“I spent a year trying to track him down”: Scarlett Johansson’s First Adult Role Required Director Hunting Down Her Elusive Co-Star After Vowing Not to Make $118M Movie Without Him

Scarlett Johansson was only 17 when she had her first taste of a mature role in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. The Black Widow actress starred alongside Bill Murray, who was in his early 50s at the time the film was shot.

The age gap was intentional as the narrative centered on two people who were at different stages in life and found solace in each other.

Scarlett Johansson Bill Murray Lost in TranslationScarlett Johansson and Bill Murray in Lost in Translation

The movie was partly inspired by the director’s own quest for peace amid the feeling of isolation during her marriage with Spike Jonze. At the time Coppola wrote the script, she already had an actor in mind for the part of the leading man.

Sofia Coppola Hunted Down Bill Murray To Star In Lost In Translation

In her interview with Little White Lies, The Virgin Suicides director Sofia Coppola shared how she was determined to get Ghostbusters actor Bill Murray on the production of Lost in Translation. She said:
“It was really nerve-racking. We went to Tokyo and were spending money in the hope that he would show up. I don’t even know how we got our financing without a contract. I was determined and probably spent a year trying to track him down.”
Scarlett Johansson Bill Murray Sofia CoppolaScarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, and Sofia Coppola
The filmmaker even refused to hire any other actors. She penned the part of Bob Harris with Murray in mind, and with only one successful project under her belt at the time, it was a risky business being picky with the cast. Coppola continued:
“People were trying to give me other options, but I was set that I wasn’t going to make the movie if he wasn’t doing it, and I really wanted to make this movie, so I had to find him.”
A breath of relief finally came after Coppola’s friend, who had a professional connection with Murray, handed her script to the actor. She further explained:
“He brought so much. I was having a hard time at that stage of my life, and I’d wish Bill would show up and take me on an adventure. I imagined him emerging in that world. A lot of it was just found moments with Bill improvising. The scene in the sushi restaurant with the black toe? That was just Bill riffing on the situation.”
Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray’s chemistry in Lost in Translation was strangely good, and with the vibrant backdrop of the city of Tokyo and the film’s alluring soundtrack, fans can say it was worth all the risk.

Bill Murray Was The Perfect Leading Man For Scarlett Johansson

Bill Murray Scarlett JohanssonBill Murray and Scarlett Johansson
While Scarlett Johansson won a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in Lost in Translation, the romantic film revived Bill Murray’s career in the early 2000s. This was also the time he made a significant departure from his usual movie roles.

Interestingly, the 73-year-old actor admitted that he felt some sort of connection with his character in the film. At the time he read the script, he had already spent two decades in the industry and was experiencing a lack of enthusiasm. Murray said in an interview filmed by the movie’s cinematographer Lance Acord (via YouTube):
“I know a little bit about being a movie star and a little bit about the scenes of being a fish out of water. I know what it’s like to be a long way from home, so I thought I could do this.”
It turns out, Coppola was right to cast Murray for the role. Even though Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray’s age gap became somewhat controversial, the film was an exploration of the different arrays of human emotions as well as the versatility of the actors.

Lost in Translation (2003) is available on Netflix.

Sources: Little White Lies, YouTube

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