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Sofia Coppola

Written by Annlee Ellingson

The daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, one of the great filmmakers of our time, Sofia Coppola took her time breaking into the field. Yes, she appeared in all three of her dad's "Godfather" movies, making her bigscreen debut as an infant in the original, but she tried her hand at other endeavors, among them a clothing line, before making her feature film directorial debut in her late 20s. It simply wasn't something she really considered doing before reading Jeffrey Eugenides' "The Virgin Suicides."

"I probably [was] aware of film from just being around my dad's sets so much, but I wasn't looking for material and setting out to direct a movie," she tells BOXOFFICE. "I had done a short ["Lick the Star"], and that's when I realized that [filmmaking] was something that I really loved and that I knew something about. When I heard someone else was making a movie of 'The Virgin Suicides,' I felt really protective of it, and I just started working on the script.

"I didn't have the rights when I started working on the script," she continues, "and I wasn't really planning on making the film. And then I got so attached to it that when I finished the script, I met the producers who had the rights to it, and they had another director and another script, but I begged them."

Ultimately it was Coppola's take on the material -- her ability to mix the material's humor and tragedy -- that got her the gig. "I just was really into the book and the subject matter and tried to bring out what I loved," she says. "I think the other versions kind of sensationalized it, and I liked that it had this innocence to it and tried to keep that."

Set in a 1970s suburban neighborhood, "The Virgin Suicides" looks back at the ill-fated Lisbon girls who, plagued by their prettiness and their ultra-conservative upbringing, become objects of fascination for the neighbor boys. "[The girls] are mythical because they're the neighborhood Lisbon sisters -- these five beautiful blonde, ethereal sisters," Coppola says of her characters, led by Kirsten Dunst. "They're very mysterious, and they introduced the boys to longing for women. Because they don't stick around, they never got old, and they stay in the boys' heads as kind of the first representation of women."

Coppola's filmmaking style reflects the story's impressionistic themes. "The whole story is these boys who are now men trying to understand what happened with these girls that they were obsessed with," she says. "They're trying to piece together the things they remember and the things they heard and things they collected.

"The movie wasn't really done in a realistic way. It was more in this stylized memory, because [the boys] are looking back on it. It's not happening right then. I think when you remember things, you don't remember the whole picture. You remember the pieces that impressed you like a detail, so I wanted it to be more impressionistic [and] not go for shock value" -- a far cry from her father's infamous image of a severed horse's head.

But Coppola doesn't concentrate on the comparison. "I try not to think about [following in my father's footsteps] because I really admire his work and learn from him, but so many kids follow in their parents' footsteps," she says. "I think, if I worry too much about that, I just wouldn't do anything. So I'm just trying to do my own thing, and I hope people see ['The Virgin Suicides'] for what it is -- my first film -- and [recognize that] I'm a separate person."