Fresh off the world premiere of her last directorial effort, “Priscilla,” at the Venice Film Festival (where star Cailee Spaeny won best actress), Sofia Coppola joined Rolling Stone to reflect on the 20th anniversary of her beloved “Lost in Translation.”
Coppola, whose script for “Lost in Translation” won the Oscar for original screenplay, partly used the dissolution of her marriage to fellow director Spike Jonze as inspiration for the film, which follows a college graduate (Scarlett Johansson) who accompanies her celebrity photographer boyfriend (Giovanni Ribisi) on a trip to Tokyo. While he’s out flirting with a Hollywood actress (Anna Farris), she befriends a faded movie star (Bill Murray) who’s in town to shoot a commercial.
Since the film premiered in 2023, viewers have associated Johansson’s character with Coppola and Ribisi’s with Jonze. Coppola remembered Michel Gondry — who directed “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” written by Charlie Kaufman who also penned Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation” — scolding her at the “Lost in Translation” premiere out of support for Jonze.
“He apologized to me about that,” Coppola said about Gondry. “He scolded me at my premiere, but he apologized. I think he was being a good friend. He thought he was defending Spike, but he was putting me down at my premiere. It came out of him trying to be a good friend to Spike.”
Variety reached out to Gondry’s rep for additional comment.
Jonze’s directorial effort “Her” released in theaters 10 years after “Lost in Translation,” and many moviegoers took it as a response to Coppola’s film in that it represents his perspective on the end of a marriage. In “Her,” Joaquin Phoenix plays a depressed man who becomes romantically involved with an AI software amid a brutal divorce. Rooney Mara plays Phoenix’s ex in the film. Coppola has never watched the film.
“I never saw it! From the trailer, it looks the same too,” Coppola said. “We have the same production designer. But I haven’t seen it. I know people really like that movie, but I haven’t seen it. I don’t know if I want to see Rooney Mara as me [laughs].”
Coppola was also asked about Anna Farris’ “Lost in Translation” character, which some have theorized is based on Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich” star Cameron Diaz. That film opened in 1999, the same year Jonze and Coppola got married.
“No. It really wasn’t based on her,” Coppola said about Diaz. “It was a combination of a bunch of people. It was a type, so it wasn’t a diss on her. Someone else was more the personality of [Anna Faris’ character].”
Coppola also revealed that when she showed “Lost in Translation” to her kids for the first time, their main takeaway was not any of the potential connections between the film and their mother’s personal life.
“I showed it to my kids a few years ago when we were going to Tokyo and staying at the Park Hyatt, and that was the first time I’d watched it in a while, and they were like, ‘Why is she so young and he’s so much older?’” the director said. “I had made it when I was closer to Scarlett’s age and didn’t think that much about it. That was something that they noticed the most.”
Johansson was 17 years old when she filmed “Lost in Translation,” while Murray was 52.
“I’m not going to think about it,” Coppola told Rolling Stone about the film’s age gap. “I was just doing my thing at the time it was made. I did notice that watching it with my kids, because they’re teenagers and they were like, ‘What’s going on with that?’ But Bill is so lovable and charming. Part of the story is about how you can have romantic connections that aren’t sexual or physical. You can have crushes on people where it isn’t that kind of thing. Part of the idea was that you can have connections where you can’t be together for various reasons because you’re at different points in life.”
“Lost in Translation” is available to stream on Netflix.
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