“I really made this movie for my gay men friends,” Sofia Coppola said recently during an interview about her latest project, The Beguiled, which hits theaters tomorrow, June 23. As it turns out, Coppola — who recently made history as only the second female to win the Best Director prize at Cannes — used gay men as springboards for ideas quite a lot during the film’s production.
The film is a female-driven period piece, as was Marie Antoinette, but that’s largely where the comparisons end. The Beguiled takes place three years into the Civil War, inside a gigantic Southern manor, where a boarding school for girls is gifted a visitor: a (quite hunky) enemy soldier. Nicole Kidman plays the school’s headmistress, Kirsten Dunst a teacher at the school, and Dakota Fanning leads the group of young girls. Colin Farrell portrays Corporal John McBurney in this remake of an old Clint Eastwood/Geraldine Page film.
The film is at varying points playful, dramatic, cringeworthy (there’s a bit of gore), hilarious and suspenseful, and is gorgeously shot throughout. (Fun fact: the house interior shots were done at the New Orleans home of Jennifer Coolidge!) It’s one of Coppola’s best works, without a doubt, and we expect more awards to come her way for it.
When Coppola says she made the film for her gay friends — though it should be said Coppola insists she made the film for her female friends as well — that’s mostly a reference to the male gaze she subverts throughout. As a viewer, you’re never objectifying the bodies of the film’s gorgeous female leads; instead, you’re objecting Farrell’s sexy (and often unconscious) wounded soldier. To put it bluntly, the film centers around a household of horny, genteel Southern belles to whom Farrell’s arrival is like a drop of blood in a shark’s cage. You do the math.
“I have a friend, Fabrizio [Viti], who’s a shoe designer, and he really pushed me to embrace the idea of objectifying a man’s body,” Coppola told Vulture. “He was my tutor in that.”
Farrell seemed to be OK with the objectification, as Coppola mentions that he rather enjoyed the scene in which he’s gardening while soaking wet. “He was covered in water, doing all this hunk stuff. Oh, he milked it,” she says.
Recently Coppola presented The Beguiled in East Coast gay resort Provincetown as part of the town’s international film festival. She showed up following an invite from the one and only John Waters, who summers there, to accept this year’s Filmmaker on the Edge Award.
Provincetown apparently opened Coppola up to discuss more of the film’s influence by gay men. “It was hard to cast that part. The women were obvious to me, but who’s going to be the guy that can be mysterious, and so charismatic, and he had to be sexy?” she told Indiewire. “I asked a lot of gay men and a lot of women what kind of guy they would be into, and they all said he would be a hunk. I asked moms at school — I just went around town asking everybody. It was funny, my survey, everyone had a different opinion.”
“I wanted a guy that women and men would be attracted to,” she adds.
The Beguiled is in theaters June 23.
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