Sofia's Spectacular Career

The Story of Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola pretended not to care when audiences booed her last movie, Marie Antoinette (2006) at the Cannes Film Festival, arguing that it 'was better than a mediocre response'. Bad reviews from critics didn't prevent the film becoming surprisingly successful in France and certainly hasn't stopped the once acclaimed director and fashion icon in her tracks.

Born on May 12, 1971, Sofia grew up on her father, famous Italian director, Francis Coppola's movie sets. According to Notable Biographies, he knew that she was destined to become a director when she sat in the back seat of the car at about three and yelled "Cut" to stop her parents arguing!

The young Sofia loved the traveling connected with her father's movies and found life as a director's daughter very interesting. When they weren't traveling, the family lived in the picturesque Napa Valley in California. Her parents encouraged the children's creativity by getting them to write stories and plays. Coppola apparently took to this with great enthusiasm.

When she became a teenager, however, she experienced a lot of angst and uncertainty. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do and felt different from the other teenagers in the Napa Valley, especially after interning at Chanel in Paris. Like Sabrina in Audrey Hepburn's eponymous movie, she came back wanting to wear fashions from Vogue magazine instead of t-shirts and jeans.

After attending the California Institute of Art for some years she dropped out. She worked as a photographer and then a fashion designer and started her own fashion line, Milk Fed. This very successful lineis sold in Japan and California. Coppola certainly has an eye for fashion with her very feminine slim-line dresses and ballet-flats and is a feature on the Best-Dressed List most years.

She also tried acting, playing many minor roles in her father's films, including The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part Two (1974). She played Kathleen Turner's daughter in Peggy Sue Got Married. (1986)


When she began directing she knew that she'd found her true talent. Her first long movie, The Virgin Suicides (1999) was widely acclaimed. The story of the obsession of a group of young boys about five sisters who committed suicide was based on the book by Jeffrey Eugenides. Coppola loved it because: "It had an epic feeling of first love, obsession and melancholy." Dreamy and nostalgic, the movie painted a portrait of teenage suffering and disillusionment.

Her next movie, Lost in Translation (2003) won her the first nomination of an American woman director for an Academy Award. Praised by critics and the winner of many awards, including an Oscar for best original screenplay, it was another dream-like, slow-moving movie concerning alienation and angst. The film tells the bitter-sweet story of two Americans “a very young woman (Scarlett Johannsen) and a much older man (Bill Murray)“ who feel lost in Japan and decide to spend their time in transit together. They have philosophical conversations about their feelings and leave the audience wondering whether the romantic tension between them will develop into a love story. Beautifully photographed, it captures the imagination of anyone who has felt alone in a foreign country, and it has its own cult following. The acclaimed film critic, Roger Ebert, wrote that: "I loved the way Coppola and her actors negotiated the hazards of romance and comedy, taking what little they needed and depending for the rest on the truth of the characters."

Coppola wasn't as successful with Marie-Antoinette, a movie most critics disliked. It was popular in France but didn't do well in America. She was always interested in the eighteenth century and identified with the young Queen who was forced to leave her homeland for the strange, glittering world of France. She had to marry a man she'd never met at the age of fourteen. Her other movie which focused on teenage emotion had been praised so she probably thought that this one would be too.

Many criticized the lack of plot and vague script, arguing that the film captured the atmosphere of Versailles but nothing else. It's a movie which expresses the feelings of the young Marie-Antoinette and doesn't tell the story of the French Revolution or her trial.

All we learn about Marie Antoinette is her love for Laduree macaroons and Manolo Blahnik shoes,' said Liberation's film critic, Agnes Poirier. It's popular with many women because of its gorgeous settings and costumes but the script doesn't bear comparing with that of 'Lost in Translation'.

Personal Life

Coppola was married to director, Spike Jonze, who she met at the California Institute of Arts. They eventually separated and she now has a daughter, Romy, with Thomas Mars, a musician. Lost in Translation was widely reported to be partly based on the break-up of her marriage.

Sofia and her father, Francis Coppola, may feature in the new advertisements of luxury brand, Louis Vuitton. It will be interesting to see what this adventurous director's next movie is going to be.

By Lisa-Anne Sanderson