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Sofia Coppola Talks Tapping Husband Thomas Mars of Phoenix for Her 'Creepy' Movie Music

Director Sofia Coppola attends the "The Beguiled" photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 24, 2017 in Cannes, France.
Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Director Sofia Coppola attends the "The Beguiled" photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 24, 2017 in Cannes, France.  

A low, bass-driven thrum accompanies the final shot of Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a remake of the 1971 Civil War drama about a Louisiana girls’ boarding school that takes in a wounded Union soldier. Unlike the most memorable music moments of Coppola’s filmography -- think Marie Antoinette star Kirsten Dunst traipsing around Versailles to Bow Wow Wow, or Scarlett Johansson staring out of her Tokyo hotel room window in Lost in Translation as Squarepusher’s “Tommib” fills the space -- there are no pop songs here. The music of The Beguiled is sparse, filled with eerie tunes that date back to the 1860s (“Lorena,” “Aura Lea”) and accompanied by the distant sound of gunfire. The period piece -- which stars Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, and opens wide June 23 -- connected with audiences in May at the Cannes Film Festival, where the 46-year-old took home her first best director prize.

“I wanted the movie to be full of tension,” says Coppola. She turned to husband Thomas Mars and his band Phoenix, who contributed the score to her 2010 film Somewhere. “I asked the guys if they would do something minimal and tonal. I liked the idea of having synthesizers to change the mood, but I wanted something that wasn’t going to get too much attention.” For The Beguiled’s final scene, the group used a snippet of Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi’s “Magnificat,” which Coppola says added a “creepy, lingering feeling.”

When working with Phoenix on a film project, Coppola will first send stills to establish a sense of the scene’s mood before screening the full sequence. “[Mars] will play me a few options, and we’ll see what fits,” she says. “It’s nice to have a musician in the house.” 

This story originally appeared in the June 17 issue of Billboard.

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