“The Virgin Suicides” is often listed among the greatest coming-of-age films ever made, and this month finds the drama making history as the first Sofia Coppola film to become a member of The Criterion Collection. The filmmaker marked the occasion by sitting down for a new interview with Entertainment Weekly. Coppola remembered not being entirely pleased with the movie’s 2000 theatrical release, noting that distributor Paramount Classics was unsure how to handle the film’s release 18 years ago.
“It didn’t have much of a release,” Coppola said. “Paramount Classics didn’t really know what to do with it. They were afraid that girls were going to commit suicide if they saw it! It had a really small release. We made it for very little, so they didn’t have to do much to make it.”
The film was hardly a box office hit at the time of release, grossing just under $5 million in the U.S opposite a $9 million budget, but Coppola has found joy over the years as the title has become something of a cult classic.
“It made me happy when, about 10 years ago, people started telling me that their teenage daughters loved the movie,” Coppola said. “I was like, they weren’t even born then! How do they even know about it? I’m happy that it has had a second life, and it makes me glad that girls of other generations connect to it and find something in it. It didn’t have much of a life at the time it came out.”
Coppola said she decided to tackle “Virgin Suicides” as her first film because there was a dearth of coming-of-age films from the female perspective that resonated with her. Aside from John Hughes films, Coppola found many of the teen movies released in the 1990s to be “lowbrow and not well crafted.”
“There wasn’t much poetic filmmaking that spoke to me as a girl and a young woman, and also treated [us] with respect I felt that audience deserved,” Coppola said. “I love Jeffrey [Eugenides’] book and I felt like he really captured the mystery of that age, so it was the book that motivated me to want to make that film, but I didn’t really see that aesthetic [in other movies].”
Nearly two decades later, the film is notable for being the first collaboration between Coppola and Kirsten Dunst, who would go on to work with the director in films “Marie Antoinette” and “The Beguiled.” Coppola said she clicked immediately with Dunst because they were “intuitively on the same page” about the character.
“She just conveyed that character exactly how I saw it,” Coppola said. “So I know that we have that connection when we work together that she just gets it and I don’t have to explain that much. We trust each other, so I know she’s not going to do something cheesy. She just had an unusual combination, like an all-American cheerleader, but [with] this depth about her that really worked for the role.”
Criterion’s “Virgin Suicides” release includes a new interview with Dunst, as well as a behind-the-scenes documentary filmed by Coppola’s mother, Eleanor. The Criterion DVD and Blu-ray hits shelves April 24. Head over to Entertainment Weekly to read Coppola’s interview in its entirety.
IndieWire has reached out to Paramount for comment on the “Virgin Suicides'” theatrical release.