Sofia Coppola's latest film, The Beguiled, has been receiving a whirlwind of fanfare for its historic win at Cannes, bewitching air, and slew of strong female performances from Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning. But like any Hollywood figure in the spotlight, the director has also faced a few waves of criticism surrounding the thrilling Southern Gothic drama — namely, the all-white casting and the report that she asked her friend and star Dunst to lose weight for the role. So, in a new interview with the U.K.'s Stylist, Coppola took the opportunity to address those controversies head on.
"I left some things out from the original movie and book where they felt exploitative," Coppola said of her decision to exclude the two Black characters in the 1966 Thomas Cullinan novel (one of whom appeared in the 1971 adaptation). "[There] was a very stereotypical 'sassy' slave character that I didn’t want to spotlight... I didn’t want to talk about that aspect of the Civil War because it’s such an important story to tell." Coppola explained that although she understands the backlash, she made her choice out of deference to the story she wanted to tell in this particular movie — and respect for the narrative she didn't have the time or desire to do justice to here.
"I wanted to focus on the dynamics between male and female and not include racial politics – I didn’t want to treat it lightly. I didn’t want to have a token slave character without really going into the story of what that was like and there wasn’t room to tell that whole story." The director added, "I don’t want to represent an only-white world and it’s something we talk about and are conscious of. But I also thought it wasn’t nice for young women to see the only ethnic person in a film to be portrayed as the servant – even if that would be accurate."
Coppola also responded to the reaction generated by this bit from her Variety cover story with Dunst: "When Coppola suggested that Dunst lose some weight for her role in Beguiled, the actress pushed back. But she said her director was very understanding." Coppola told Stylist, "That comment was totally taken out of context. I don’t remember how it was said but I remember we talked about the role and I maybe said, 'Oh, it’s the Civil War so they all have to look like they don’t have a lot,' or something." She added, "But I didn’t tell her to lose weight. I’ve known Kirsten a long time – since she was 16. She’s like a sister to me and I trust her so much." It wouldn't be the first time something a star said during an interview was lost in translation (ha).
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