”I don’t want to put down period movies,” says Sofia Coppola. ”But sometimes [they have] a formality that I don’t really respond to. I tried to make something youthful and alive.” So in this 18th-century France, the queen (Kirsten Dunst) dances to Siouxsie and the Banshees, sports pink hair, and owns a pair of blue Converse sneakers. ”There’s a lot of care to the details of the era,” Coppola insists. ”But then the movie becomes our own.”
Coppola’s dreamy look at the Austrian princess who, at 14, married the future king of France (Jason Schwartzman) left some French critics booing when it premiered at the Cannes film festival in May. But many others applauded the stylized $40 million movie, which begins with the queen-to-be’s arrival at the Versailles court, where she struggles to fit in, and ends with her flight from the palace during the French Revolution. ”I wanted it to feel like a party before the end of things,” says the second-generation filmmaker, who was granted unprecedented access to shoot in Versailles. (Turns out the guy who runs the place is a big Lost in Translation fan.) From the beginning, Coppola knew who her queen would be. ”I pictured Kirsten [because of] the way [books] described Marie Antoinette’s personality — bubbly and fun,” she says.
The actress, meanwhile, was thrilled to reunite with her Virgin Suicides director, and relished putting a human face on an often misunderstood historical figure. ”She’s living in this pretty prison,” says Dunst. ”Nobody’s on her side. She has no one.”
Ah, but she sure has great hair. ”Oh, my God,” Dunst sighs, recalling the arduous process of sculpting her vertiginous bouffants. ”I would get sore throats every morning just from inhaling all the hairspray and stuff.” What a royal pain.