Meet Your Maker: How drag, dads, and NYC icons inspired Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola sets Bill Murray and Rashida Jones loose on the streets of Manhattan in her father-daughter caper On the Rocks (streaming Friday on Apple TV+), about a listless mother who teams up with her playboy dad to tail her (potentially unfaithful) husband (Marlon Wayans). Here, the writer-director, 49, reveals her favorite projects on her own road to creative inspiration for the new film and beyond.
Coppola isn’t putting Murray in drag anytime soon, but Sydney Pollack’s gender-bending classic starring Dustin Hoffman as a struggling actor who disguises himself as a woman for fame set the tone for On the Rocks. “It’s a smart, sophisticated comedy with midtown New York energy,” she says. “It’s what it feels like to have that New York moment.”
The Thin Man (1934)
A friend whose unfaithful hubby prompted a night of creeping in the bushes inspired Coppola to explore a story about spousal sleuthing, but the Myrna Loy/William Powell classic about a boozy couple blissfully “drinking martinis and solving crimes” crystallized her vision: “I’m so not a mystery writer. I tried to [absorb] as much as I could.”
Her father, Francis Ford Coppola
A master of working with silence, Coppola made Rocks her chattiest film to date. She remembers an evening at an L.A. bar with her father, Francis Ford Coppola, helping to sculpt a generational clash through dialogue. “I was caught up on some guy. I thought he liked me, but he disappeared and I was so confused. [My dad] was like, ‘Let me tell you what’s really going on,’” she recalls. “He gave me another point of view, that a [playboy] can be like air traffic control, and women are the planes that have to be managed.”
As the cliché goes, New York is a vital character in Rocks, and Coppola looked to her favorite spots — like 21 Club and Bemelmans Bar — to create a map of city haunts that matched the heroes’ uptown-vs.-downtown personas: “I wanted to connect that he’s from a different era with her frustration, but he also reminds her to...be more spontaneous.”
Rumble Fish (1983)
Coppola cherished her dad’s 1983 adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s youth-gang novel as an “art film for teenagers” at a time when she was finding her own voice as a film lover: “Most movies for teens were so lowbrow and cheap when I was growing up. I wanted to make movies that were respectful to young people, with beauty and depth.”
Brief Encounter (1946)
Though they look nothing alike, the black-and-white splendor of David Lean’s film paved the way for Coppola’s neon-soaked, Murray-starring 2003 drama Lost in Translation. The tale of a couple “parting at the end of an affair” entranced Coppola because “there’s so much unsaid,” though Lean makes up for it in “gesture”— much like Coppola did with her Oscar-winning masterpiece.
On the Rocks is now playing in theaters via A24 and Apple Original Films, and debuts Friday on the Apple TV+ subscription streaming service.
To read more on the start of the Oscar race, new movies, and more, order the November issue of Entertainment Weekly or find it on newsstands now. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only on EW.