Copyright © 2000. All Rights Reserved
by Cynthia Amsden
The Virgin Suicides
starring James Woods, Kathleen Turner and Kirsten Dunst
directed by Sofia Coppola
opens Friday, May 19
Sofia Coppola: daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, cousin of Nicholas Cage. This isnt like the Baldwin family which just continues to produce offspring who ooze into the acting profession, watering down the name this is a hefty legacy.
For a woman so petite, it seems like a massive name to carry and an even bigger legacy from under which to self-actualize. But at the age of 29, she is taking form. Slight in stature, almost excruciatingly shy until she knows she is in safe company and, most perplexing to photographers, much prettier in real life than she ever appears on film, Sofia is coming of age with her first feature film directorial debut, The Virgin Suicides, from her screenplay based on Jeffrey Eugenidess book of the same name.
Sofia was given the book to read by Thurston Moore, guitarist for Sonic Youth.
"I remember the cover of it was just blonde hair, and the title was intriguing," Coppola says.
Indeed, it does have a peculiar title, suggesting ancient Greek rituals of sacrificing vestal virgins, and that is very much the story, updated to suburban 1970s. The virgins are the five Lisbon daughters, frail beauties with a mother (Kathleen Turner) acting as gatekeeper, a father (James Woods) as a hapless temple eunuch, and the neighbourhood boys as keepers of the girls history, as well as interlopers who watch from afar with adolescent lust.
While the film is, on the surface, a period piece, it is something more. Coppola says this is not what audiences are expecting.
"I remember the author describing the Lisbon girls as a fever dream of these boys. And I felt like it had this feeling of floating through the story, a dreamy atmosphere. And its a memory, so its not completely realistic."
For Coppola, the segue from daughter of acclaimed director to self-directed director was an inevitable one. Its in the blood. When she was a kid, she would use a Super-8 camera and make horror movies with her friends.
"My whole reason for wanting to be a director is my father," she says. "Ive spent my whole life on his sets. I didnt go to film school. I learned everything from him, plus I took acting classes to learn how to work with actors, and from taking photos I knew the technical aspects of the camera.
"Before I went to shoot (my father) gave me some advice as a mentor, stressing how important it was to have a good (assistant director) and this or that. He visited the set for a couple of days but when he was there he was just a proud dad."
Sofia has also existed as an actress in her own right. Aside from her much-publicized lead role in Godfather 3, her other film credits (Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club) are less well known because she often goes under the stage name of Domino, a name she made up at the age of 11 "because I thought it was glamorous."
For the last year Sofia has a new role, that being the wife of Spike Jonze, director of last years Being John Malkovich, an event which didnt hurt either of their images on the Hollywood Stock Exchange. Her attraction to Jonze confirms her image of herself as less than traditional.
"Neither of us were directors when we met, so its really coincidental that both of our first films are coming out around the same time. I guess offbeat people probably attract. I wouldnt be with someone really normal."
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