The Beguiled is in select theaters June 23 and nationwide June 30, 2017
What made Sofia Coppola decide on remaking The Beguiled, a 1971 Clint Eastwood film about a wounded enemy soldier taken in by a girls home?
“A friend (production designer Anne Ross) 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. I just kept thinking about it.”
It was because of her re-imagining that Sofia won the Best Director award at Cannes Film Festival, a prestigious award that has only been given to one other female director (1961 was given to Russian director Yuliya Solntseva).
The new film is definitely worthy of that award and more. The Beguiled has Sofia’s stamp on it. She has a nuanced way of telling the story through a quiet tension and visual starkness. Every bit of the film is detailed with intention.
“I wanted to really have as much tension as we could and the sexual tension and what’s going to happen, and so with the sound, I thought keeping the music really minimal, and there’s just kind of these ominous tones underneath and letting the sound of the cannons and the nature that usually when you have music it kind of breaks the tension, to really try to keep that tension suspended the whole film as much as we could.”
Fun fact: The movie is shot entirely on film as opposed to digitally to enhance the “beautiful, very kind of feminine, gauzy look at the beginning that’s not threatening”, and then as the story turns, it gets darker.
On casting, Sofia had the key women in mind. She and Kirsten Dunst had worked together before on The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette (two of my personal favorites), and Elle Fanning was just 11 years old when she co-starred in Somewhere. Nicole Kidman was always her first choice for the character of Martha, the strict head of the household. Colin Farrell came along after the women were cast.
“I didn’t know who could be the man and, you know, he has to be really masculine and he has to be able to be intriguing and charming to, you know, a 12 year old and a woman in her 40’s and if he was just like a cute hunk, he had to be complicated and you’d believe that he could really captivate them. When I met Colin he was just, he’s so charming. The character in the book actually was an Irish immigrant so his natural accent makes him even more exotic. We want him to be sexy and really masculine in contrast to this feminine world.”