In The Beguiled, writer-director Sofia Coppola explores the cosseted lives of three Southern belles (Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning) whose world is forever changed when they shelted a wounded enemy soldier (Colin Farrell) at the height of the US Civil War. Here, Coppola discusses the film, why she took on the remake and more…
What initially attracted you to The Beguiled?
I saw the 1971 Don Siegel film starring Clint Eastwood and thought it was such an interesting premise. So I tracked down the book, which is told from the female characters’ point of view, and thought I’d love to reimagine the story from the female characters’ perspective.
Is this the first time you’ve done a remake?
Yes. A friend of mine said, ‘You have to see The Beguiled, I think you should remake it.’ At first, I thought I’d never remake someone else’s film. But this is really a reinterpretation, seeing the same story from another side. So after I saw the first film and thought about making my own version, I tried to not look at it. I tried to imagine a new way of how I’d approach the material. Of course, I’m excited to see the original film again, now that I’ve made this film. But I really tried to make my own version of it.
How did you approach the casting?
When I started thinking about this film I was excited, because I love working with Kirsten Dunst and thought she could play the school teacher. And now Elle is old enough to play the older student. Last time I worked with her (Somewhere; 2010) she was 11, so now she’s a young woman and it’s a really different role for her. And then I’ve always admired Nicole Kidman. I thought she’d be amazing to have as the headmistress. I’m so glad that it worked out, to have these three women together and to see how they all relate to each other and how they all have a different dynamic with Colin Farrell, our enemy soldier.
And how did Colin do as the only man in the mix?
He was such a good sport, I have to say (laughs). I think it takes a real man to let the women be in charge and to be that kind of ‘object’ for the story.
You also have some new faces in your cast…
We do – we have a group of young actresses; ages 12 to around 16 (Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Emma Howard, Addison Riecke) playing the younger students. It’s always exciting to see new actresses and they all worked really well together.
What was it like taking the film to Cannes?
It was so exciting to see the film for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival. For me, it was the first time I’d seen the finished film with the sound and pictures together. And the cast – it was the first time they’d seen it too. You know, it was really nerve-wracking, but exciting to see it there in the Palais – an unforgettable experience.
What was the biggest challenge when making The Beguiled?
It’s always challenging getting a movie made and putting it all together – getting the cast you want and the financing. To me, it’s always amazing that a movie simply can get made; there are so many elements working together. And we shot it very quickly. That was challenging; shooting a film like this in 26 days. Especially with such young cast members, where your work hours are limited.
What will you remember most from the experience?
That’s such a good question. For me, I think just being together in New Orleans, working with our amazing team, the cast and crew. And of course, it’s exciting to see it now that it’s finished.
Below, you can also see five of Coppola's most successful movies, starting off of course with The Beguiled…
1) The Beguiled
The Beguiled unfolds during the Civil War, at a Southern girls’ boarding school. Its sheltered young women take in an injured enemy soldier, but as they provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries, with broken taboos leading to an unexpected turn of events.
2) Lost In Translation
Stranger in a foreign land, the two find escape, distraction and understanding amidst the bright Tokyo lights after a chance meeting in the quiet lull of the hotel bar. They form a bond that is as unlikely as it is heartfelt and meaningful.
3) A Very Murray Christmas
Bill Murray rounds up an all-star cast for an evening of music, mischief and bar room camaraderie in this irreverent twist on holiday variety shows.
4) The Virgin Suicides
In an ordinary suburban house, on a lovely tree-lined street, in the middle of 1970s America, lived the five beautiful, dreamy Lisbon sisters, whose doomed fates indelibly marked the neighbourhood boys who to this day continue to obsess over them.
5) Marie Antoinette
The retelling of France’s iconic but ill-fated queen, Marie Antoinette. From her betrothal and marriage to Louis XVI at 15 to her reign as queen at 19 and to the end of her reign as queen, and ultimately the fall of Versailles.
The Beguiled is available now on digital download, and comes to Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, November 20.