Girl-gang power

‘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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY -

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

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