of your film?
A: "Charlie was totally committed throughout the entire shooting. He showed up every day, he knew his lines, he learned Spanish and he learned to dance. I had a professional, fantastic experience with a highly skilled and dedicated performer."
Q: How would you describe Charlie's acting?
A: "He's very intuitive. On a technical level, he's very experienced and capable. He knows where to stand, where the light is. Then there is the magical aspect of acting where you're able to create a see-through veil in which your feelings come out and they're captured by the camera.
"No one knows how it works. Some people can do it and Charlie certainly has it. So despite all the chitter chatter of Charlie this and breakdown that, he's a fine actor and he shines in this performance."
(Reporting By Zorianna Kit, editing by Jill Serjeant and Doina Chiacu)