Movies + TV

Girls With Power and Mystique: An Interview With Sofia Coppola

The maker of all our most cherished movies talks about longing, identity, and how Hollywood underestimates teenagers.

Illustration by Minna

Illustration by Minna

Sofia Coppola has written and directed some of my favorite movies—The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, Somewhere—and has now blessed us with a fifth movie, The Bling Ring. Based on a Vanity Fair article about a pack of L.A. teens who burglarized celebrity homes a few years ago, it avoids feeling preachy in a WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KIDS TODAY? way, instead getting its point across by leaving you with an unnerving sense of discomfort. The Bling Ring doesn’t try to have its cake and eat it too by excusing pervy shots as commentary (the way I think Spring Breakers did). It’s subtle and clever, and I want see it again and again. Sofia generously spoke to me last week about the film, her moodboards, and this new internet wave of Virgin Suicides love.

Reporter’s note: The phone connection was not great but somehow the zines/jeans confusion worked out.

TAVI: I’ve read some reviews of The Bling Ring that are like IT’S A CRITICISM OF OUR LIVES, but when I interviewed Emma Watson she said she felt it was filmed in a nonjudgmental way, and I kind of felt that way when I saw it, so I would just like to ask you: How did you want your audience to feel?

SOFIA COPPOLA: I saw this culture growing and growing, so I wanted the audience to experience it for themselves, and by the end of [the movie] to think about what’s important to them and how they feel about it—I didn’t want to tell them what to think.

Did you find it hard to do that without glamorizing that culture?

Yeah. I wanted to see it through their point of view, to understand how they got so into it. I wanted, in the beginning, to shoot all of this stuff in a really seductive way and make it look fun—you want to be able to be part of it so you understand where they’re coming from. But then by the end of it, you have a shift and take a step back and, you know, kind of look at it.

A lot of your movies can be kind of critical of these different examples and settings of privilege and glamour and fame, but you kind of have to operate within that realm to make the art you want to make, to make films. How do you reconcile that, and what makes it worth it?

It’s important for me to promote my movies, so I do press that’s about promoting my work—which is really different from promoting oneself. I wouldn’t do press just about myself. The side of our tabloid culture that these kids are into, for a lot of them it’s more about just being famous and being personalities—which is so different from people who are being celebrated for what they’ve accomplished. This idea that anyone and everyone can be famous—it seems like it’s from reality TV and social media. It’s just such a big part of our life now. We didn’t have that when I was growing up.

I read one interview where you said that you felt that there weren’t many movies for teens like The Bling Ring—movies that carefully consider cinematography or have any visual ambitions. Did you feel that was missing when you were a teen? Like, is that something that you noticed and wanted even then?

You know, I loved John Hughes’s movies, and I connected to those movies. But a lot of the movies that were made for teenagers were really, um, dorky and unsophisticated. And I feel like kids are more sophisticated and thoughtful than the [movie] studios give them credit for. I remember them worrying about The Virgin Suicides, like, girls are going to see it and they’ll kill themselves. They didn’t understand that teenagers are…it’s a time when you’re just focused on thinking about things, you’re not distracted by your career, family, you know—it’s a thoughtful time. There’s a tradition that I love, movies like Over the Edge and Foxes—which I was thinking about when I made this movie—that had a real spirit and felt real and authentic to that age. Or Rumble Fish, my dad’s movie that was like a teenage art film. I like that you can make a teen movie that has beautiful photography and try to approach it in an artful way. I feel like that’s not that common.

So many of your movies are about teenagers. What continually draws you to us as subjects?

I always like characters who are in the midst of a transition and trying to find their place in the world and their identity. That is the most heightened when you’re a teenager, but I definitely like it at the different stages of life. I like stories where the drama comes more as an internal part of the character as opposed to from outside forces that make you change. I wasn’t planning to do a movie about teenagers, but when I read the [Bling Ring] story it felt like it had all of the elements of a movie that would be fun and exciting but also disturbing. I was thinking about that part of our culture, which I thought people weren’t really talking about. I thought it was something timely to talk about.

Usually in your films there’s an ingénue who’s just so immediately likable that you just want to watch her, but The Bling Ring is kind of different.

Yeah, I thought, How am I going to make a movie where the characters are so unsympathetic? Usually there’s a girl or a character that I connect with and see part of myself in, and in this one I didn’t. It was really a challenge to find a way to tell the story in a way that would engage you, ’cause if you don’t care about the characters how can you get into it? But then I met [Bling Ring member Nick Prugo], and I thought he was really the most sympathetic one—you could understand how he could have gotten caught up in this group and why he wanted to be a part of it. I remembered being that age and, you know, you do things you wouldn’t do as an adult, because you want the excitement of feeling like you’re part of something.

Page

1 2

56 Comments

  • Melissa @ WildFlowerChild June 17th, 2013 3:12 PM

    Ahhhhh! I LOVE Sofia Coppola & this interview just makes me love her even more! Great interview – so inspiring. I only just saw the preview for the Bling Ring last night, and I can’t wait to see it! x

    Melissa
    http://wildflwrchild.blogspot.com

  • caro nation June 17th, 2013 3:22 PM

    I have that Suburbia book, the influence is so obvious now that she cited it!

  • Ana June 17th, 2013 3:24 PM

    Amazing interview! Really liked it! Thanks Tavi and Rookie <3

  • FlowerandtheVine June 17th, 2013 3:26 PM

    Sofia is just so amazing. I love that she manages to have such a distinctive style, but each of her films is unique and has its own mood and aesthetic. Can’t wait to see the Bling Ring!

    http://flowerandthevine.wordpress.com

  • whatever June 17th, 2013 3:32 PM

    OH MY GOD ♡ sofia is so fab, she’s the ultim8 inspiration and this interview is amazing too ♡♡

    http://teenmoonwitch.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Montgomery June 17th, 2013 3:34 PM

    WHOOOOO! GO TAVI <3 <3 <3

  • Josefina June 17th, 2013 3:42 PM

    HYPERVENTILATING.

    I recently even commented on how I didn’t quiiite like The Virgin Suicides, but precisely because of what you’ve both pointed out about longing and inner conflicts she is one of my favourite directors. Thank you both! xxxx

  • Elizabete June 17th, 2013 3:45 PM

    Thank You for the interview ♡

    The Virgin Suicides is my all time favorite movie and I like Sofia a lot (we even have the same big and gorgeous noses with a bump,hah!).
    Also I didn’t know she was the designer of milkfed!It is such an adorable brand, but I always confused it with another amazing Japanese brand – MILK~

    http://melodyfairitale.wordpress.com

  • Hayley G. June 17th, 2013 3:49 PM

    Great interview! So glad she took the time to talk to you, Tavi.

    I didn’t know Sofia made zines. I’d like to see those sometime! Has she ever mentioned them elsewhere?

  • Taylor WM June 17th, 2013 3:57 PM

    The interviews you do here are amazing, and always with the most incredible people. Sofia Coppola is one of my all time favourite directors, and I had a mini heart flit when I saw this interview appear, thank you!

  • Mnz18 June 17th, 2013 4:06 PM

    Love her!!!

    Every film she does takes me to worlds I have imagine when I was a little girl. She has this talent to capture the world of teenagers and I’m very grateful she has and continues to do…….

    I look forward to more films from Sophia : D

  • Jojo June 17th, 2013 4:10 PM

    I got unbelievably excited when i saw that you had interviewed Sofia Coppola. This article is just so amazing and makes me adore her more and more! Thanks rookie and Tavi for another great article!

  • azultardis June 17th, 2013 4:13 PM

    ahhh such a great interview, Sofia is one of my favorite female directors, I remember when I saw the virgin suicides for the first time, and how it got stuck in my mind, how everytime when I closed my eyes I could see the sky and feel like I was in the movie…

  • heartshapedbox June 17th, 2013 4:19 PM

    OH MY GOD THis is so great. Sofia is definitely one of my biggest idols and I love her movies sososo much.

  • sockervadd June 17th, 2013 4:22 PM

    Omg! This is almost to good to be true. Sofia Coppola! <3

  • saramarit June 17th, 2013 4:23 PM

    Ah this was great, good questions!

    Virgin Suicides came out when I was 15 and Lost In Translation when I was 19 so I really feel like I’ve grown up with Sofia’s influence (I’ve seen Lost In Translation so many times, more than any other film!) I’m really looking forward to The Bling Ring.

  • diggersgonnadig June 17th, 2013 4:40 PM

    soo …. zine still misheard as ‘line’ ??? awkward…way to end

  • lauraunicorns June 17th, 2013 5:09 PM

    This is fantastic! I want to see The Bling Ring sooo bad but I live in the middle of nowhere so that probably won’t happen anytime soon. But I’m really glad you guys talked about The Virgin Suicides because it’s one of my favorites!

    http://lauraunicorns.tumblr.com

  • Ella W June 17th, 2013 5:27 PM

    I am ashamed to admit that I often don’t know who the Rookie interviewees are (apart from Emma Watson). However, after I read the interviews, I always get the feeling of ‘wow, these people are so cool, how did I not know about them before!’
    It is the same with today, I mean ‘wow, Sofia Coppola is so cool’. I soooo need to watch the Virgin Suicides, and I am definately going to watch The Bling Ring when it come out!
    Thanks for introducing me to another great person Rookie!

    http://gorillalegs.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Sophii June 17th, 2013 5:33 PM

    I loved The Virgin Suicides aesthetically and I loved the book but I didn’t find that the film really held my attention. However, after reading this, I think I might rewatch it. I love Marie Antoinette, I’ve been planning to watch Lost in Translation and I’m really looking forward to seeing The Bling Ring. The way you two talk about The Virgin Suicides has made me fall in love with the story all over again. I really want to see Sofia’s zines now. It’s such a shame that she ran out of time to talk about them. Talk about leaving us on a cliffhanger…

    http://prettypassionsfinefashions.blogspot.co.uk

    http://sophiewilsonsbooks.blogpspot.co.uk

  • WitchesRave June 17th, 2013 5:56 PM

    She’s like this super cool aunt who you go up to at a family gatherings and listen to her cool life and just worship… :)

    i love how fresh these interviews always are with the ”ahs!” and stuff

    witches-rave.tumblr.com

  • queenofnothing June 17th, 2013 6:02 PM

    omg, i’m so excited to read this interview! I have absolutely NO time for this, but it doesn’t matter now. <3 sofia is my hero

  • Ana June 17th, 2013 6:05 PM

    Eeepp! This interview is amazing!

  • Eryn June 17th, 2013 6:52 PM

    OH MY GOD I freaked out when I read the title this is amazing oh my goodness

  • Valerie Violet June 17th, 2013 7:09 PM

    AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  • Madeleine Angel June 17th, 2013 7:30 PM

    Sofia’s cinematography in her films are all so dreamy❤ I want to live in them! Can’t wait to see The Bling Ring :)

  • Ozma June 17th, 2013 8:48 PM

    I absolutely adore Sofia Coppola! This was great!

  • AnoHana June 17th, 2013 9:24 PM

    One of my favourite directors ~ ♡

  • nizmocat June 17th, 2013 10:06 PM

    Ugh perfect people <3
    I love Sofia's movies so much they are like candy for the eyes yum yum yum. But at the same time they are so thought-provoking. So much love for this interview <333

    http://myperpetualperplexities.blogspot.co.nz/

  • thefilmrookie June 17th, 2013 10:28 PM

    *falls over because of how perfect this article is*
    http://www.pink–lantern.blogspot.com
    http://www.pink-jelly-shoes.tumblr.com

  • sunshine June 17th, 2013 10:49 PM

    sofia coppola is a goddess! thanks rookie for this interview ✌

    http://www.batmanisreal.blogspot.com

  • madame_addie June 17th, 2013 11:09 PM

    dear Rookie, this is why I love you more each day

  • missdimples June 18th, 2013 1:24 AM

    Great interview! I’d love to see Rookie interview Issa Rae of Awkward Black Girl.

  • Audrey Pfister June 18th, 2013 6:15 AM

    PERFECT! I love Sofia! I really wish the interview went longer it was so lovely!! xx

    http://justanotherwasteddream.tumblr.com/

  • annamarie June 18th, 2013 6:16 AM

    Damn whatever that appointment was for! This is a fantastic interview and I’m so in love with Sofia’s films I wish this could be like 100 pages.

  • Sophie ❤ June 18th, 2013 6:47 AM

    You know… Rookie should really try to do a quiz or something to see reader’s ideas, since you read so much more of our minds every single day!

    http://plainlysophie.com

  • kai munakata June 18th, 2013 7:56 AM

    It is great! I love sofia!!!

  • imogan June 18th, 2013 8:01 AM

    Eep! This is so exciting, I had a feeling that one day Rookie would need to interview Sofia Coppola!
    She’s so inspiring, the dazy and dreamy way she did The Virgin Suicides and the flashy aesthetic for The Bling Ring are so contrasting yet so loyal to the teen-y view of things.
    This interview was wonderful, and I have have have to find Suburbia! Especially when she mentioned the tin-foil stars, amazing! Thank you Rookie and Tavi!

  • kristinabee June 18th, 2013 12:06 PM

    Such an amazing interview with one of my favorite people. Her movies are just to die for. Thank you so much for this!

    xx http://enzaessentials.wordpress.com

  • Mary the freak June 18th, 2013 12:53 PM

    OMG I AM SO EXITED TO READ THIS SOFIA COPPOLA WAHH. *-*

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • Jasmine June 18th, 2013 2:16 PM

    I love all of her work so much. Aggghhh, so perfect x

  • kendallkh June 18th, 2013 5:37 PM

    Tavi interviewing Sofia…. I feel like my entire life has been building up to this moment

  • kati June 18th, 2013 10:01 PM

    this is amazing!

  • spudzine June 18th, 2013 10:15 PM

    There’s really not much I can say except that SHE IS SUCH A BABE AHHH

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

  • Graciexx June 19th, 2013 6:30 AM

    I can’t wait until the Bling Ring comes out here… unfortunately it’s not until August… :(

  • June 19th, 2013 9:38 AM

    She is so incredible! Thanks so much for this interview Tavi c:

  • meels June 19th, 2013 6:14 PM

    i love sofia so much it’s unreal! totally one of my favourite interviewees you’ve had!

  • agridulce June 21st, 2013 4:41 PM

    It’s such a good interview, I can’t imagine how excited it was!
    Definitely Sofia Coppola is always innovating, I’m such a fan of her films.
    Oh Tavi, you did an amazing job.
    I was expecting this :)

  • alesssurprise June 24th, 2013 4:34 PM

    oh man ♡

  • DanneChimal June 25th, 2013 2:20 AM

    I love shopiaaaaaaaaa! Tavi is so lucky for have the chance for talking with her <3 <3!

    http://thefantastico.blogspot.mx/

  • tasmia June 26th, 2013 1:47 AM

    Man, I was really excited to see the bling ring until I found out it was pretty white-washed; The original bling ring had a lot of POC in it. This article talks about how they left out an undocumented immigrant, and the complications over whitewashing vs. leaving a bad image of undocumented people in this fragile time for immigration.

    http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/06/who_you_wont_see_in_sofia_coppolas_the_bling_ring.html

  • erinkaori July 2nd, 2013 6:42 PM

    Ahhh that is so awesome that you did an interview with Sofia Coppola! I’m such a huge fan of her movies, and also her dad’s, so that is really cool!

    The Bling Ring is yet to be released in Australia, but I’m busting to go and see it when it does!

    Xx

    erinkaori.tumblr.com

  • dessertstealer August 12th, 2013 11:45 AM

    Sofia Coppola is one of my favorite directors! The fact that she is on here being interviewed by my other hero Tavi is just amazing. I love Sofia’s films so much, especially how she adopted Virgin Suicides into an interesting, beautiful yet tragic film.

  • mrls August 30th, 2013 3:57 PM

    Oh, this is just perfect! I adore Sofia Coppola’s work and person in general (what I know of her, that is). She’s a great inspiration, this is rather exciting :)

  • littlediamonds November 3rd, 2013 6:49 PM

    OMG, this is so freaking cool! I loved Sofia before and this just made me like her even more. I only wish there were more directors like her (especially female ones). Her films are always so unique. Thank your for the lovely interview, Rookie!