Sofia Coppola | Pirelli
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Sofia Coppola

Herself the progeny of one of cinema's most revered families, Sofia has carved out a place distinctly her own, seemingly now unburdened by the weight of her lineage, even if it wasn't always this way - the negative reviews over her part in The Godfather III, from 1990, were, by the actress's own admission, a bitter setback.


And yet Coppola, now 52, has used that experience to drive forward a career behind the camera, with a shimmering, sometimes melancholy, often detailed style that speaks to multiple generations.

Her movies are typically not bound by Gen X's cynicism or the perceived detachment, but rather resonate with a diverse spectrum of audiences. They portray an exquisite tension between introspection and worldliness, individuality and connection.

Take, for instance, the enigmatic Lost in Translation. Here, Coppola crafts a narrative that speaks to both Gen X's existential quandaries and the Millennials' pursuit of meaning and connection in a globalized world. The film's delicate dance between isolation and intimacy, underscored by stunning visuals, an evocative soundtrack, and the masterful performances of two modern film icons – Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, themselves 34 years apart – renders for her audience a universally resonant experience.

Going back further, and her full-length directorial debut, The Virgin Suicides, has likewise echoed across generations. With its ethereal portrayal of adolescent angst and societal pressures, the film speaks to Gen X's struggle with identity, while simultaneously resonating with later generations' quests for self-discovery and authenticity.

The demands of such cross-generational influence often centre themselves on a requirement to focus on character and atmosphere. Coppola's films are visually sumptuous, emotionally rich tapestries, yet only through incredibly precise characterisation can the intended art evolve.

When it does, and it is often, Coppola emerges not as the daughter of Francis or the brother of Roman, but a modern icon whose influence extends beyond her audience, through to a mentorship of younger talents, and onwards as an advocacy for women in a predominantly male-dominated industry.

Her films, transcending age and time, create a shared cultural experience, a dialogue that engages and enriches across the generational divide - a testament to the power of storytelling to unite, inspire, and speak to the collective human experience.


Q. Does it feel much better to be starting the conversation as a filmmaker instead of the way you were treated as an actor in the earlier part of your career?

SOFIA COPPOLA: It was traumatizing being spoken of publicly as the reason that some people hated The Godfather Part III. It is also quite difficult to feel so much in the shadow of your father, who is obviously well regarded for his amazing filmmaking.

For a long time, I felt it was always going to be the case that I would be compared to him, and in some areas that will continue, and there's sadly nothing I can do to prevent that. Yet what I can do – and I have striven to do over the course of my career so far – is to try to take my own filmmaking in a different direction. It's not like I'm dealing with many of the same subjects in film as my father did. With individuality comes separation, and I am much further down that road now.

Q. Was that something you actively attempted to do… move away from the types of movies that your father made?

SOFIA COPPOLA: I mean, Lost In Translation, The Virgin Suicides or the upcoming Priscilla are nothing like The Godfather movies, Apocalypse Now or The Conversation. So, I can safely say that I've negotiated that part successfully at the very least.

Q. Were you always going to go into filmmaking?

SOFIA COPPOLA: Obviously, people will point to the fact that my father was a director, so it was the natural route for me to take.

I was free to take things in different directions, but the apple never falls far from the tree, so as much as I could have gone another way, in my own mind, I was never going to.

Q. But do you enjoy it?

SOFIA COPPOLA: I do love directing and I have always embraced it with all of my being. It's not a practice that you just choose to do and pick up easily, but I can confidently say I am a far better director than I am an actress.

That in itself is never going to stop some making comparisons, and I think many children whose parents have been famous in the same field will always find that additional scrutiny. I wouldn't go as far as saying it's lazy journalism, but it only scratches the surface of things.

It's then up to me to distance myself from that and ensure my own body of work stands alone, or takes it on a totally different journey altogether.

Q. There are many themes in your movies which you are renowned for… for instance, a fascination with pitching youth and experience side by side to see how they interact. Would you agree?

SOFIA COPPOLA: I feel that's not just something in filmmaking – it's actually a very natural thing that goes on in every town and city across the world. In fact, it goes on in most homes, where generations brought up with very different viewpoints and perspectives and values and standards evolve together in the same space.

That's a fantastic melting pot for me, and the joy I feel when that produces positive outcomes – on film or simply just in society – is real.

Q. What are the main differences that different generations identify themselves by, would you say?

SOFIA COPPOLA: I think that's impossible to answer. Certainly, with the age I am, I am much more aware of the perspective of a parent's generation, and the route those people take to end up where they are. So that could be different classes of wealth, of understanding, of tastes, of maybe being rebels against their own teachers, their own parents, and what their likes and dislikes were.

Were they sporty, did they have a difficult childhood, were they bullied growing up, did they have many friends, were they sociable, outgoing and extroverted? There are so many levels, interpretations and contributors… ways in which that person can be so different to someone they spend time around, so it's impossible to create a set of rules around it, essentially.

Q. This is something you've covered in a recent film isn't it…

SOFIA COPPOLA: Yes, for my film On The Rocks, I had Bill Murray and Rashida Jones, as father and daughter, who clash on how different generations look at relationships; but also how your own relationship with your parents reflects the relationships in your life. That's interesting and, I think, relevant to anyone who has had children.

What actually complicates the whole thing, I think, is that as a parent, it's natural to want to look at the situation through younger eyes - we want to immerse ourselves in the life of the younger generation. We want to live again!

There are certainly many differences between how parents brought up their children in my generation and how parents of Gen-Z and Millennials are raised, and it's a good discussion to have. Certainly, as a comedy, that process and that experiment was one that could be lubricated in a way a serious drama may not have been able to

Q. Do you feel a responsibility to present normality in terms of art that appeals to a broad demographic… in a sense rebelling against the way film aims at a certain, very defined, very narrow audience?

SOFIA COPPOLA: As I say, there's no such thing as normal - what one person sees as their own individual norm could be another person's abstract or downright weird. It all depends on what experiences you have or haven't lived through as you grow through life.

As for speaking to a broad audience, I do believe it is becoming more difficult. You are correct in what you say - there is a streamlining of ideas and the reasons for that are clear. When you keep things simple there is less risk, it takes less imagination, it is easier to market, and it's easier to cast and create. Yet it's not truthful to society, so you have to weigh up what is more important, I guess.

Q. Your latest project is based on the life of Priscilla Presley, former wife of Elvis…

SOFIA COPPOLA: Priscilla is set in her early life and explores how she looked upon her existence in the huge shadow of her husband – an absolute megastar in his own right. Priscilla was looking to figure out who she was and being married at such a young age, she was still learning.

The world around her was beginning to seem like it was so distant because of the colossal scale and speed of it all. It was often chaotic and moving too fast for her, but she gradually found herself, and we try to show that in the movie.

Q. There can sometimes be a bit of jeopardy when dealing with biographical film, can't there, where it can be difficult to get to the truth. Do you feel you able to get as close as you would have liked?

SOFIA COPPOLA: I do, yes. It was written with Priscilla's own book Elvis and Me as its main source, so you're not getting a false or imagined impression of what went on within the walls of Graceland. It's all documented and came straight from her own experiences, so I was comfortable we were doing the project and the people justice.

That, in itself, means you can invest even fuller in the narrative and the characters, because you don't have any lingering doubt. It's something that takes away the sense of uncertainty that can sometimes consume you when it comes to portraying real people.

Q. It's a very important piece reflecting true history… Is it like anything you've done before?

SOFIA COPPOLA: With regards to the process of making the film, I did sometimes have a lot of times where I was getting a sense of déjà vu of things I had done in the past. I then started to realise I was always going to have those conflicts, because that's just who I am, and this is the style of what I do.

There was no reason why I had to move away from my inspirations and my methods, because that's how I direct. Everyone has their own way of doing things, but I have to stay true to the facts and put my own stamp on whatever it is I create.

If I can emerge from the process knowing I have created something that speaks to an audience, my audience, in a way that draws in rather than locks out, I will feel I have succeeded.

Q. Finally, a lot of women in the industry see you as someone who does so much to help shift the focus onto the great talent that female filmmaking has to offer. How does that feel?

SOFIA COPPOLA: I am just myself, and I do what I do for the audience. While that is the truth, I will always be assertive with my thoughts, passions and opinions, and if that helps to push open the doors and break boundaries for other young female filmmakers, then that is intensely satisfying because, after all, I am continuing to learn new things myself, all the time, and long may that continue.