Throughout the growing landscape of female filmmakers in the modern film industry, Sofia Coppola remains a key creative of the movement’s future, as well as an indelible figure of cinema’s past. Having long moved past merely being the daughter of influential filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia has carved out her own directorial methods that have led her to make some of the most exciting films of contemporary times.
Rising to prominence at the end of the 1990s, Coppola gained fame with the release of The Virgin Suicides, a film with delicate grace and contrasting emotional power that starred Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst and Hayden Christensen. Focusing on the intimate moments of life and the caring relationships we craft with those around us, it is the minimalism of Coppola that makes her such a treasured modern filmmaker.
Released in 1999, The Virgin Suicides was followed up with the Oscar-winning success of Lost in Translation in 2003, with the filmmaker taking home a statuette for Best Original Screenplay at the awards show for her film that remains a pertinent study on modern loneliness, featuring the compelling pairing of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Fully distancing herself from her father, with the release of the film in 2003, Sofia Coppola had become a formidable filmmaker.
This success didn’t come without its initial challenges, however, with Coppola long struggling with the overshadowing success of her father’s career thanks to such 20th-century classics as Apocalypse Now, The Conversation and The Godfather. In fact, so encompassing was Coppola’s grasp over his movie-centric family that he pushed Sophia to appear in Godfather: Part III in 1990.
Speaking about the trauma of appearing in the film at the end of her teenage years, the filmmaker told The Talks, “It was hard because I was 18 and the last thing you want to do at that age is ‘listen to what your parents say’”. Continuing, the director revealed, “My dad was directing me, so it was awkward because I am not naturally an actress, but I just wanted to try everything and wasn’t expecting that so many people would look at it”.
Informing her future as a director, even if she wasn’t thrilled by the experience at the time, Coppola further clarifies, “It was a learning experience, but since I never wanted to be an actress, it wasn’t devastating for me that people generally weren’t too fond of me being in it. After all, it was good because these kinds of experiences make you stronger”.
Sofia Coppola would later take inspiration from this experience, as well as through studying the films of Michelangelo Antonioni, Wong Kar-wai, Bob Fosse and Jean-Luc Godard, learning from every corner of the vibrant cinematic landscape before creating her debut feature film in the form of The Virgin Suicides in 1999.
With Francis Ford Coppola losing his grip on popular cinema at the turn of the new millennium, it was his youngest daughter, Sofia, who would pick up this familial mantle, defining the era with such films as Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, The Bling Ring and The Beguiled.