Sofia Coppola
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Sofia Coppola: “Film is our family business”

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Short Profile

Name: Sofia Carmina Coppola
DOB: 14 May 1971
Place of Birth: New York City, New York, USA
Occupation: Director

Ms. Coppola, Michael Douglas once said that for the first fifteen years of his career he felt like he was “damned to success” just because of his father. Is that a feeling that you understand following your father's footsteps as a filmmaker?

I think as a daughter you don't feel as much pressure because it is less expected of you in a way. I didn't feel much pressure at all and developed my own voice pretty early on. Of course I am proud of my dad and where I come from but I do have my own way of working, my own style.

Did your father teach you?

No. I mean he always talked to me about filmmaking and screenwriting from an early age but I think it was more what was exciting to him than wanting to teach that to his children.

How did you find your own way?

It took me a while; I just tried different things. I moved away from home, went to college, and even started my own clothing company that had partners in Japan, but once I made my first short film I just knew. And finding the book The Virgin Suicides was the turning point actually because I loved that book and felt protective over it.

A scene from Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film Lost in Translation.

Your father sort of pushed you to replace Winona Ryder and take a role in Godfather 3. Was that a traumatic experience?

It was hard because I was 18 and the last thing you want to do at that age is listen to what your parents say. My dad was directing me, so it was awkward because I am not naturally an actress but I just wanted to try everything and wasn't expecting that so many people would look at it. I grew up with The Godfather as a familiar thing but to me it wasn't this iconic masterpiece. It was a learning experience but since I never wanted to be an actress it wasn't devastating for me that people generally weren't too fond of me being in it. After all it was good because these kinds of experiences make you stronger.

So even after being in such a big movie it never occurred to you to proceed with film as a career? It would have been pretty easy probably...

I never wanted to before, and afterwards I was already planning to go to art school. But the experience helps now working with actors. At least I have a little bit of an idea what they are going through since my father directed me.

“When the doctor told them that I was a girl my dad dropped the camera because he was so surprised.”

Is it true that your father even filmed your birth?

Yes, my dad videotaped my birth. Today a lot of people are doing that but I think back then it was a little more unusual. I actually have seen my own birth and it is luckily shot in pretty discrete way. It is actually really funny. When the doctor told them that I was a girl my dad dropped the camera because he was so surprised. Film is our family business.

How important is family for you nowadays after growing up with so many relatives?

Very important. We were all raised that family is very important. It’s probably an Italian thing from my dad’s side.

So it comes natural to you to work with your brother as your producer then?

I love working with my brother and he is also the one that runs our family's production company. We are very lucky to be able to work together even though we are siblings and it is really great having your big brother with you on set.

Is there an understanding between the two of you that only brother and sister can have?

Yes, he knows me so well that he can make decisions on my behalf because he knows what I like.

How did becoming a mother change your life?

I first took a year off after she was born and when I started writing I realized that things had changed because I used to stay up all night writing and suddenly I had to change her on a tight schedule. Now they just come with us.

Directors often say that making your own film is like raising a child. Would you agree?

I guess every creative process you could potentially link to that. But it is still very hard to compare one with another.

Are you stricter as a director or as a mother?

I am strict under both circumstances. Directors are usually control freaks and want everything to happen their way, but my personality doesn't change. I am not a yeller but I still know what I want things to be like and make sure I have people around me that can do so. I learned to follow my intuition and try to make it as close to that as possible.