'The Bling Ring' comes full circle for Alexis Neiers

At one point, she said, she "was living at a Best Western on Franklin and Vine smoking crack and shooting heroin every day. I was ridiculous. I was absolutely crazy. I stole money from people. I stole money from my own mother. I beat people up. I kicked in cars. I did a lot of really terrible things ... and I'm on the path now of making amends now for what I've done wrong."

Neiers eventually pleaded no contest to a charge of burglarizing Bloom's house and served 30 days of a 180-day sentence. She maintains that she was intoxicated during the burglary, never actually entered Bloom's home, and that her lawyer coerced her into taking the plea deal.

In hindsight, she said, her desire for attention stemmed from many sources — physical and sexual abuse, her parents' divorce — but also from growing up in a society that values the rich and famous. Although she says she wasn't nearly as transfixed by Perez Hilton headlines as her character — portrayed by Emma Watson — is in "The Bling Ring," Neiers admits she did look admiringly upon the world of celebrity.

"It's an escape. 'If only I had that handbag. If only he was my boyfriend.' Everybody deals with that — including myself," said Neiers, who last year married a 38-year-old Canadian businessman she met at Alcoholics Anonymous. "I just think that Nick and Rachel took it to another level [by starting the break-ins] — and then we all got an inside look into these celebrities' lives as well, based on what these kids were doing. I think that's why the Bling Ring is still so prevalent today."

'Artistic' goals

"The Bling Ring" continues Coppola's fascination with youth, the idle rich, the ennui that money and fame can bring — themes she has explored in atmospheric films such as "Somewhere" and "Lost in Translation."

In 2011, Coppola reached out to Neiers and her mother about her desire to make a Bling Ring film, telling them in an email, "I'm dedicated to trying to make something artistic and poetic that shows our culture today."

At Cannes, though, some critics found the filmmaker didn't have much to say about Millennials. "I sense no mystery, no depth there," wrote the Village Voice's Stephanie Zacharek. Others, like the Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin, embraced the movie's ambiguity: "Coppola's teasing flirtation with, yet ultimate lack of commitment to, some kind of concrete morality."

In the south of France, Coppola expressed wonderment at the brazenness of the Bling Ring, telling journalists: "They wanted to steal Paris Hilton's dog. I couldn't even make that up." She worried, she said, about making "the kids more famous than they already were," which is why she opted to change the names of the characters.

That will likely come as a relief to former Bling Ringers such as Lopez. After pleading no contest to one count of receiving stolen property from Hilton's home, he moved to Texas to restart his life. He said he is working a job in the oil fields.

"When I was in California," he said in a phone interview, "the Bling Ring thing kind of followed me. I went to apply for a job, and some girl was like, 'You're the guy from TMZ.' But out here, nobody knows about it. Even my parole officer was like, 'Really? You were a part of that? Do I have to worry about 'A Current Affair' coming to my office?'"

Others are also seeking to maintain low profiles — and their distance from their former co-defendants. Prugo, reached via Facebook, said he had recently been contacted by multiple media outlets but wasn't doing interviews.

Lee, depicted in the film as the ringleader of the gang, hasn't given an interview since her arrest. She pleaded no contest to burglarizing the Hollywood Hills home of Audrina Patridge, a reality star on MTV's "The Hills," and was sentenced to four years. At the California Institute for Women, Lee worked in a special program known as Fire Camp, where she and other inmates helped suppress brush and wild fires. She was paroled after serving roughly a year and four months.

Lee did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Wendy Feldman, a self-described "prison coach" who said she helped Lee surrender and was instrumental in getting her into Fire Camp, noted that Lee remains on probation.

"If somebody is really trying to change their life and not looking for their 15 minutes of fame, what good does it do to talk right now?" Feldman said. "She may have had the option to go do a media blast but is instead taking her time and learning a lesson from this. It's not funny, and nothing to be proud of. Maybe that's her point of view."

Film reaction

Neiers has been the most public of the Bling Ring members. She has a blog and tweets, and when a trailer for Coppola's movie hit the Web she called it "trashy and inaccurate" on Twitter.

At Cannes, Coppola said she wouldn't be surprised if the real-life Bling Ringers disliked the film. "It's not a documentary," she said. "We made a movie, and I'm not too concerned with their reaction."

In researching the film, Coppola and her producer, Youree Henley, met with Neiers, her mother and Taylor. According to payroll records subpoenaed by attorneys, the family's production company was paid $100,000 for their life rights, while Taylor received $10,000.

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