Lost in Translation, the 2003 romantic comedy film written and directed by Sofia Coppola, is widely regarded as one of modern cinema’s greatest indie films.
Starring Bill Murray, who plays the role of the ageing actor Bob Harris, and Scarlett Johansson in the role of a college graduate, their unlikely friendship from inside a Tokyo hotel captured the hearts of many upon its release.
With four Oscar nominations, which included Best Picture, Best Actor for Murray, and Best Director for Coppola, the filmmaker ended up winning Best Original Screenplay in what was a supremely competitive year in film.
The film’s impact offered an alternative point of view on Hollywood at the time. Made on a budget of just $4 million, the film ended up grossing in excess of $119 million at the box office and competed with the high-rollers of the time.
The location of the film was inspired and, bizarrely, discovered by Coppola who had previously stayed at the hotel while promoting her first feature film, The Virgin Suicides. “It’s just one of my favourite places in the world,” Coppola once said.
“Tokyo is so hectic, but inside the hotel, it’s very silent. And the design of it is interesting. It’s weird to have this New York bar…the jazz singer…the French restaurant, all in Tokyo. It’s this weird combination of different cultures,” she added. After convincing the hotel to allow them to shoot the film there, they were only allowed to film in the middle of the night as not to disturb guests of the hotel.
The film, with a huge personal and sentimental feel, was influenced by Coppola’s videophile father, Francis Ford Coppola, who urged his daughter to shoot the movie on film. “You might as well shoot film. It’s not going to be around very much longer,” he said. The discussions convinced Coppola that film would evoke a “fragmented, dislocated, melancholic, romantic feeling.” She also added that the film is the memory of an enchanted few days. Video feels more immediate, in the present.”
The results meant that production staff always carried rolls of film for shooting and, of course, for picturing continuity of the movie.
Here, we explore a series of images taken from behind the scenes of the shooting via The Film Stage:
(All images in this article sourced via The Film Stage)