Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

Recently, I got to fly out to LA and screen the movie The Beguiled, which hits theaters in New York and Los Angeles today. I also was given the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion interview with the movie’s stars, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, as well as the movie’s director, Sofia Coppola. Check out the interview today and be sure to look for my review of the movie right here tomorrow.

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled

[First things first, we discuss with the panel about how they looked at feminism as it applied to women of the Civil War era]

Sofia: I just imagine what it was like for the women at the that time and how they were raised to be these, you know, lovely ladies and the whole idea of etiquette and charm and catering to men was really how they were raised. Then, all of a sudden, they were on their own and had to learn how to survive. These characters had to find their strength, especially Miss Martha, to protect these women. And I just thought about the human aspect of these women and how they had to find strength to survive.

Kirsten: I just felt like the whole house was so suffocating. So by the time we bring this enemy in, for my character, there’s so much opposition inside of her because she’s trying to be a good Christian and a good example for the girls. She has so much repression, and then she’s under Miss Martha’s thumb. So Edwina’s just ready to explode. And they’re dealing with desire in a way that they weren’t told about, weren’t prepared for. And they’re human.

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

[We congratulated Sofia on her Best Director win at Cannes.]

Kirsten: It was so funny. She was at Coney Island with her kids. I was in Florence, and I pulled it up on the computer to watch. I was like toasting with champagne, and she’s in Coney Island. That’s Sofia.

Sofia: She sent me a picture of her watching it too, with champagne. I’m like, “I’m at Coney Island having hot dogs.” But then when I got home, I had champagne with Sarah, our editor, and Stacey, our costume designer, and we had so many great women working on this, and so we celebrated.

[Sofia, Can you talk a little bit about the process that you go through to find a new project? Do you purposely look for something that’s different for you or is every new project a challenge?]

Sofia: There’s always a reaction to the [movie] right before and after I did “Bling Ring” I really wanted to do something beautiful. I was so sick of that kind of pop culture, it just wasn’t aesthetic. I wanted to do something beautiful, but that’s all I knew. And then my friend 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, a story about a group of women told from a ‘70s man point of view of the soldier finding them and I just kept thinking about it.

Sofia: And it reminded me of “Virgin Suicides”. There was something about it that I could connect to that aesthetic of these women trapped in this house. And so I got the book, it was out of print, and it’s told from the female character’s point of view and I starting thinking about what it was like for them, this isolated world of these women living together and then this enemy soldier comes in. And to me, the story has so much about the power between men and women shifting back and forth. And I’ve always loved the south. It’s so exotic to me. Elle’s a southerner here.

Elle: I’m from Georgia. Got to bring that up.

[I wanted to know how you want the movie and characters to stand out from the original, or even the book?]

Sofia: I really tried to forget the other film and just approach it in a new way. We try to think about where those characters are coming from and make them human and then, I looked at Kirsten and Elle for their characters to bring their take on it.

Kirsten: I only watched the movie once a long time ago when Sofia was first thinking about remaking it and then I never watched it again. And I read the book, well most of Edwina’s parts in the book and I did my own thing. The woman that played the part in the previous film was really good.

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

[This was very feminist for that time period and so I want to know to each of you what does feminism mean to you today, especially with the changing landscape in Hollywood in general?]

Sofia: To me it just means equal rights and that it’s important. I’m interested in stories that have a female point of view. We’re half the population so I’m happy to put that out there. And more and more you want different points of views and to show complex female characters that we can relate to.

Elle: I watched “Splendor in the Grass” recently.

Kirsten: I was like well I don’t even know if [Splendor In The Grass] would be made today about a girl, but it’s a Natalie Woods movie and she’s so amazing in it. But I don’t know if it would be made today, which is really sad. But it seemed like a long time ago there were a lot of even better roles and there aren’t now.

Elle: We were joking about that, how “Harold and Maude” would never get made now. It’s an old lady and a young boy.

[Since it was an all woman cast, I love the fact that you had a woman director, tell me about your experience working with all women.]

Kirsten: I did “Little Women” and I worked with Sofia when I was 16 so I’ve always had that opportunity. I’ve always wanted to work with other women. However you navigate your own career and what you want to surround yourself with, I think comes through in your career. It wasn’t new to me and I just had the best time.

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

Elle: I hadn’t really thought about it, but the last three movies that I’ve done have all been with women directors. But I didn’t necessarily choose them specifically because of that, it just turned out that way. They were making those stories [that were] really exciting. And it was also kind of strange because I’m normally the youngest person on set always so not being the youngest I was kind of like in the middle. I was like this is weird, I’m the middle child. I’ve never been a middle child.

[As a mom of two girls yourself, how do you incorporate them into your work and do they have any input and how else do you kind of show them girl power?]

Sofia: They were so proud when I won the director award. They went and told everyone at school. I went to speak to my daughter, my ten year old’s class, and they were all so proud and telling everyone, “My mom won a director award.” It was really sweet. I didn’t know that [they] even, understood that. So that was sweet. And I was lucky that my husband could watch our girls while were filming because I don’t want to take them out of school, but they came and visited the set a few times while I was in New Orleans filming. And my mom stayed with them one week when we couldn’t be there. So I just appreciate all the support of the people that helped me so that I could do this. And now I’m looking forward to getting the movie out and having a vacation and getting to be with my kids and focus on them.

[At the end of the day, is there anything you have to do to kind of unwind because of all the seriousness on set.]

Sofia: The story, it’s tense. But when we were filming we were having fun and we were enjoying being in New Orleans and it wasn’t tense the whole time on set.

Kirsten: No, we had so much fun. We did a little Girls Gone Wild Civil War

Elle: War edition.

Kirsten: Because on the Kraft service table they have a lot of Red Solo cups, which makes it look like…

Elle: A keger.

Kirsten: …And Elle and I were running up and flashing our ankle. It was all like fun.

Click here to see 1860s Girls Gone Wild, starring Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning.

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

Sofia: And Colin was a good sport. We were joking when he was doing the outdoor gardening [scene]. We were taking photos to make a calendar. I need to find those.

Elle: We had like a sexy calendar.

[Sofia and Kristen – you have worked together for a number of years on two of my favorite films actually, “Virgin Suicides” and “Marie Antoinette”. So Sopia, you’ve probably gotten the question a lot about the evolution of Kirsten. Kirsten, can you talk about working with Sofia then and now?]

Kirsten: Yeah. With “Virgin Suicide”, I was so young…

Sofia: I was, too.

Kirsten: Yeah, we were both young.

Sofia: I think I was in my 20s.

Kirsten: But I always looked up to Sofia, like an older cool sister. And, as the years go by, the gap closes as you get older, but I just remember a lot of the things in that movie, I’d never done in real life. I was a very innocent 16-year-old. So like having to jump on Josh in the car and doing these things, I was so nervous about, but I was also so lucky because it was in Sofia’s hands, and it was a transition movie for me, from being considered a child into more adult. Like people saw me in a different light and I had Sofia as a role model. You’re so influenced at that time, I had a good role model at a young age.

[The women in this film are fashioning this sort of new world for themselves. We even said after the movie like just talking among ourselves that it’s almost like a lady “Lord of the Flies” where we’ve seen like…]

Kirsten: That’s so weird. I watched “Lord of the Flies” as a reference for this movie.

[That’s awesome! And we kind of were like saying that this movie obviously explores morality through a masculine perspective, but I wanted to ask you as a director, what is your approach to sort of capturing the women interactions within the frame and even off frame, because we’re so, as females, we’re nuanced in different ways.]

Sofia: I definitely think there’s a hierarchy with women. There’s always like power dynamics and all of that. So I think whenever there’s a group of women there are certain dynamics of a group, especially with women. I feel like men communicate verbally and physically, but women, they say so much I think through a glance or their tone and some women will like give you a glance or tone and a guy will be like, “What, she didn’t say anything.” Like you read in so much to it. So I love the way women communicate in that way that only other women understand and the story was so right for all those glances and moments and I wanted to try to show that.

The Beguiled Official Trailer #TheBeguiled

[So at the end of the movie, something that stood out is when you guys are sitting on the porch and you’re looking really bad ass. And I know that the house was from Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” video. I wanted to know if that was intentional. And were any challenges with like the period and the time and the etiquette and if you had any moments that seemed too difficult or really funny with wearing the corsets and costumes and things?]

Sofia: We didn’t know there’s a few plantation houses there were real plantations where they allow filming and we didn’t know that Beyoncé had shot there until these guys saw the chair.

Elle: We saw that chair. The little girls saw the chair and then looked it up and then it was the exact same chair. And then we asked the owners. I was like mad that they didn’t tell us. I was like, “You didn’t tell us that they shot ‘Lemonade’ here?” And they were like, “Oh yeah, yeah, Beyoncé was here.”

Sofia: Like I bet she didn’t stay where we stayed though. I bet she didn’t stay at the Hamptons Inn.

Elle: [laughs]

Sofia: But we all had to take turns taking photos of being Beyoncé, then switching and being Serena Williams. So but that was a coincidence. And I wanted a modern audience to be able to connect to [the story], even though it’s set in another time, but we wanted it to be believable and accurate of the time. And I think the hardest part was the dialogue because as you improvise dialogue you’re like “oh, it has to sound real of the period, but you don’t want it to sound so foreign that it doesn’t feel natural.” So that, to me, was a challenging part. We had an etiquette teacher and a dancing instructor and a Civil War re-enactor teaching us about the bandaging and we had a sewing person.

Kirsten: We had prayer time.

Elle: Yes, Bible study.

Kirsten: Bible study with Nicole.

Sofia: So we tried to get into what it was like for these women and how they spent their days. So they learned sewing and the different aspects. And the etiquette teacher helped us a lot for understanding how they carried themselves at that time.

[Kirsten, even when you’re playing a serious character you have this exuberance to your characters. Was it hard to kind of tamp that down for this? I didn’t see a dimple this whole movie.]

Kirsten: I did my job, then. [laughs]

Sofia: I know I love when I was talking about Kirsten in this role and a friend of hers said, “There’s nothing repressed about Kirsten. Like how’s she going to do that?”

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

Kirsten: It’s fun to play a role like this so I was very tightly wound. There’s a lot going on with Edwina, but it’s all, underneath. But then I think about that scene with Colin, Sofia and I wanted to make a shocking sex scene. And we didn’t kiss in that scene. Edwina didn’t even know what she was going to do necessarily when she first enters that room…

Sofia: Try and calm him.

Kirsten: Yeah. And she’s a virgin obviously, too, so there’s so many things happening with her. You can only express it in a little dialogue here, a little dialogue there, but she’s very emotionally distraught.

Sofia: When I was writing it I could picture Kirsten and Elle in these roles and I knew that they would bring so much to it. They just brought so much more than I could imagine so it was really fun to watch. And I think Kirsten’s part was so hard because she’s so much under the surface, but you feel all that, and Elle always cracked me up. One of my favorite scenes is [Elle] hoeing the grass.

Elle: Oh. [laughs] Oh Lord.

Sofia: Yeah. I love that she’s just so put out to have to do anything. And she’s supposed to be the most spoiled and so…

Elle: I felt like I had never played a character that was also kind of so comedic. Because I got to say a lot of funny lines and [Sofia] allowed me to kind of be playful with her. I had a good time with that.

[Sofia, can you talk a little bit about casting the Colonel, because he had to be such an element of danger and sex and, was Colin your first choice?]

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

Sofia: I didn’t know who could be the man. He had to be really masculine and be able to be intriguing and charming to a 12 year old and a woman in her 40s. And if he was just like a cute hunk, he had to be complicated so you’d believe that he could really captivate them.

Kirsten: And not too creepy, too.

Sofia: Exactly. It was a balance to find so many elements and when I met Colin he was just so charming, and the character in the book actually was an Irish immigrant. So Colin and his natural accent make him even more exotic. And because he’s so charming and charismatic, we want him to be sexy and really masculine in contrast to this feminine world. So yeah, I felt he fit the bill. Someone that they could all relate to and not too creepy.

Kirsten: He was like, “I got to lose weight. I got to lose weight.”

Elle: Yeah, he’s also the most naked in the film.

Kirsten: It’s so funny, he was like, living off like nuts and seeds and he had to get his weight down.

Elle: Then he drove all the way back to New Orleans from the plantation just to get one hamburger because he hadn’t had any.

Kirsten: He was very nice about letting us objectify him.

[Sofia: I noticed that there was no underscoring for most of the film except for the children singing a capella and the parlor singing, and I was wondering what your choice was for that. And I also wanted to know what your choice was in shooting the film mostly dark? Was that to keep the theme of the film in that dark place?]

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

Sofia: I wanted to really have as much tension and sexual tension as we could. And so, with the sound, I kept the music really minimal, with these ominous tones underneath, like the sound of the cannons and nature. Usually when you have music it kind of breaks the tension, so we really tried to keep that tension suspended the whole film as much as we could. And for the look of the film, I wanted it to have this beautiful, very kind of feminine, gauzy look at the beginning that’s not threatening, and then as the story turns, it gets darker. And also [for you] to feel the claustrophobia of them all trapped in the house with this dangerous enemy. So the thinking was to change the tone as the story gets darker, and hopefully you don’t notice it happening until you’re kind of in it and get into the southern gothic feeling of it.

The Beguiled Trailer

See The Beguiled In NY and LA Today

World-premiering at the 2017 Cannes International Film Festival, The Beguiled hits theaters in NY and LA today and releases to a wider audience on the 30th. “The Beguiled” is an atmospheric thriller from acclaimed writer/director Sofia Coppola. The story unfolds during the Civil War, at a Southern girls’ boarding school. Its sheltered young women take in an injured enemy soldier. As they provide refuge and tend to his wounds, the house is taken over with sexual tension and dangerous rivalries, and taboos are broken in an unexpected turn of events.

Interview: Sofia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning On The Beguiled #TheBeguiled

Get Social With The Beguiled

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About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.

Comments

  1. That is an awesome interview. It was nice to read about what the cast and director feel about the film and what goes into it. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this since I saw the first trailer.
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  2. I have not heard of this movie but i truly love period pieces! and the cast is amazing! I will have to look up the trailer, thanks for sharing!
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  3. What a great interview and story! These ladies are powerhouses! So funny about Beyonce and the Lemonade video! I would have reacted the same way!
    Joely Smith recently posted…Calm Your Dog With Therabis: Relief From Storms, Fireworks, Sirens and MoreMy Profile

  4. I can not wait to see this movie! I really hope it’s good, it’s always interesting seeing the people in the movies thoughts.
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  5. What a great post about some amazing and talented actresses. Elle Fanning reminds me so much of her sister, and yet she has such a different personality and acting style that makes her truly a standout. Kirsten Dunst has been a favorite of mine ever since Interview With A Vampire.
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  6. This film is interesting, I think Sophia did an amazing job directing it. The actresses are a great fit for the roles as well. Awesome interview!!!
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  7. I have not heard of this movie before now. I might have to look into it more. Of course I haven’t been to the theatre to see a movie since that reboot of Star Wars a couple of years ago.

  8. I’d go see this. I hadn’t heard of it until now, but I loved reading each of their perspectives on the film and feminism.
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  9. They chose quite the amazing cast! I love these style of movies. I can’t wait it watch them capture this era!

  10. This is a film that I want to see! I love a good period film and I am a fan of Elle fanning so I will look forward to it!
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  11. Rebecca Swenor says:

    This is an amazing interview these three women. Sofia Coppola did a great job writing and directing this movie. Beguiled is an awesome movie and has some amazing actors in it. I can’t wait to see this movie with my sisters. Thanks for sharing this awesome interview.

  12. Victoria Heckstall says:

    That was a great interview! I enjoyed reading it and I guess the story is really awesome! Gonna have to see this soon!

  13. What an awesome experience interviewing these women. I am looking forward to seeing this movie soon!
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  14. I keep seeing the promo for this. I’m intrigued! Such great actresses and it looks like a compelling storyline, too.

  15. Oh wow, I love the trailer, I would love to see this movie. I can’t believe Elle Fanning is all grown up.

  16. This sounds like an interesting movie. Normally, I don’t care for movies that go wayback in history. Im just not a history buff. I might have to make an exception for this movie just so that I can see how women lived during that period of time.

  17. This looks like such a great movie. And what a great experience for you to get to interview these women. I’ve been such a fan of Sophia Coppola and her films, I’m excited to see this one too!
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  18. What an awesome interview! I really admire this entire cast so I am sure it will be great! Sophia Coppola is so talented as well! My coworker was just telling me last week that she was going to force her husband to go with her to see this as a way to make sure he stays in line! ;)

  19. I saw the preview, and I was freaked how a bit lol There’s a lot of big name actresses in this movie! Can’t wait to see it!
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  20. What a great interview, the cast are such a talented bunch, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the movie x
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  21. I can’t wait to see this movie… Sofia Coppola is such an amazingly talented director who brings out the best in her actors.

  22. I vaguely remember seeing the 1970s version with Clint Eastwood. I’m curious to see how this new version plays out, especially being directed by a woman.
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  23. This movie looks really good..kind of scary, but good. How COOL that you got to interview Sophia Coppola, Kirsten Dunst & Elle Fanning. What a cool experience! WOW!
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  24. What a beautiful story with an amazing cast! Can’t wait to see this one!
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  25. What an amazing interview! I really appreciate all the efforts they went through to bring authenticity to their characters and the story. It sounds like a fascinating movie.
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  26. Can’t expect less from such a powerful cast. Sophia is an amazing director as well. I think this film is a must see!
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  27. Misty Nelson Dawn says:

    Sounds like you had a great Interview and I really can’t wait to see this movie. Glad that you share this with us

  28. I can not wait to watch this movie. I am a huge Kirsten Dunst fan.
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  29. This is a very talented cast of actresses. I’m looking forward to seeing how they look together in this movie.
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