Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Written by Sofia Coppola
Release Dater October 3, 2003
Genre Drama / Comedy
MPAA Rating R
He’s doing a commercial, parlaying his fifteen minutes of movie stardom. She’s just graduated from college, recently married, and tagged along with her husband, a photographer on assignment. He’s married with children, but he’s never home. She’s supporting her husband, but has not idea what she wants to do with her own life. Both are searching for the meaning of their lives, looking at the situation from different points of view. A person’s lifetime is filled with self examination. Why am I here? What am I doing? Is this as good as it gets? The plot of this movie is the plot of life. You have a beginning. You’re in the middle, and your story hasn’t ended yet (in some cases, it won’t end even after your death). Bob (Bill Murray) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) find each other fulfilling certain needs. Charlotte needs Bob’s attention and humor, and Bob needs someone he can talk to (Bob “talks” with his wife, but they are not really talking). Bob helps Charlotte by answering her questions regarding life and direction, while Charlotte helps Bob by reminding him how much he loves his children and his wife. The love between the two characters is not just sexual but rather one of emotional and psychological need.
Plotless, pointless, and boring? Only if you want all your stories packaged nicely with pretty paper and pretty ribbons. To me, the movie is like the shabu shabu sushi restaurant. What you get out of it depends on how much you put into it. The meaning of our lives, the purpose, the dreams (both dashed and realized), and the expectations forced upon us by others. “Translation” means to explain in simple terms. How do you “translate” what life is? What is it supposed to be about? Different answers for different people at different times in their lives. Lost In Translation indeed and it has nothing to do with pronouncing hard R’s.
Scarlett Johansson’s Role
In perhaps her best performance to date, Scarlett Johansson is Charlotte, a 20something, newly married, yet lonely and lost youbg woman. She comes to Tokyo to accompany her husband on his his photoshoot assigment. Instead of having fun and seeing the incredibly city together, Charlotte stays behind while John comes and mainly goes. Then she meets Bob and this short encounter in the strange country completely changes her – and him.
… Bill Murray
… Akiko Takeshita
… Anna Farris
… Giovanni Ribsi
Trivia & Facts
• Filmed in 27 days on location in Tokyo.
• Sofia Coppola wrote a lot of the film based on her life. The character of John (Giovanni Ribisi) was loosely based on her ex-husband Spike Jonze. Rumor has it that the Anna Faris’ character, Kelly, was supposedly Cameron Diaz, with whom Spike Jonze worked with on Being John Malkovich (1999), though Coppola denied the connection in an Entertainment Weekly interview.
• Some dialogue was improvised, including Bill Murray’s lines in the photo shoot and his conversation with Scarlett Johansson about his Shiatsu massage.
• The opening shot of Scarlett Johansson is influenced by a painting by John Kacere.
• The painting in Charlotte’s hotel room in Tokyo was done by John Kacere called “Jutta” (1973). Kacere is a famous photorealist who specialized in photographing women in lingerie.
• The hotel where Charlotte and Bob are staying is Park Hyatt Tokyo.
• Bob and Charlotte never introduce themselves to each other.
• The entire budget for the film was $4 million. It grossed over $6.5 million (over 1 1/2 times its budget) at the US Box office after becoming available commercially on DVD.
• The plastic flowers/leaves that Charlotte is arranging to hang in her room are commonly used as decorations in shops in Tokyo. The fact that they are pink means it is springtime.
• In the final moments of the film Bill Murray whispers something into Scarlett Johansson’s ear. This moment was improvised, as was the whole scene and it has never been publicly revealed what, if anything, was whispered.
• For years, no one other than Bill Murray, ‘Scarlett Johannson’ and Sofia Coppola knew what Bob whispered to Charlotte in the final scene, but according to BBC2’s “The Culture Show” in October 2006, where special sound equipment was used to make the conversation audible, Bob most likely said: “I love you. Don’t forget to always tell the truth.”
• The film’s Spanish title in South America, “Perdido en Tokio”, Chinese title “Mi Shi Dong Jing” and its Hebrew title in Israel, “Avudim be-Tokio”, all mean “Lost in Tokyo”, meaning that the titles themselves were literally lost in translation. The reason probably is that “Lost in Translation” sounds like a discussion on translation in other languages.
• In many other countries, the title also got lost in translation. The title in Portuguese translates as “Love is a Strange Place”. The title in Polish translates as “In Between Words”.
• The movie Bob and Charlotte watch together at the hotel when neither one of them can sleep is La Dolce Vita (1960). La Dolce Vita also has an end scene in which the viewer cannot hear the conversation and this conversation is also between a young woman and an older man.
• Scarlett Johansson said that she was reluctant to be filmed in panties until Sofia Coppola modeled the panties herself to show her how they would look.
Quotes: Scarlett Johansson
• “Sofia and I met in a restaurant in New York and she told me she had this idea that was shaping into a script with Bill Murray in it and if it wasn’t Bill Murray she wasn’t going to do it and it was based in Tokyo. It had two appealing things for me – Tokyo and Bill Murray – so I asked her to send me the script when she had finished with it. Not much time later the script arrived. I knew straight after I finished reading it that it was a project I wanted to be part of. It was such a beautiful script. Everything was there. It was only 75 pages, a lot of it was very visual, and the dialogues between Bill Murray and me were like a… ping-pong! I had one line. He had one line. It just read so well, like a great novel and when I finished it I was sad and I was happy. I just knew I could play it!”
• “She’s very American, very blond, stuck in this very foreign place at a time where she’s having an identity crisis, not really knowing what she wants to be and how to achieve it. She meets this older guy, going through his own crisis, and they relate. There’s an immediate connection, but it’s tentative because they’re both married, and because he’s so much older. But there’s no way of getting around it. There is a definite sexual attraction that complicates it. Here’s this woman who one minute is being assaulted by all that high-tech craziness in downtown Tokyo and in the next, wanders into this ancient Buddhist temple in the middle of this intensely spiritual ceremony. It’s ‘omigod, somebody please help me understand what’s happening.'”
(on her character)
• “She’s feeling sort of shallow in the beginning of this film. And I think the idea that two people can meet. In a hotel. In a foreign place. In completely different places in their lives. And to have a deep deep love for one another. And a certain understanding. And just knowing that there’s somebody out there that’s just going through the same thing… Inspires her to be able to kind of move away from it.”
(on her character)
• “It was very fun. We were working so much that I didn’t have much time to do much other than on my day off. I slept and went shopping and ate Japanese food, but I really wished that I had more time to really experience it because I hear that if you know a lot of people that are there, you can really uncover a lot of great things that are hidden in the hustle and bustle.”
(on filming in Tokyo)
• “For me, for these two characters to consummate their love or whatever they have, you’d get this feeling like they’d wake up and go, “Why did we do that? Everything’s different. Why did we ruin what we had?” It just wasn’t right. My character is in love with her husband. She’s in this marriage. They’re just starting off, and they’re a team, but they’re just not a team right now. He’s busy and she’s so not busy. So it just wasn’t appropriate and it wasn’t right, it didn’t feel right and it was never a question.”
(the relationship Bill/Charlotte)
• “There’s a sort of sexual attraction between the two characters, obviously. And at the same time, I think it’s, you know, an older person giving advice to a younger person about marriage and getting older and having a family and so it really sort of falls not one way or the other, I mean, no reason to categorize. I think that’s what makes it such a sort of realistic relationship between the two characters, is that there’s no definite line. It’s very natural.”
(the relationship Bill/Charlotte)
• “I guess I didn’t really think about it that much. The only time that I was really aware of it was when I was putting on my wedding band. Other than that, you think about it and it’s like, ‘Five years here, five years there. No big deal.'”
(on playing a character give years older than her)
• “I’m not going to be obnoxious and say, ‘You’re a nosy journalist for asking, and it’s for you to find out,’ although it really is. Bill said a lot of things to me, silly things. But whatever he said filled me with emotion. I was a mess; I didn’t expect to get that sad.”
(on the whisper)
• “I like the sequence of Billy and me in the bedroom, when we start watching La Dolce Vita on TV and then we lie in bed falling asleep. I think it is a very telling scene. It is the first time our characters are serious and they are not just joking. They are really trying to figure out their life. Also Bill’s character tries to make a connection… it is really touching.”
• “Sofia wanted those songs so I had to learn the words a couple of days before. It was funny because the translation on the karaoke screen was sometimes different and the words were not the same I had learnt! So I had to improvise.”
(on the karaoke scene)
• “I made my own wish. We didn’t talk about it. But I didn’t actually write anything down. I was too busy moving to the next scene, while we lost the daylight. [sarcastically] It’s a very romantic job.”
(on the wish-tree)
• “Sofia’s obsessed with the pink wig. She thinks I should dye my hair pink. It said ‘pink wig’ in the script. It also said, ‘shear pink underwear’ in the script. She likes me in pink for some reason. She must think it’s very girly.”
• “We did two days of rehearsal just so that you can get a feel of some kind of marriage between us, so that wew weren’t just meeting for the first time and going, “Lets get into bed now,” and that kind of thing. [To also capture] that sort of dynamic that comes with marriage where you love the person and at that time, you’re in different places.”
(on working with Giovanni Ribisi)
• Scarlett about Bill Murray: “It wasn’t like, ‘Come on, Bill! Let’s go out and get wasted!’ We just jumped in. But bonding wasn’t a problem. Bill is gorgeous, and such a charmer. Seriously. I mean, I don’t watch him and think, ‘Wow, what a hunk.’ But he is so sexy.”
(on Bill Murray)
• “We didn’t have time to work on it, really. We met and literally started filming the next day. But it wasn’t really important to establish anything, because the characters meet in Tokyo just like we did. They have their awkward moment and go from there. I remember the first time I met him, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s Bill Murray. He looks like Bill Murray. He talks like Bill Murray. It is Bill Murray!’ It was like meeting Cal Ripken or something.”
(on Bill Murray)
• “He did surprise me, he threw some stuff at me. I didn’t improvise back with dialogue, but I did with my reactions to him. It’s hard when somebody doesn’t tell me what he’s going to do. I can see my surprise in my face a little bit in the final print.”
(on Bill Murray)
• “She’s very subtle, obviously. You can’t imagine Sofia walking into the hotel room and going [shouts], ‘We want you to move over here!’ It would just be out of character. I don’t even think her voice raises to that level. Another thing I noticed is that she’s totally sensitive to different sorts of things that actors need. For someone who’s just getting started, she was very responsible that way. Which is really unusual.”
(on Sofia Coppola)
• Sofia Coppola (director) on Scarlett:
“I like her low voice, and she seems able to convey feeling and depth without doing much. I liked her from Manny & Lo, and she was the right age for this character–kind of on the verge of adulthood but not quite in her skin yet. Also, she has a kind of coolness. She doesn’t have that hyper energy that some more extroverted people have but that I wanted the character to have.”
• Ross Katz (producer) on Scarlett:
“Scarlett has a worldliness, a sense of having lived a life that is well beyond her years. She was the most exciting candidate; she connected to the material and to Sofia’s work in general. It was great watching all three of them – Scarlett, Sofia, and Bill – all immensely talented and all from very different walks of life and points of view. Scarlett embodied the role of Charlotte, and she’s playing a young woman in her 20s, which people haven’t seen her do. The role called for a certain complexity. Scarlett brings out what Sofia had written very specifically about this character.”
Quotes: Her Character
• “Evelyn Waugh was a man.”
• “You’re probably just having a mid-life crisis. Did you buy a Porsche yet?”
• “I tried taking pictures, but they were so mediocre. I guess every girl goes through a photography phase. You know, horses… taking pictures of your feet.”
• “Stay here with me. We’ll start a jazz band.”
• “I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be.”
• “Let’s never come here again because it will never be as much fun.”
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