For all the chaos, reality-bending, and shirt-tucking that happens in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, most viewers will probably finish and ask themselves the same question: “Who is that?” The answer is Maria Bakalova, the 24-year-old Bulgarian actress who plays Borat’s daughter Tutar in the film, and makes the film possible both practically—Sacha Baron Cohen and his character are now largely too famous to go undetected—and emotionally, threading a genuine father-daughter story through a film that, like the first, is also about getting unsuspecting Americans to do and say insane things.
It’s not a traditional star-making performance by any means, but it does make Bakalova an overnight sensation—and Cohen himself has been lobbying the Academy on her behalf, saying “If she doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar then that’s a travesty.” So does she stand a chance? On this week’s Little Gold Men podcast, Chris Rosen joins Richard Lawson, Katey Rich, and Joanna Robinson to discuss the cultural footprint of the second Borat, how it compares to the first, and why there’s no reason to count out Bakalova given the supporting actress Oscar field so far. They also discuss new releases The Craft: Legacy and Kindred, and assess the best actor race now that Chadwick Boseman has been confirmed as a lead actor contender for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
The episode ends with a conversation between Katey Rich and Sofia Coppola, whose new film On the Rocks is available now on Apple TV+ and in theaters. Though she originally imagined that more people would see the movie in theaters, the director say she’s perfectly fine with it being the kind of thing you curl up and watch on the couch at home. When it was filmed last summer it was already a kind of escapism, set in rarefied parts of New York City like 21 Club and Bemelman’s, and a light fantasy about a daughter (Rashida Jones) and father (Bill Murray) off on a crazy, only-in-New-York caper. But with indoor dining still dangerous and life in New York radically changed, On the Rocks reads as both an escape and nostalgia for the very recent past.
Take a listen to the episode above, and find a selected transcript of the Sofia Coppola interview below. You can subscribe to Little Gold Men on Apple Podcasts or anywhere else you get your podcasts.
Katey Rich: I should say full disclosure before we start is I currently have two small children, so watching this movie was certainly a journey. And I liked that in interviews, you talked about reflecting on your own time when you had children smaller than they are now. Did you start thinking about the idea for this when your kids were younger and you were stuck in the school run, packing lunches part of your life, or did you have to get out of that to be able to have the idea to tell this story?
Sofia Coppola: I just realized that I started working on it seven years ago when I first registered the WGA title and synopsis. And I just found notes of that, I thought, “Oh, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.” I was thinking about in that moment of having little kids and trying to figure out how to write. And I used to stay up all night writing, and then I’d have to get up early. And then also, your kids in school, all of a sudden you’re in a whole world of people that you would never know otherwise. And just the uniqueness of that being in a whole new universe that is new. And just that moment, it’s a little bit of an identity crisis, and I think it takes a moment to get your bearings and all the different roles that we are, and then to not lose aspects of other parts of yourself.
And you have this character who is creative, but she’s not a filmmaker, she’s a novelist. And it’s specific about some parts of her writing process, but not specific in other ways. And you almost made it so you can put your own artistic ambitions into her. I’m curious about the way you wanted to make Laura both an artist, like you are, but not really like you as well.
I mean, who really wants to hear about details of filmmaking outside of the film world? But I hoped it could be universal of just about being a creative person. And I have friends that are women artists and have families and just that struggle, that balance. And then as a screenwriter, I can relate to procrastinating. And I wanted the character to be vulnerable enough that you would believe that she would go off on this ridiculous adventure with her dad, with Felix. She had to be a little not grounded and have that moment. Yeah, it’s meant to be, I hope, generic enough that you can put your own self into whatever her creative life is.
You said it was seven years ago that you registered the WGA title, so you had the title in place. Was it the screenplay that we know now when you first registered it, or has it evolved a lot since that early phase?
No, it changed a bunch. I was working on it off and on while I was doing other projects. It was something that I always wanted to complete and just struggled with the writing of it. But, no, it had different, definitely different, versions of it. But at its core, it always was centered around these conversations between Felix and Laura in these restaurants, and there were three central ones that hopefully shows the evolution of the story and the dynamics between them, and then the real life around that.
Did you ever have in mind the one crazy night in New York format, which it feels so much of it’s like that, and then it takes the jump to Mexico. I wonder if you revisited After Hours or that model of New York story.
Yeah. I love After Hours. I haven’t watched that in a long time. That is so specific to one night, but I did think about classic New York sophisticated comedies, and then thinking about Blake Edwards from Mexico to push it to be a little more silly and broad and comedic in a way. It’s not my usual thing to push that a little bit and have that kind of style of comedy that I grew up with.
So, to push that, did you re-watch those movies? Did you do … what are the exercises you do to expand your writing brain in that way?
I just think about those modes, and I didn’t really re-watch 10, but just thinking about the brightness of those locations just to push it. And then I watched some old screwball comedies because I was thinking about that era of The Awful Truth and My Favorite Wife and those old mix-up comedies, so how to take that model, and then do it in a way that didn’t feel too retro, but in that tradition. And then I was thinking about The Thin Man and just their banter and their relationship.
The Bill Murray character, I think, sets up in some ways with this myth of Bill Murray that exists in pop culture, where he’s everywhere and people say they see him on the street or in a bar or something like that. And I think the character has a lot more to him than that, but it made me wonder how much he was part of the character as you envisioned him from the beginning since, obviously, you have known each other for a while. Was he there from the start as the model for Felix?
I had this idea of this character for Felix, and I stayed away from thinking of Bill because I thought, “Oh, I can’t work with Bill again. I don’t want to disappoint anyone that can’t live up to how they loved him in Lost in Translation,” but then as I started working on it more… because it was a composite of different characters and there is a little of Bill’s just magic in stopping to smell the flowers and really engaging in life. He influenced that. And then the more I pictured him, I could have that aspect. And then, of course, he brought it all to life. And because the character is flawed and complicated and has unlikable qualities that I knew that Bill is so lovable and would bring sincerity and heart, that he could make that character palatable.
When you have someone like him, who you have a working relationship with, do you develop the character together at all, or is it really your script, and then he brings the performance and those two things are a little bit more separate?
We talked about it a little. Rashida and Bill and I had a read through, and then we talked about it. And he brought up the idea of the whistling, that they could be working on the whistling, and then that became a motif and a metaphor, so things came out of conversation. And, of course, when it comes to set, he always does unexpected things. And that’s one of the joys of working with him is I always think about the scene where he’s waiting to take her out and there’s a big bouquet of roses. And in the script, he smells the flowers while he’s waiting for her because he’s that kind of guy. When we filmed it, Bill wrapped his arms around them, engulfed and embraced the roses. No one else would do that.
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