The Lowdown: Sofia Coppola

This Friday sees the release of Somewhere, the fifth film to come from film-maker Sofia Coppola – so here’s The Lowdown on everything you need to know about this award-winning director.

Sofia Coppola was flung into the public eye at an early age as the daughter of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, who directed such iconic films as Apocalypse Now and The Godfather trilogy.

Her first experiences of the film industry were in front of the camera, appearing in her father’s films The Godfather and The Outsiders when she was just an infant. In the first Godfather film she played Carlo Rizzi and Connie Corleone’s daughter.

It was in Tim Burton’s 1984 featurette, Frankenweenie, that she first starred in a film that was not her father’s work. However, as she appeared under the stage name ‘Domino’, she is rarely credited for this performance.

Coppola teamed up with her father again to co-write the 1989 short film, Life Without Zoe, which was released as part of a tripartite anthology.

However, it is perhaps her best-know acting role as Mary Corleone in The Godfather Part III which, in fact, brought an end to her on-screen career. She received the award of ‘Worst New Star’ for her performance at the 1990 Golden Raspberry Awards, and has mostly appeared in minor roles in films by friends and family since. Having said this, she can also be seen in the 1992 independent film, Inside Monkey Zetterland, and she took the small role of Saché in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

However, it was after this that she began to follow in her father’s footsteps and tried her hand at directing. Coppola wrote as well as directed her début film, Lick the Star, which followed a group of girls who plot to poison the boys at their school with arsenic. Although this film was only 14 minutes long, some of the themes explored can also be found in Coppola’s later work.

Her next directorial endeavour, for which she again wrote the script, was the 1999 drama, The Virgin Suicides, based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. Starring the likes of Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett, this film impressed critics with its intriguing tale of the five Lisbon sisters who all commit suicide during the 1970s.

However, Coppola started to receive significant recognition after the release of her second feature length film, Lost In Translation. The film told the story of an unlikely bond which develops between two American strangers who meet in Tokyo. It won Coppola the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and was also nominated in the categories of Best Picture, Best Actor for Bill Murray, and Best Director at the 2003 ceremony.

Her win made Coppola a third-generation Oscar winner, as her grandfather, Carmine Coppola, had also won the award for Best Score, having composed the soundtrack to the first two Godfather films. She also won a Best Screenplay Golden Globe Awards and received a BAFTA nomination for the film.

Her next film left critics divided. In 2006 she released Marie Antoinette, a biopic adapted from the biography by British historian Antonia Fraser.The film starred Kirsten Dunst and Coppola’s cousin, Jason Schwartzman, but was booed at its Cannes Film Festival screening. However, Coppola insisted that the heavily stylised interpretation which had been criticised was very much intentional, and the film won the Academy Award for Costume Design.

This year, Coppola released her fourth feature length film, Somewhere, which premièred at the 67th Venice International Film Festival. Starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning, this film tells the story of a hedonistic film star who is forced to dramatically change his lifestyle when his 11-year-old daughter comes to stay with him.

After a unanimous vote, Somewhere was awarded the Golden Lion Award for Best Picture, and Coppola was since awarded the Special Filmmaking Achievement Award at the 2010 National Board of Review Awards. It remains to be seen what direction Coppola will next choose to take with her work, but one thing is for sure – now that she’s undoubtedly managed to gain recognition away from her father’s fame and successfully established herself independently as a writer and director, there’ll be no stopping this imaginative and influential film-maker.

Somewhere is released in UK cinemas on 10th December 2010.

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