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Friday, 21 April, 2000, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Coppola daughter's Virgin venture
The Vigin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides asks why five teenage sisters end their lives
Sofia Coppola, daughter of celebrated Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, launches herself into the family business this weekend with the US opening of her debut movie The Virgin Suicides.

The darkly comic tale, based on Jeffrey Eugenides' book about the five doomed Lisbon sisters, is only going on limited release in the US.

I hope people will go to see my movie just as someone's first film. I hope once they see it they can forget about my family and all that

Sofia Coppola
But for 28-year-old Coppola finally unveiling the fruits of her hard work is a major personal achievement.

Making the film was a four-year odyssey for the first time director.

And even before starting on her script, Coppola had been captivated by Eugenides' tragic tale of love and suicide for several years.

Coppola - who has acted in several movies including the Godfather part III - admits her project was made easier by the pedigree of her family name.

Sofia Coppola felt protective of Eugenides' story
"I think this movie would have taken maybe twice as many years to get made if my last name was Smith.

"Everyone has to do whatever they can to get a movie made. I get phone calls returned probably faster because of my last name."

However, she adds: "You have to prove yourself, and maybe even work harder to prove yourself because of your name."

Unanswered questions

Coppola's adaptation of Eugenides' 1993 novel stars Kathleen Turner and James Woods.

They play the overprotective mother and hapless father to five teen sisters who kill themselves for no apparent reason.

Set in the 1970s, the melancholy film centres on lost innocence and the lingering hold the girls have over the hearts of the boys who loved them.

Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola encouraged his daughter to make her film her way
Decades after the girls' deaths, the boys may have become men but they still consider the world empty of colour without their lost loves.

The paradox of both the book and movie is why the girls, aged 13 to 17, were prompted to end their short lives.

Coppola says, like Eugenides, she offers no one solution: "There's a million reasons and there's no good reason for something like that to happen," she explains.

"The boys as adults have gone over it 20 years later over and over, trying to piece it together. The girls are symbolic of the end of the boys' childhood."

Personal goal

Coppola began writing the script purely as an exercise, not thinking anything would come of it.

She did not have the rights to the book and knew another group of film-makers planned to produce the movie.

That deal fell through, however, and Coppola - who says she was by that time feeling very protective of the story - decided to forge ahead.

Spike Jonze with Being John Malkovich star Cameron Diaz
Husband Jonze with Being John Malkovich star Cameron Diaz
Turner - with whom Coppola had appeared in her father's 1986 movie Peggy Sue Got Married - signed up for the project even before finance had been secured. Coppola's 61-year-old father also became one of the producers.

But although offered advice by her father, Coppola - who is married to Being John Malkovich director Spike Jonze - says The Virgin Suicides is her movie.

"I don't compete with Spike. I think he's brilliant. And I hope people will go to see my movie just as someone's first film. I hope once they see it they can forget about my family and all that."

The Virgin Suicides opens in the UK on 19 May

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