For me, the best movies have some tension, mystery, romance and maybe even some humor. The Beguiled has the tension and mystery down pat, and it will keep you guessing what’s coming next. I was able to sit down with Sofia Coppola on her remake of The Beguiled, with Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning. All beautiful women who have so much to add to the film’s success, and I was able to get the dirt on how The Beguiled was created.
Bringing Feminism to Civil War Times
With The Beguiled taking place at a Southern boarding school during the Civil War, perhaps there is a little room for feminism. Even though there wasn’t coinage for feminism yet, here is how Sofia brought this into the film.
“I just imagine what it was like for the women at that time and how they were raised to be these lovely ladies and the whole idea of etiquette and charm and catering to men was really how they were raised. Then all of a sudden, they were on their own and had to learn how to survive and you just imagine that these characters had to find their strength, especially Miss Martha, to protect these women. I just thought about the human aspect of these women of what their lives were like and how they had to find strength to survive.”
Kirsten confesses that the whole house was so suffocating, “so by the time we bring this enemy in, there’s so much opposition inside of her (Edwina) because, you know, she’s trying to be a good Christian and a good example for the girls, and yet there’s this enemy. Then on top of it, she has so much repression, and then she’s under Miss Martha’s thumb. So Edwina’s just ready to explode.”
Deciding on the Project
Sofia Coppola waits to finish a project to see what kind of mood she’s in, for her next project.
“There’s always a reaction to the one right before and after I did “Bling Ring” I really wanted to do something beautiful. I was so sick of that kind of pop culture that it just wasn’t aesthetic. I wanted to do something beautiful, but that’s all I knew. And then my friend told me about “The Beguiled” and said, “I think you need to see that and remake it. And I thought I would never remake someone else’s film. But then when I saw it I knew what she was talking about, that it was right for reinterpretation and that it was a story about a group of women told from a ‘70s man point of view of the soldier finding them and I just kept thinking about it.” –Sofia
The Beguiled as a Remake
Although Sofia wouldn’t typically offer a remake of an original film, she thought The Beguiled could definitely be left open to another’s interpretation. She tried to forget about the original so she could approach it in a new way, and allow the characters to bring their own thing to it.
“We try to think about where those characters are coming from and make them human and then, I looked at Kirsten and Elle for their characters to bring their take on it.” –Sofia
“I only watched the movie once a long time ago when Sofe was first thinking about remaking it and then I never watched it again. I read the book, well most of Edwina’s parts in the book and I don’t know, I did my own thing. But the woman that played the part in the previous film was really good I thought.” –Kirsten
Thoughts on Feminism
To Sofia, feminism “just means equal rights and, of course, we believe that it’s important. And as far as in film, I’m interested in stories that have a female point of view. We’re half the population so I’m happy to put that out there. And more and more you want different points of views out there and showing complex female characters that we can relate to.”
Elle talked about how there aren’t nearly as many good roles for females as there used to be.
Letting Loose Between Takes
Although it’s a pretty serious film, Sofia, Kirsten and Elle definitely had fun during filming! “I hope when you’re watching it, it’s tense but when we were filming we were having fun and we were enjoying being in New Orleans and it wasn’t tense the whole time on set.” –Sofia
Kirsten shared how she and Elle did a little Civil War Girls Gone Wild, and luckily Sofia caught it on camera! The craft service table had red Solo cups so it looked like the little girls were drinking beer, and Elle and Kirsten would run up and flash their ankles. So scandalous!
Sofia and the girls were laughing while Colin was outside gardening, and joked about making a sexy calendar. They took photos of his gardening, and he was a good sport!
Sofia as a Role Model
Kirsten first worked with Sofia on Virgin Suicides, when Kirsten was a teenager. She feels fortunate to have had such an excellent role model at such a young age, and early in her acting career.
Getting Into Character
Sofia didn’t want the acting and speech to feel too foreign, so moderns couldn’t relate to it. They did however have etiquette lessons. “We spent like a week before rehearsal, and we had an etiquette teacher and a dancing instructor and a Civil War reenactor teaching us about the bandaging and we had a sewing person.” –Sofia
Kirsten said they even had prayer time and Bible study with Nicole. They really tried to get into what the days were like for those girls.
I had an awesome chat with Sofia, Kirsten and Elle, and I loved watching how they interacted with one another. Sofia Coppola even won The Best Director Award at The Cannes Film Festival! The Beguiled is in theaters today so go check it out, and see their work in action!