Sarah Polley and Francis Ford Coppola Discuss the Political Stakes of ‘Women Talking’ and Why She Thinks ‘The Godfather’ Would Flop | Daily News Byte

Sarah Polley and Francis Ford Coppola Discuss the Political Stakes of ‘Women Talking’ and Why She Thinks ‘The Godfather’ Would Flop

 | Daily News Byte


Five-time Academy Award winner Francis Ford Coppola summons director Sarah Polley from his quaint hotel room desk in Peachtree, Georgia, to discuss Polley’s latest (and perhaps most important) film to date. Polley, the actor-turned-auteur, was impressed as they chatted on Zoom through their laptop screens, as Coppola was just days away from starting production on “Megalopolis” — a passion project he wrote back in late ’80s, about an architect in a futuristic New York City.

With family and assistants buzzing around her, Coppola seems to have settled only with Polley, whose feature film “Women Talking” explores the trauma of a group of Mennonite women after a sexual assault. Coppola admitted that he had been a fan of Polley’s work for years; Polley recalled how he auditioned for “Megalopolis” 20 years before. The two longtime fans compare notes on the film adaptation, wrangling ensemble casts and why nerves are sometimes the best sign.

Francis Ford Coppola: What was your main idea for adapting Miriam Toews’ book?

Sarah Polley: When I first read the novel, it went through me like a bullet. It asks so many important questions about faith, forgiveness, community and democracy. It really complicated a lot of the conversations going on in the mainstream when it came out. It was just the beginning of the #MeToo movement, and I loved how big and philosophical and spiritual she was able to make this intimate story about this community of women coming together to figure out how to remake their world.

Coppola: Of course, this is about a religious group, specifically the Mennonites, but I take it as a metaphor for the whole world. That is what you have provided. You did it in what we call a “thought experiment with actors,” as if the women’s community really stood up for all the women in the world today. And this attack happened. We know in the novel that it was actually an attack by some of that community, who used a cow tranquilizer to knock out these women and then raped them. This is a metaphor of today’s world where women are not only enslaved but are still attacked instead of respected, which is what our species originally did: They respect women as givers of life.

Polly: At the beginning, we are talking about this work as a fable. And that it’s not just an intimate story of women sitting in a hayloft talking; it also has a sense of the world that they have to destroy and rebuild. What does it mean to get rid of the structures that have sprung up around your faith that are deceptive and evil? What does it mean to move forward as a community? What does it mean to blame each other and the kind of lateral violence that emerges when people are victimized or marginalized? That huge question that affects us all and, indeed, for me, exists in the realm of a fable.

Coppola: Your movie is a group. You get an ensemble in the theater all the time, but in the theater and in the unions of America, there is no difference between rehearsal day or shooting day. I always ask for two weeks of rehearsal; I haven’t got it yet. There are many things you can do with an ensemble involving theater games and improv and all kinds of techniques that allow the ensemble to almost evolve together as a whole. I won’t bore you with all the tricks, but essentially you end up with a group that becomes characters together, and those relationships, both actor and character, start to become “What is one and what is the other? ” That’s how I approached it.

Polly: May I ask, you’re about to shoot “Megalopolis,” and it’s a movie you’ve been dreaming of for decades. Are the stakes higher for you?

Coppola: I wish I was more nervous, because when you’re nervous, it’s an indicator — meaning, “I’m going to go all the way.” The fact that I’m not quite as nervous as I’d like to be, it worries me. I do not know why. Maybe I’m just older, and I’ve been around. If you had told me when I was doing “The Godfather” that that movie would not only be remembered but considered good, I would have thought you were crazy, because everyone hated it. So you never know what will happen.


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