Growing up in California’s Napa Valley with her filmmaker father Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola “dreamed about New York life,” the Oscar winner tells AD. “I always loved seeing New York in movies,” she says, but until her latest film On the Rocks, the director of hits like Lost In Translation, The Virgin Suicides, and The Beguiled had never filmed any of her projects in the Big Apple, where she now lives in a West Village townhouse with her husband, Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars—he created the score for the film—and their children.
Perhaps because it was so long in the making, On the Rocks is what one might call a New York Movie with a capital M, where the city feels very essential to the plot, and even more so to the characters. The film stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a woman who suspects that her husband, Dean (Marlon Wayans) is having an affair. Her father, Felix (Bill Murray), is an eccentric former lothario who helps her do some serious sleuthing to find out what is going on. It’s all very lighthearted, to the point of falling a bit flat, but in a time when New York City is being decried as “a ghost town” by some, its dedication to New York clichés is comforting.
“Sofia and I wanted to show the New York the different characters loved when they were in their prime, especially Felix’s Manhattan during the ’70s and ’80s, when he was a successful art dealer. He moved between SoHo galleries and classic bars and restaurants,” production designer Anne Ross tells AD. These include 21 Club and the Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, both of which were written into the script and served as filming locations.
“I wanted the story to have romantic, classic New York places. Bill’s character Felix is from another era, like those places, the last of that kind of gentleman’s world, before athleisure,” says Coppola. “They have so much history, and remind me of movies like Tootsie, with the scene in the Russian Tea Room.”