Girl gone wild: Native LA-er Claire Julien channels “badass” for her new movie.
She may be only 18, but Claire Julien feels like her onscreen debut has been in the works forever. The daughter of Oscar-winning cinematographer Wally Pfister—writer/director Christopher Nolan’s go-to guy for more than a decade—declared at an early age that she wanted to act, entertaining her family with impressions of plumbers and distraught actresses with their hair in curlers. But it was coincidence that finally landed her in front of the camera.
Julien was visiting her dad on the set of The Dark Knight Rises when Nolan discovered that one of the extras wasn’t the right fit for a scene. “This girl who was cast to play Maid Number 3 had an English accent, so she couldn’t say the line because, of course, they’re in Gotham,” says Julien. “Chris was like, ‘How about Claire?’ My dad’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know…’” Nolan threw her in, and once in front of the camera everything just clicked for the teenager. “It felt like I should have been there the whole time,” says Julien. “That was the weird thing—the camera seemed like an old friend to me.”
Maid Number 3 is likely the last time anyone sees the bubbly blonde in a cameo role, as she prepares to make her true debut in Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring this summer. Based on a true story, the movie depicts a group of teenagers who burglarized the homes of celebrities, hauling off loot worth more than $3 million.
Julien knew nothing about the real-life “bling ring” when she auditioned for the role, but Coppola instantly saw something in the actress that was a perfect fit for the movie, which at that point she was still writing. “[Claire] felt like a natural and the kind of girl who would root this movie in that LA world because she’s a native,” says Coppola.
In the movie, which Julien calls “grungy and dirty,” she portrays loudmouth Chloe, the life of the party. “She’s really badass and cool,” she says. “She thinks she’s all gangster, and she’ll be rapping and throwing up gang signs. It’s funny because she’s just this wealthy little blonde girl from Calabasas.”
Growing up among the rich and famous has given the LA native an understanding of what the teenage thieves were really looking for in their quest to rob celebs like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Rachel Bilson. “They wanted to be just like these women that they looked up to,” says Julien. “And what’s the fastest route to being exactly like them? Taking their stuff. It proved to be very easy for them.”
With Coppola raving that the young actress exudes “star-quality sparkle” it may only be a matter of time before Julien herself becomes the object of fan obsession. “I’m not fighting it because if it’s inevitable, what can I do?” she says pragmatically. “I’m focusing a lot on my family and my boyfriend [investor Gio Mancuso] and trying to stay grounded. I don’t want my head to blow up, definitely not.” Because the last thing she wants is to disappoint her No. 1 fan. “Oh God, my dad would kill me,” she says, grimacing. “I’d be dead!”