Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled celebrates its New York premiere at Metrograph. It was hosted by Marc Jacobs.
On Thursday night, New York City’s Metrograph movie theater hosted the premiere of The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola’s new film for which she won the Best Director prize at Cannes Film Festival and is the second woman to do so. The Beguiled is an atmospheric thriller set in a Civil War era private girl’s school starring Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, and Conlin Farrell. When one of the girls discovers an injured Yankee soldier in the woods, the women take him in and the war that they had been sheltered from is brought into their home. Joining Sofia at the premiere were two cast members, Kirsten Dunst and Oona Lawrence, her core collaborators including costume designer Stacey Battat and editor Sarah Flack, and celebrity guests such as Zosia Mamet, Huma Abedin, and host Marc Jacobs. We talked with Sofia and her team about their longtime collaborations and favorite moments from the set.
The Knockturnal: So you’ve been a major collaborator with Sofia Coppola now on several of her films, can you speak to what that process is like now that you’ve worked together so much?
Sarah Flack: Yes this is our sixth film together, five features and one movie that was made for Netflix which was A Very Murray Christmas and I just love working with her. We see things similarly, very similarly, and it’s just a pleasure to work with her because she has quite a strong vision and is excellent in communicating that vision, but she also leaves room for collaboration, so she knows exactly what she wants but she gives quite a lot of freedom in achieving that vision for her.
TK: I imagine that she sits with you in the editing room too, and I take it she’s part of that process as well?
SF: Oh yes, I edit my rough cut while they’re on set and she and I communicate while she’s away. We have such similar taste in which takes and which dailies we like that I’ve got a rough cut to show her when she comes back and then we continue working together during the editing process.
TK: And the film plays with light and shadow and it almost looks like there’s a layer of fog over the film, could you talk about what that aesthetic is like and how you achieved that?
SF: How it works for my work is that I watch the dailies for the first time in addition to consulting the script supervisor’s notes, she takes notes for Sofia during shooting. I pay quite close attention to my first impressions of the footage I see and I try to remember that through the editing process, so even when I get maybe–I’m used to seeing something over and over I always can go back to those first impressions, and because of the look you’ve described so many of my first impressions were very very memorable…I mean there was so much amazing footage all over the movie, like every frame.
The Knockturnal: I’ve seen the film and loved the costumes. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your process of creating the costumes, I read that it was your first time designing for this period in particular.
Stacey Battat: I did a lot of research. Anne Ross, the production designer on Sofia’s movies, she and I and Sofia along with our director of photography Philippe Le Sourd talk about the kind of world we’re going to create. We knew we were going to create a light airy, diagonal world.
TK: Do you have a favorite piece?
SB: I like a bunch of them, but today I like Elle (Fanning)’s green evening dress with pearls.
The Knockturnal: Your performance in the film was absolutely incredible. It was so withheld but there was so much life and fire inside.
Kirsten Dunst: Thank you, I’m happy you connected to it.
TK: I was curious what your process was like in researching for your character and your inspirations for her.
KD: One of my inspirations was Lord of the Flies and the rest of it was just myself. I couldn’t relate to it now but maybe me younger but a lot of the emotions, she’s so restricted, Edwina (her character), it was fun to play because so much is said with so little dialogue that it’s a very delicate balance. And I’m glad it didn’t come off as like a spinster vibe. And also I’m happy, some lady said to me, ‘I never saw your dimple in the movie,’ and I thought to myself ‘Oh, I did good!’
TK: Now your with Sofia on another movie and I bet you both just have such a language now in working on those scenes, could you talk to me about that process of shooting?
KD: Well Sofia and I work with the same woman to prepare, her as a director, me as an actress, so now it’s just like ‘I got you, we got each other, we’re fine.’ It’s like a glance, you know?
The Knockturnal: The film is so wonderful and it’s such a great depiction of how women kind of bond together, a camaraderie of women. I was wondering if you could talk about the process of putting together this ensemble because they played off each other so beautifully, and how you helped to cultivate and create those relationships.
Sofia Coppola: Thank you, when I first thought about this story I loved that it was about women at different ages and I thought of my favorite actresses, and to have Kirsten in this role and now Elle’s old enough to play the young adult and I’ve always admired Nicole Kidman, so I was really excited just to get my favorite actresses together and then meet the new younger girls. You just think of, when you put a cast together, who would have the qualities that add something to the film.
TK: I read that you had some of the younger actresses keep daily journals as their characters.
SC: Oh, that’s right! I forgot about that. We worked on things to try to get into the mindset of what it might have been like at that time so they kept journals as those characters. We did etiquette and dance classes and sewing, just to get into the frame fo mind of what their life might have been like at that time.
The Beguiled is now playing in select theaters and will screen nationwide starting June 30th.