Meet Your Maker: How drag, dads, and NYC icons inspired Sofia Coppola
On the Rocks
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.
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