Meet the Real-Life Criminals Behind 'The Bling Ring'

Meet the Real-Life Criminals Behind 'The Bling Ring'

Jun 12, 2013

The Bling Ring

It’s interesting catching The Bling Ring in such close proximity to Spring Breakers. There are loads of similarities in terms of tone, style and material, but there’s also one glaring difference – one’s the real deal and the other very much is not. It’s easy to point a finger at Spring Breakers and, enjoy the film or not, judge it for portraying youths in such a down, dirty and outrageous manner, but when it comes to The Bling Ring you just can’t because it really happened.

From about October 2008 to August 2009, a group of teens from Calabasas, California amassed $3 million by sneaking into celebrities’ homes and stealing cash and pricy personal belongings. The film’s logline is practically an exact match to that summary of the actual burglaries and writer-director Sofia Coppola nails a slew of the finer details from Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article “The Suspect Wore Louboutins,” but before the names become interchangeable when the film hits theaters on June 21 (it's in limited release June 14), let’s draw the line between the film version of the Bling Ring members and the real thing.

 

Israel Broussard and Nick PrugoMarc/Nick

In the Film: Israel Broussard is Marc, a kid who’s just returning to high school after having been homeschooled. It isn’t easy being the new kid, but soon enough, Marc catches the attention of a classmate, Rebecca (Katie Chang). She’s got sass and style, and in an instant, Marc wrapped around her finger. After showing Marc how she can make a quick buck at parties by raiding unlocked cars, she convinces him to break into Paris Hilton’s home while she’s out of town. What begins as a one-time thrill turns into an insatiable habit. Marc is well aware that what they’re doing is wrong, but the power of high-end fashion, cash and Rebecca cloud his vision.

In Real Life: Similar to Marc, Nick Prugo was described as a shy kid with few friends. Eventually Nick connected with Rachel Lee over their love of fashion and went on to assimilate into her group of friends, picking up a drug habit along the way. Robbery number one happened during the summer after the pair wrapped 10th grade. Prugo claimed it was Lee’s idea and he only went along with it because he valued their friendship. They wound up finding $8,000 under a bed in Hilton’s home, splitting the money and spending it on Rodeo Drive the next day. Prugo ultimately spent a year in jail for two counts of first-degree residential burglary, having just been released on April 15 of this year.

photo credit: BBC

 

Katie Chang and Rachel LeeRebecca/Rachel

In the Film: After spending a few minutes with a lonely Marc in his new school, Rebecca functions as a savior of sorts. She isn’t some queen bee surrounded by lackeys, but she’s clearly confident in herself and has no problem doing as she pleases, which, in this case, means taking Marc under her wing. Rebecca is the one who starts it all and shows signs of an unnerving power to manipulate, but she’s also no ringleader as there’s no force involved. Minus some hesitation from Marc, everyone chooses to participate of their own free will. The other members of the group tend to get hyped about their hits, but Rebecca often exudes an eerie sense of calm. While they treat the burglaries as opportunities to grab whatever they can, Rebecca is far more calculating.

In Real Life: Rachel Lee was also the Bling Ring’s numero uno. After being expelled from Calabasas High School, Lee attended Indian Hills High School for at-risk students and even managed to earn a creative arts scholarship. However, that, her Audi A4 and a “Best Dressed” worthy wardrobe weren’t enough. Lee’s celebrity obsession got the better of her and she landed the most drastic sentence of the group, four years in state prison, however, she only wound up serving two and was just paroled on March 28.

photo credit: DAMIAN DOVARGANES/AP

 

Emma Watson and Alexis NeiersNicki/Alexis

In the Film: The more famous you become, the tougher it is to conceal star power and fully lose yourself in a role, but in the case of The Bling Ring, Emma Watson manages to combine her fame with a totally one-dimensional, übersuperficial and dramatic performance to access both ends of the spectrum. Nicki winds up being a natural and believable part of the group, but there’s also something about watching Watson behave as such that makes her a particularly entertaining character. Nicki lives with her mother (Leslie Mann), sister, and her best friend and adopted sister, Sam (Taissa Farmiga). Her mother tries her best, but homeschooling and spiritual guidance isn’t enough. Nicki plays along when necessary, but generally is totally selfish and shallow.

In Real Life: Alexis was part of Lee’s clique at Indian Hills. In the movie, Nicki’s mother comes across as knowingly ignorant, aware of her daughter’s behavior, but incessantly babying her to keep her happy. Alexis’ mother, on the other hand, gave her the boot for smoking Oxycontin after which Prugo took her in. Upon being nabbed for the crimes, Alexis insisted that she knew what her friends were doing, but only got involved because she was drunk and accompanied Prugo to Orlando Bloom’s house without knowing where she was going. Eventually she caved and changed her plea to no contest after which she spent 30 days of a 180-day sentence in prison.

photo credit: Poptower

Taissa Farmiga & Tess TaylorSam/Tess

In the Film: Sam lives with Nicki and her family and appears to be a fairly decent houseguest. Like Nicki, she behaves when necessary, but when out for the night she’s totally reckless. During the robberies while her pals are snatching up handbags and dresses, she’s busy playing with a handgun without a care in the world.

In Real Life: Tess’ involvement is largely undocumented and it’s no surprise because while her character in the film gets her hands dirty, she’s never arrested. In an effort to tell the story as accurately as possible, Coppola hired both Alexis Neiers and the Los Angeles detective who was on the case to serve as consultants. When the same was done for Tess, she was in the midst of a heroin addiction. Coppola’s team actually paid her in full far earlier than was required so she could use the money to go to Pasadena Recovery Center.

photo credit: deviantart

 

Claire Julien and Courtney AmesChloe/Courtney

In the Film: Claire Julien’s role is the smallest of the bunch. The only thing we learn about Chloe beyond the fact that Rebecca, Marc, Nicki and Sam make up her circle of friends is that she’s the one responsible for bringing in the guys that help the group sell some of their haul for cash.

In Real Life: Courtney was a friend of Rachel’s from her Calabasas High School days. Her key contribution was bringing in Roy Lopez Jr. and her boyfriend, Johnny Ajar, to sell some of their loot. Even after supposedly wearing a necklace taken from Lindsay Lohan to court, she wound up with a lesser sentence after the aforementioned L.A. detective participated in the making of the movie without informing the prosecutors. She was hit with three years of supervised probation and 60 days of community service.

photo credit: AP

(Sources: Vanity Fair, People, The Daily Beast, LA Times, AP)

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