‘There’s a power in a group of girls,’ says Sofia Coppola, whose latest film ‘The Beguiled’ sees ‘thinking-woman’s hunk’ Colin Farrell stirring passions in an all-girls school during the US Civil War. The director talks to Tara Brady
Sofia Coppola enters the room noiselessly and unannounced. It’s how she does things. Her outsized dress is insanely fashionable, but low-key. Her soft voice would not startle a cranky baby.
When she arrived on the set of The Virgin Suicides (1999), her directorial debut, she soon found she had to unlearn a piece of advice from her filmmaker father, Francis Ford Coppola. He had told her to be louder so the cast and crew knew she was in charge.
She, however, was never going to be heard over, say, the noisier mealtime scenes of The Godfather( 1972) and hadto finda quieter approach.
“I guess this means we’ve been in America too long,” she smiles. “I learned a lot – I learned everything – about film-making from my father. But I’ve had to learn to apply that in my own way. Our work, our approach, our interests, are so, so different.”
Her latest film also flies against Coppola convention. “Remake was a dirty word”, when she was growing up. “I remember my dad saying that no one does a remake unless they are trying to make money.”
Thus, Sofia Coppola’ssixth fea- ture started as an in-joke between the director and her production designer, Anne Ross. The picture was The Beguiled (1971), Don Siegel’spulpy Civil War-eramelodrama, starring Clint Eastwood, and quite possibly the last picture one might think of as being a suitable candidate for Coppola’ s floaty, female style. The film, based on a 1966 novel by Thomas P Cullinan, tells the story of an injured Union fighter who seduces several of the women at a southern school for girls, using, as Coppolanotes, “avery 1970s sensibility. Dark interiors. A lot of zooms. And crazy women characters.
“I didn’t know the film. And I wasn’t keen on the idea of remaking someone else’s film. But once [Ross] said ‘I really think you should remake this’, that seed was in my mind. And when I watched it, I thought, now, I see what she’s talking about. I thought it’d be interesting to tell the same story, but flip it to the women characters’ point of view.”
When Eastwood’s soldier takes refuge at the all-girls school in Virginia, he becomes, as the dramatically voiced contemporaneous trailer has it, “the prisoner
Sofia Coppola “Growing up it was all boys. So I always wanted a sister.” Right: Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst in The Beguiled