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At first glance, Israel Broussard doesn't look like the kind of guy who drives a Ford Ranger and enjoys off-roading. His hair styled into a pompadour, the 18-year-old actor looks like he just stepped out of a #menswear Tumblr wearing Marni pants and a Louis Vuitton shirt. In other words, he's, like, so L.A. Which is a look he seems to have adopted from his breakout film, Sofia Coppola's latest heist-meets-party flick The Bling Ring. Broussard plays misguided newbie Marc, a character based on real-life teen convict Nick Prugo, a member of the spoiled Valley-based burglar bunch who knocked off the homes of Tinseltown socialites—everyone from Paris Hilton to Orlando Bloom—just to (literally) walk in the shoes of their fashion icons.
However, as tempting as it is to draw parallels between Broussard and his character, it wouldn't be fair, as it quickly becomes clear that the Mississippi native, a boy who spent his childhood playing with possums, is still adjusting to his own celebrity.
"I don't mean to sound like a diva, but do you mind?" Israel quietly asks Cedar Pasori, the photographer, as he walks out of the frame and turns the computer screen displaying the photos she takes out of his line of sight. He smiles shyly and walks back into position. "That's better," he says, his southern charm peeking through his inevitably developing Hollywood facade.
Interview by Tara Aquino (@t_akino)
You're from Mississippi, right?
Yeah, I grew up in Mississippi. I was there for 13 years and then when I turned 13 I moved out to L.A. I've been out there for 5 years now.
Did you move in to the Oakwood?
That’s a requisite question!
That's the cliché of acting, I guess. No, I didn’t move to Oakwood, but I am very familiar with it. I hang out there every now and again. They’ve got a nice pool, but there is way too much drama in Oakwood for any one to handle. All the moms gossiping and what not, I don’t do that. Homie don’t play that!
Did your whole family move out with you?
Kind of. My dad came out with us at first, but he had to work. He is a computer programmer, so he had to go back to Mississippi. For the first three months, it was myself, my mom, my older sister Aubrey and my little brother Keller. And after the first couple of months, my sister stayed behind in Mississippi and then it was myself, my mom and my little brother. When I was 15, almost 16, my Mom let me off the leash and allowed me to do my own thing. I've kind of been out there alone for about two years.
You lived alone when you were 16?
Well, I lived with a family friend. She was in a movie I did, Flipped. Her name is Pat and she also plays the judge in The Bling Ring. Yeah, she is a very nice lady and would help me out every now and then. And now that I have a truck, I go out on my own. I spend a lot of time in Burbank.
Did you finish school in L.A.?
Actually, I was in elementary school in Mississippi and, when Katrina hit, my mom put me in home school. So ever since sixth grade I've been home schooled, which was interesting. [Laughs.]
Did Katrina have a big impact on your life?
Looking back, yes. In the moment, we were having fun; it was a big storm. We didn’t realize at a young age how catastrophic it was, which is a good thing, I think. If it was like, “Oh, no, we need to run for cover,” we would have been scared. But yeah, when Katrina hit is really when my life started turning.
I feel like I can be myself in L.A.
I got out of elementary school, which I was not digging anyway, because I didn’t have many friends there. I got to spend more time with myself in my own mind and not getting ridiculed by them. It was nice. As far as damages, we got a lot of wind damage, but not much water, except from the coast.
What is the biggest difference between living in Mississippi and L.A.?
I feel like I can be myself in L.A. I feel like Mississippi is a little close-minded; not all of Mississippi is, but just the part that I came from. They really don't get outsiders.
What part are you from?
Gulfport, but I lived in a small town outside of Gulfport, Saucier. I mean, the people there a lovely, you ride bikes, but it just wasn’t for me. So when I moved out to L.A., I felt relief and I felt that a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I could just really focus and—this is going to sound conceited—I could really focus on me and not really have the time for what everybody else thinks. There are so many people out in L.A. and there is no room for judgment. Of course there is some, but people are a little more selfish in L.A., which could be a good thing.
Your definitely need a open mind for your character in The Bling Ring. Speaking of which, how was walking in heels?
[Laughs.] I grew up with three sisters, so I got used to being around them and all of their worries about fashion and what they are wearing. I grew up hearing them say, “Oh my god, my feet hurt!” And there I was as a kid running around with no shoes.
I had a lot of support from Sofia and the whole cast because it was kind of hard for me to step in bright pink heels and walk the runway. But yeah, the heels took a lot of courage for me to put on. I am glad I did because I expanded myself as an actor, and I feel like since The Bling Ring I have had a better understanding of people and what goes through everybody’s mind.