Sofia Coppola is calling out why her slated limited series “The Custom of the Country” is no longer in production at Apple.
Coppola confirmed to The New Yorker that the streamer “pulled” funding for the Edith Wharton adaptation, in part due to not understanding the “unlikable” character at the center of the story. The 1913 novel follows Undine Spragg, a Midwestern transplant on a desperate quest to infiltrate Gilded Age Manhattan society. The limited series was set for five episodes, with Coppola teasing that the show had the budget of “five ‘Marie Antoinettes,'” citing her 2006 film that had a $40 million budget; that would put the anticipated budget for the Apple limited series at $200 million, if taken literally by Coppola’s statement.
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“Apple just pulled out. They pulled our funding,” Coppola said in The New Yorker interview. “It’s a real drag. I thought they had endless resources.”
She added that the development of the project included a series of back and forth discussions with Apple executives who were “mostly dudes.”
“They didn’t get the character of Undine,” Coppola said. “She’s so ‘unlikable.’ But so is Tony Soprano!”
As for parting ways with the streamer, Coppola added, “It was like a relationship that you know you probably should’ve gotten out of a while ago.”
“The Custom of the Country” was announced in 2020. “Undine Spragg is my favorite literary anti-heroine and I’m excited to bring her to the screen for the first time,” Coppola said in a statement at the time.
Per The New Yorker, Florence Pugh was in talks to be attached; however, the actress was not formally linked to the project.
IndieWire has reached out to Apple for comment, along with Coppola’s representatives.
As noted in The New Yorker, Coppola then went on to direct “Priscilla” in January 2022 after not being able to secure alternative funding for “The Custom of the Country.” The indie film starring Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi also had a “strained” budget, with Coppola at one point wondering if actor Elordi could auction off a game of pickle ball to fund the period piece. The film was made for less than $20 million.
Coppola told The New York Times that filming “Priscilla” in 30 days was “one of the hardest things I ever had to do” after losing $2 million of funding weeks before the production start date. “I still can’t believe our movie came together.”
She continued at the time, “I’ve never expected to be mainstream. The culture that I always liked growing up was the side culture. The people in charge of giving money are usually straight men, still. There’s always people in lower levels who are like myself, but then the bosses have a certain sensibility. 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.”
Coppola added to the BBC, “I just see all these men getting hundreds of millions of dollars and then I’m fighting for a tiny fraction of that. I think it’s just left over from the way the culture of that business is. It’s frustrating but I’m always fighting to get it and I’m just happy to get to make my movies independently and find people that believe in them. There’s a challenge and a freedom in making things small because if you have a big budget, you have a lot of input from studio executives, and I would never be able to make a movie like that.”
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