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Brevity is the soul of Sofia Coppola's win

March 01, 2004|John Horn | Times Staff Writer

Most Hollywood screenplays are filled with important speeches, overwrought stage directions and never-ending action scenes. Sofia Coppola's Oscar-winning "Lost in Translation" script defied all of those stereotypes and is so spare that some of the film's dialogue isn't even audible.

Though most scripts measure about 120 pages, her "Lost in Translation" screenplay totals 75 pages.

Coppola says she wrote her script, which she also directed, for Bill Murray, who was nominated for the best actor Oscar.

Had Murray not wanted to play the lead role of Bob Harris, a weary American actor stuck in a soulless Tokyo hotel while filming a commercial, she wouldn't have made the movie. "Everybody needs a muse. Mine was Bill Murray," Coppola said in her acceptance speech.

"I tried to think of what I could do in Tokyo with Bill Murray," Coppola has said. "He has something that's really sincere and heartfelt but really funny and at the same time ... tragic."

Scarlett Johansson co-stars in "Lost in Translation" as Charlotte. She is newly married to a photographer and is waylaid in the same hotel as Murray's character. The two have a meaningful -- but platonic -- relationship. "The character of the girl is based on me when I was younger," Coppola has said. "She has that early 20s crisis of 'What am I gonna do?' And Bill Murray's character is going through a breakdown over almost the same thing but from the opposite end."

"Lost in Translation" also was nominated for best picture, and the 33-year-old Coppola also was nominated for best director, the first American woman ever to receive such an honor.

Although Coppola's previous film, 1999's "The Virgin Suicides," whose script she also wrote, was an art-house hit, her big Hollywood debut was inglorious. She was cast in father Francis Coppola's "The Godfather Part III" in a performance that many critics lambasted.

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