As part of one of HOLLYWOOD’S most ICONIC film dynasties, Sofia Coppola is surrounded by TALENT. But, with the RELEASE of her NEW flick, it’s HER who’s LEADING the pack.
It’s a week into Cannes Film Festival when Sofia Coppola arrives for our interview, having just won best director – only the second woman to be given that honour in the event’s 70-year history. It’s the fourth time she’s premiered a film at the iconic festival, after her 1999 debut The Virgin Suicides, the much-maligned 2006 biopic Marie Antoinette and 2013’s The Bling Ring. This year she’s back with her new film, The Beguiled.
“It’s always exciting and nervewracking,” she says, sporting a black-andwhite dress buttoned to the collar. “I remember coming as a little kid, so I have sentimental feelings towards being here.”
“Coming as a little kid” was a little more than simply holidaying on the French Riviera. It meant accompanying her father – cinematic giant Francis Ford Coppola – when his masterpiece Apocalypse Now jointly won the coveted Palme d’Or. She later worked with him, acting in films such as Peggy Sue Got Married and The Godfather III, and even co-writing ‘Life Without Zoe’, Francis’ segment of the movie anthology New York Stories, all before she was 18.
Now 46, Sofia – with her soft brown hair and gentle smile – has become the driving force behind one of Hollywood’s most dynamic film-making dynasties. Together with her brother Roman, she co-owns American Zoetrope, the production company founded by her father (who is now 78) and George Lucas. She won an Oscar for best original screenplay for her second movie, Lost In Translation, before becoming the first American female to win Venice’s Golden Lion with 2010’s Somewhere.
But while The Beguiled has a nearly all-female cast – headed by a regal Nicole Kidman, alongside Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning – Sofia isn’t deliberately pinning feminist colours to her mast.
“I just do stories that interest me,” she says, “and I’m interested in female characters because I connect more to that.”
Exquisitely shot, the film is based on the 1966 out-of-print novel by Thomas Cullinan, that was adapted in 1971 by Don Siegel for a movie starring Clint Eastwood. Set during the American civil war, the film follows a wounded Union soldier who finds shelter at an all-girls’ school and becomes an unsettling presence. (The movie was shot over 26 days on a Louisiana plantation that was also the backdrop for Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade.)
It was Sofia’s production designer Anne Ross who first suggested she take a look at The Beguiled.
“I would never think of remaking a film, but when I saw the film it really stayed in my mind,” she says. “I thought it was so interesting. It was the story of a soldier going into a woman’s world, a girls’ school. And I thought, ‘I’d love to see that story told from the point of view of the women, and what it must’ve been like for them and being cut off during wartime.’ I don’t think I’ve seen a film [set] during the war about the women left behind.”
While Sofia wasn’t the only female director in competition at Cannes this year – Japan’s Naomi Kawase and Scotland’s Lynne Ramsay were also present – she believes it’s vital that gender imbalance is arrested in film-making. >
I THINK that with all different POINTS of VIEW… we want to see as MANY as we can on FILM and reflect our CULTURE.