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When Sofia Coppola and the stars of her film The Beguiled sat down for the press conference in Cannes, it was an usual sight — it was six women sitting in a row, flanked by just two men (Colin Farrell and producer Youree Henley).
In a male-skewing festival and industry (only one woman, Jane Campion, has ever won the festival’s top prize), Coppola’s film stands out for its female director and female-centered story. During the press conference, the film’s star Nicole Kidman (who stars in four projects in the festival, including Campion’s show Top of the Lake), was asked about the opportunities for women as directors in the industry, whether that’s in film or TV.
“Still only about four percent of women directed the major motion pictures of 2016,” said Kidman, sharing other statistics with the crowd. “That there says it all. I think that’s an important thing to say and keep saying. Luckily we had Jane Campion and Sofia here. We as women have to support female directors, that’s a given now. Everyone is saying it’s so different now — but it isn’t. Listen to the statistics.”
Coppola’s Civil War-era drama The Beguiled is a reimagining of Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 novel, which also was the basis for the 1971 Clint Eastwood film of the same name. Coppola’s version stars Kidman, Elle Fanning and Coppola’s frequent collaborator Kirsten Dunst, who play a group of women whose isolated existence at an all-girls boarding school is interrupted by the arrival of a wounded Union soldier (Farrell).
Farrell said he enjoyed the experience as the only male star of the film. “I grew up in my life with three brilliant and strong women in my life, my mother and my sisters,” he said. “Sofia set a very particular mood in the working environment that was one of comfort and ease and trust…it was really, I’ve been doing this 20 years, and I think this was my favorite experience and my favorite shoot.”
Coppola also was asked about her film being shown on the big screen versus a streaming service such as Netflix (the company has been surrounded by controversy as a newcomer at this year’s festival).
“I’m so happy that we shot on 35mm film, and all of the work is so great to see on the big screen. I really hope that people will go to the theaters. We shot it thinking of a big frame, not a phone,” she said. “That experience is such a unique one, especially in our modern lives.”
Coppola also revealed that there are plans to show both her version of The Beguiled and the 1971 one as a double feature at Quentin Tarantino’s theater New Beverly Cinema.
As for Dunst, she said it wasn’t so much about the subject matter of the project, but about Coppola. “If Sofia handed my the phone book and said, ‘We’re going to make this movie,’ I would do it,” said Dunst.
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