Sofia Coppola continues to shed light on her unrealized adaptation of Edith Wharton’s “The Custom of the Country,” which she was developing as a five-episode series for Apple TV+. In a new interview with the New Yorker, it’s revealed for the first time that Coppola had cast Oscar nominee Florence Pugh to star in the lead role of Undine Spragg, a Midwestern girl who attempts to ascend in New York City society.
News broke in May 2020 that Sofia Coppola was partnering with Apple TV+ on “The Custom of the Country.” By the end of 2021, the project was killed.
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“They pulled our funding,” Coppola said. “It’s a real drag. I thought they had endless resources.”
Coppola’s series was not going to come cheap. Her most expensive film was 2006’s “Marie Antoinette,” which had a production budget of $45 million. The director said she was planning “Custom” to be “five ‘Marie Antoinettes.’”
“They didn’t get the character of Undine,” Coppola said of Apple executives, who she described as “mostly dudes.” “She’s so ‘unlikable.’ But so is Tony Soprano! … It was like a relationship that you know you probably should’ve gotten out of a while ago.”
Coppola previously told The New York Times that Apple execs did not want to spend the money on her five-hour adaptation due to issues they had with the main character. “The idea of an unlikable woman wasn’t their thing,” Coppola said at the time. “But that’s what I’m saying about who’s in charge.”
“The people in charge of giving money are usually straight men, still,” she said in her Times interview. “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.”
While Coppola felt slighted by the executives, it must be noted that Apple did not entirely abandon Wharton. The streamer’s TV series adaptation of the author’s unfinished novel “The Buccaneers” debuted in November and has since been picked up for a second season. Apple also has a variety of shows featuring female protagonists, from “The Morning Show” to “Bad Sisters.”
“Custom” was supposed to reunite Coppola with Apple after the two parties worked together on the director’s 2020 father-daughter dramedy “On the Rocks,” starring Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. When the TV series fell through, Coppola turned her attention towards “Priscilla.” The film opened in theaters to critical acclaim last fall and earned $20 million at the domestic box office.
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