Sofia Coppola on ‘fun’ filming for Chanel, avoiding social media, saying no to blockbusters, and how her love for fashion influences her work
- Who’s behind the trailer for the latest Chanel collection? It’s Sofia Coppola, Hollywood film director and daughter of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola
- She talks to the Post about interning for Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel in the ’80s, ‘getting to play’ with the label’s new trailer and why she values mystery
Sofia Coppola is the scion of one of Hollywood’s most illustrious filmmaking clans and one of the fashion world’s favourite directors – but don’t expect to find her on social media or helming a blockbuster any time soon.
More recently, she has rekindled her relationship with Chanel, the label that gave her her first break in fashion.
She fondly recalls her time at the couture label in the mid-’80s, back when she was still figuring out how to channel her creative energy before realising that filmmaking was her calling.
In the ’90s, she even tried her hands at fashion design with a clothing line, Milkfed, which was successful in Japan, the country she immortalised in Lost In Translation (2003). The film earned her an Oscar for best original screenplay – she was the second woman to win in that category after Jane Campion for 1993’s The Piano.
Growing up on movie sets and surrounded by filmmakers and performers gave her a head-start in the industry, but she quickly came out of her father’s shadow to develop her own unique style.
“When I work on my films, I always work on the visuals to help inform my writing and I think of the costumes to build the characters,” says Coppola when asked why her work seems to resonate so deeply with the fashion industry. “I love photography; that’s why I started doing films.”
We’re meeting the director in Monaco, the wealthy city state on the border between France and Italy, where Coppola is a guest at the Chanel Cruise 2022-2023 show, held on a beach on a balmy spring day in May.
Coppola has directed a trailer – they’re not just made for films these days – to accompany the collection.
“It was fun to make the film and shoot in Monte Carlo,” says Coppola. “It brought back memories of the Grand Prix and that glamour of Helmut Newton. Also, I’ve been home a lot so to be able to shoot in a glamorous location and recreate this fashion fantasy [was great].”
The fantasy Coppola conjured up and the commercial aspect of the videos – ultimately meant to display the chic creations of Chanel’s creative director Virginie Viard – are a nice respite from the stress of making full-length features, she says.
“For me, it’s really fun and it’s different from regular movies because you get to play with beautiful images and don’t have the stress of [things like] dialogue,” she says. “It’s a different kind of storytelling, and it gives me a lot of energy for when I go back to my work to be able to create images and shoot something like this without that much pressure. It’s like a break from my work, like getting to play.”
Coppola’s films are a far cry from the superhero features that dominate the box office and streaming services today, and she likes it that way.
While the idea of having unlimited resources may be appealing to any filmmaker, she says that keeping budgets down allows her a level of creative freedom that she wouldn’t trade for the chance of making a splash with a blockbuster.
Coppola, who writes the screenplays of all her films, is a rarity in the entertainment world. She eschews social media and stays out of Hollywood’s celebrity circles, splitting her time between Paris and New York with her husband, French musician Thomas Mars, and their two teenage daughters.
“It’s always stimulating culturally to be able to be in Paris and go back to New York and have that to draw on,” she says, adding that she thinks enjoying a film in a theatre with an audience is still the best way to watch a movie, even amid the rise of live-streaming and video on demand.
It makes sense that media-shy Viard, who is extremely low key when compared to the larger-than-life Lagerfeld – her predecessor and mentor at Chanel – would choose someone like Coppola to give her own take on Chanel’s visual universe.
Coppola and Viard – both mothers and accomplished, confident females in their 50s – embody the more female-friendly and inclusive post-Lagerfeld Chanel that is resonating with women around the world more than 50 years after the passing of founder Gabrielle Coco Chanel, another strong woman.
She would certainly approve of the female voices carrying on her remarkable legacy in the 21st century.