How Sofia Coppola fused wigs and sake into the perfect Lost in Translation shot
Coppola tells EW about directing Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson over a long, boozy night in a Tokyo karaoke bar for one of the 2003 Oscar winner's most memorable scenes.
Lost in Translation
Each month in the pages of EW, we’re chatting with the filmmakers, actors, and others involved in capturing an iconic shot in movie history. This edition of The Shot examines a moment from Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation.
Existential woes bring Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) together in a foreign land in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, and no frame exemplifies their lived-in platonic chemistry better than this shot from the 2003 Oscar winner.
“It’s just a moment between them, nothing to put into words!” Coppola tells EW of the quiet instance, filmed in a minimal number of takes over a late night (“there was probably sake involved,” she notes) inside a cramped hallway of a Shibuya karaoke bar shortly after the pair — he, a fading actor in Tokyo on business, and she, a struggling newlywed — cement their bond across a cathartic evening of escapism filled with songs, booze, and, of course, wigs.
“That was the wall in the real karaoke place in Tokyo,” Coppola recalls, unwilling to credit herself for the zebra décor framing the subtle embrace of two strangers who find mutual, therapeutic understanding amid the alien chaos of Japan.
As a “child of new wave,” however, she assumes responsibility for Johansson’s hair: “They have wigs sometimes. I thought the pink one was cute!”
Despite the eye-popping accents, the dialogue-free scene communicates the full weight of the film’s themes: “It shows their relationship and how they feel about each other,” Coppola adds. “There’s nothing to say because it won’t be more than that, but it will linger on with them.” And us.
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Lost in Translation