Plus, the Cannes Best Director winner talks flipping the script on the classic

By Liam Berry
May 30, 2017 at 10:03 PM EDT
  • Movie

Sofia Coppola’s latest film, The Beguiled, wowed audiences at last week’s Cannes Film Festival and Coppola took home the festival’s coveted Best Director honors in addition to a shower of positive reviews.

Sitting down with PEOPLE, Coppola opened up about her award-winning project, especially her relationship with lead actress Kirsten Dunst, 35, with whom she shares a storied history.

“I’ve known Kirsten since she was 16,” said Coppola, “It was fun to see [her] play a part that was so different for her. She plays a very quiet, repressed woman. It’s so the opposite of her personality.”

The Beguiled wasn’t the first time the pair have worked closely together. Dunst starred in Coppola’s directorial breakout, The Virgin Suicides, in addition to tackling the title role in her high-budget period piece, Marie Antoinette.

“I always felt big sisterly to her,” Coppola, 46, said. “We have a history but it’s fun to now hang out with her as a fellow adult.”

"The Beguiled" Photocall - The 70th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Credit: Anthony Harvey/FilmMagic

The film was about more than just her personal relationship, though. From the start, Coppola was interested in shifting the perspective of the classic story.

“When I saw the original The Beguiled, it was so interesting to me that it’s a man going into this world of women and I thought it would be so fun to flip it on the head and tell the same story but from the female characters,” Coppola said.

The film builds on a “Southern Gothic” style, while “emphasizing this claustrophobic feeling of all these girls stuck together in this house cut off from the world.”

After the arrival of Colin Farrell’s character, a deserting Union soldier at the all-girls boarding school of Madame Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman), tensions quickly build between Farrell and his cooped-up caretakers. Coppola thoroughly enjoyed exploring the differing reactions of each character to this surprising presence. “It was fun having women at these different stages in their life and how they each relate to Colin Farrell differently.”

The Beguiled premiered last week at the 70th Annual Cannes Film Festival and is set to release in the U.S. on June 23.

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The Beguiled

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  • Sofia Coppola