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Video/Q&A: Winnetka native 'Bling Ring' star Katie Chang

(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
June 19, 2013|Matt Pais, @mattpais | RedEye movie critic

Katie Chang makes a disclaimer: She’s about to use a reference that reveals her youth.

“I feel like I’m Hannah Montana,” says the 18-year-old Winnetka native and star of Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” opening Friday. “It feels like I’m living two different worlds. Especially when I was in school, too. One weekend I flew to L.A. with my mom and my best friend and we went to the MTV Movie Awards, and then on Monday I had a math test.”

The recent New Trier grad and veteran of Wilmette Theatre’s Actors Training Center has reason to be confused. In the last month, she’s promoted her first movie—which she shot when she was 16—at the Cannes Film Festival in France, where she felt like she was on “Entourage,” and has gone on a map-jumping press tour, where constant chatter and changing weather have all but eliminated her voice. This summer, though, she may be working as a clerk in her friend’s dad’s law firm, and she’ll head to Columbia University in the fall with plans to study creative writing.

Is Katie Chang a movie star, or an ordinary (and very intelligent) Chicago teenager?

In “The Bling Ring,” she’s Rebecca, the leader of a group of L.A. teens who break into the houses of celebs like Paris Hilton and Audrina Patridge and help themselves to whatever fashionable souvenirs they like. Based on a true story, the film actually shot in Hilton’s house to re-enact that particular burglary.

On the outdoor patio at NoMi, Chang talked about researching the L.A. lifestyle, being forbidden to watch “The Simple Life” and celeb fixation in the Chicago suburbs.

For “Bling Ring” research, you watched “The Hills” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.” What stood out there and was useful for the character?
Well, definitely at the beginning, the accent [Laughs] because I’m from Chicago.

Why didn’t you just watch the “Californians” skit on “SNL”?
[Laughs] (in “Californians” voice) “Let’s take the 405 to the 10.” It’s funny now living in L.A. I know what they’re talking about. If I lived there another month, I would have been like, “Mom, don’t take the 10, take the 101.” [Laughs] No, ‘cause that’s a parody. It would have been funny if we all were doing that accent. [Laughs] Initially it was the accent and then it was also ... the conversations that Lauren Conrad and Audrina would have, sitting down and talking about, “Oh, I love that dress.” “Let’s go to Les Deux tonight.” It seemed really foreign, but I think I needed to familiarize myself with the kinds of conversations that people were having during that time period out there.

If you could hang out with any of those people, would you want to?
I would totally hang out with Lauren Conrad! [Laughs]

Why her?
‘Cause I watched “Laguna Beach” before I watched “The Hills.” ‘Cause I’m like a nerd and I needed to have backstory, so I watched all of “Laguna Beach” and all of “The Hills” too.

Yes. For backstory.
Yeah! I wanted to know where she came from. And I’m obsessed with “Laguna Beach” now. [Laughs] So I would totally hang out with her. She would not want to meet me though. [laughs]

Why not?
‘Cause we like robbed one of her friends in the movie! [Laughs]

It’s just a movie though.
Yeah. But some people get really affected by films. I know when Paris was watching this she was freaked out about how real it was.

Did she let you take any souvenirs from her house?
No. [Laughs] Actually, she gave all of us girls a big bag of goodies, like a purse and perfume and stuff. [Laughs] It was actually really nice.

Did you ever previously watch “The Simple Life,” stuff like that, not for the movie? Do you remember your parents telling you anything like, “This is not real life”?
I remember being told that I wasn’t allowed to watch those shows. [Laughs] Yeah, my  mom wanted to keep me away from them as much as possible.

Which shows?
Like “The Hills,” “The Simple Life.” Or scripted shows like “Gossip Girl,” “The O.C.” My mom wanted me to be able to be a little more free-thinking than those girls were.

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