Director Sofia Coppola says Apple executives axed her small-screen adaptation of an Edith Wharton novel because “the idea of an unlikable woman wasn’t their thing.”
The “Priscilla” director was set in early 2020 to develop a series based on the incisive novelist’s 1913 book “The Custom of the Country” — a story that centers on the social ascent of protagonist Undine Spragg, a newly wealthy Midwesterner who tries to break into New York society. The social-climbing character, Coppola said when the project was first announced in May 2020, is her “favorite literary anti-heroine.”
The “Lost in Translation” Oscar winner would write and direct the prestige series for the streaming service, but, as she recently told the New York Times, the executives didn’t want to spend money on the five-hour project due to issues they had with the “unlikable” lead.
“But that’s what I’m saying about who’s in charge,” she said.
Representatives for Apple did not immediately respond Monday to The Times’ request for comment, nor to those made by the New York Times.
“The Virgin Suicides” director, daughter of award-winning “Godfather” filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and Eleanor Coppola, said “the people in charge of giving money are usually straight men, still.”
She added later, “If it’s so hard for me to get financing as an established person, I worry about younger women starting out. It’s surprising that it’s still a struggle.”
“The Virgin Suicides” director said that being treated with respect among her key demographic — teens, young women and aspiring female filmmakers — still feels “surreal” because she’s still facing challenges in Hollywood to budget female-fronted projects.
“I’m still fighting to get movies made and getting budgets cut. I don’t think I’m professionally treated in the way that I am when I encounter these young people.”
The director previously teamed with Apple for the 2020 father-daughter dramedy “On the Rocks,” which starred Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. Coppola’s most recent offering, a biopic about Priscilla Presley, is being touted as her best film in years.
Meanwhile, Apple still has some Wharton content on its slate, including a youthful period drama based on her unfinished novel “The Buccaneers” that begins streaming next month. The streaming service has rolled out a slew of projects created and led by women since it debuted in 2019, including the Emmy-winning series “The Morning Show” starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, the 2022 murder comedy “Bad Sisters” and this month’s Brie Larson-starring drama, “Lessons in Chemistry.”
Wharton’s stories of Gilded Age New York made their way to the big screen in 1993 with Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence” and in 2000 with “The House of Mirth,” which starred Gillian Anderson. A TV adaptation of “The Custom of the Country” had been in the works at Sony in 2014, with Scarlett Johansson being eyed to play the nouveau riche Undine.
This story originally appeared on LATimes