Study Guide

Lost in Translation Director

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Sofia Coppola

Going into the family business can be tricky. That's why Shmoop does what Shmoop does instead of being an ice road trucker. We couldn't deal with being compared to our mother all the time.

Having Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) for a father didn't deter Sofia Coppola from getting into the filmmaking game. Neither did having a documentary filmmaker, artist, and author for a mom.

No, she didn't have three mothers; that's all her one and only mom, Eleanor.

Making It Up as She Goes

Lost in Translation was the second feature length film directed (and written) by Coppola and, according to her, it's all about "honoring a moment" (source). As a director, Coppola lived in the moment, too, frequently turning the actors loose to ignore her script and improvise.

For example, during the photo shoot scene, where the photographer wants Bob to channel Roger Moore (amongst other things), Coppola whispered lines to Tetsuro Naka (the photographer), and then he would repeat them to Bill Murray (Bob) once filming started, forcing Murray to react and respond in the moment (source). Keeping Murray on his toes created an authentic—and authentically funny—performance.

The Natural

In addition to this guided improvisation—which kind of sounds like an oxymoron, but you get what we mean—Coppola sets a personal, naturalistic tone for Lost in Translation. Bob and Charlotte are very flawed and very human. We're rooting for their happiness, but we also realize that the Earth won't spin off its axis if they don't get a happy ending. Big picture-wise, they're just two witty travelers in Tokyo.

Part of why Bob and Charlotte ring so true as living, breathing human beings is that a big chunk of Charlotte's character is based on Coppola herself, and the experiences she had when she was twentysomething and fresh out of the cozy college bubble. Says Scarlett Johansson (Charlotte):

You can see the film is very personal. Sofia bleeds through the character—her ironic sense of humor, that feeling of being lost and disillusioned and trying to figure out what direction you want to take with your life (source).

Ultimately, the direction that Coppola took with Lost in Translation was towards the awards ceremony. Among several other honors, trophies, and swanky gift bags, Coppola was nominated for Best Director and scooped up the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Lost in Translation also got a nod for Best Picture, but lost to The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.

If only the Park Hyatt Tokyo had more orcs.

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