Kirsten Dunst & Sofia Coppola on Hollywood Sexism & Their Feminist ‘Beguiled’ Remake
Sofia Coppola met her muse Kirsten Dunst in 1998. The actress was just 16 at the time, & the 27-year-old daughter of Francis Ford Coppola was about to make her directorial debut with “The Virgin Suicides,” based on a novel that she loved. Dunst was so innocent, she brought her mom along to chaperone their initial conversation. “I was a little nervous,” she says. “It was my first adult role!”
So much of Hollywood is filtered through the male gaze. But Coppola, who tells stories from the perspectives of her heroines, immediately put Dunst at ease. “She was always a good influence on me as a young woman,” Dunst says, recalling a compliment that Coppola once paid her that she never forgot. “She said to me, ‘I love your teeth; don’t ever fix your teeth.’ I remember doing a ‘Spider-Man’ movie later, and one of the producers was like, ‘I need to take you to the dentist!’ They even fixed my teeth on the poster. But I just knew I was never doing that. Sofia is the chicest, coolest girl, and she thinks my teeth are great.” At the risk of sounding “a little corny,” Dunst adds, “She gave me confidence in little things that I wouldn’t necessarily have had.”
Coppola & Dunst are the rare female duo in an industry ruled by men and notable for director-actor teams like Marty & Leo, Spielberg & Hanks, Tarantino & Samuel L. Jackson. These two women have fostered an unbreakable bond over the past two decades and four movies. “I feel big-sisterly to her,” Coppola says, sipping a mint tea near her home in New York, where she raises her two kids.
Both spent their formative years on movie sets — one as a young actress (“Interview With the Vampire,” “Little Women,” “Jumanji”), the other as the observant daughter of a famous director. After 1999’s “Virgin Suicides,” they reteamed on Coppola’s 2006 period drama “Marie Antoinette.” Dunst even popped up seven years later in a cameo in “The Bling Ring,” as herself. And now the two are headed to Cannes with Coppola’s latest endeavor “The Beguiled,” a Southern gothic thriller that will premiere at the film festival later this month & debut in theaters June 23.
When Coppola first met with Dunst for “The Virgin Suicides,” she was drawn to a particular quality — a depth beneath her all-American-girl looks. For “Marie Antoinette,” which Coppola wrote with Dunst in mind, she liked that her actress could blend in with the 18th-century corsets and wigs. “She has a German background,” Dunst says. “She’s part of that world.”
Coppola decided to cast Dunst against type in “The Beguiled,” as a shy teacher at a girls’ school who befriends a wounded Civil War soldier (Colin Farrell) taking shelter there. “I like casting her in this because it’s so opposite her personality,” Coppola says. “This character is so oppressed and she’s not at all.”
All these years later, Coppola, 46, still feels protective of Dunst, 35. When it came to directing a love scene between Dunst & Farrell, Coppola wanted to make sure Dunst was comfortable. She kept it short, and both actors kept their clothes on. “Having that sex scene with Colin is so not Sofia’s style, even though it’s brief,” Dunst says. “She gets embarrassed for me, which is funny because she’s my director.”
The ease & respect the two share was evident at their Variety photo shoot at the Houdini Estate in Laurel Canyon. They bantered nonstop, as they cracked each other up between shots. Just as the session was about to begin, Dunst noticed they were wearing nearly identical gold watches, & in a sweetly deferential gesture, she took hers off & handed it to an assistant.
Ramin Setoodeh, Variety.com
The above is part of a longer article featured in the May 16th edition of Variety magazine. You can read the full article here.
The magazine also features a lovely photoshoot of Kirsten & Sofia by photographer Yu Tsai. I’ve added pics from the photoshoot & also the magazine cover to the gallery.