Sofia Coppola on reuniting with Bill Murray and Rashida Jones for ‘On the Rocks’

On the Rocks” marks the second feature film collaboration between Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray who scored a big hit both critically and commercially with 2003’s “Lost in Translation,” for which Coppola won the Oscar for her screenplay and Murray received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Five years ago, the two worked together on the Netflix special “A Very Murray Christmas,” which also featured “On the Rocks” star Rashida Jones as a bride-to-be whose wedding plans are set awry due to a snowstorm.

In Apple TV+’s “On the Rocks,” Murray plays Jones’ charming, womanizer of a father who believes her husband (Marlon Wayans Jr) is having an affair with a co-worker and convinces her they should spy on him. The film is currently at 86% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with high praise going to Murray who turns on the charisma. Coppola, Jones and Wayans recently joined moderator Jazz Tangcay from Variety for a lively zoom conversation.

Coppola noted she had been thinking about “On the Rocks” for quite a while.“When having little kids and thinking about that moment in my life and looking at my parents and also just wanting to do something about a father daughter story.” She initially began writing the script without specific actors in mind.

“Then I thought of Bill. Then I did see Bill and Rashida together on this Christmas special that we did,” said Coppola. “They had such a good rapport that I thought I would love to see him as this father and daughter sleuthing duo. So, it helped me a lot when I was writing it to imagine Rashida’s expressions because she’s so able to convey so much without saying something. And [Murray] also helped me to imagine when I was writing to imagine the two of them. Then I met Marlon as I was starting to put [this] together. I’m so happy he joined us and us and bought so much.

Jones and Wayans Jr. also have a history. The two hung out together some 25 years ago. “Best two weeks of my life,” said Wayans Jr. “We always remained friendly. She was to me just an amazingly grounded, gifted woman, even at a young age. As an actress I always wanted to work with her because she could do everything from comedy to drama and to have opportunities to work with her in that capacity made my life.”

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“You’re going to make me cry,” gushed Jones. Jones, who is the daughter of the late Peggy Lipton and the legendary Quincy Jones, said she is “interested” in the father-daughter dynamic in her own life. “I recently spent six years making a film about my dad, obviously about his life and his accomplishments, but also it is inherently about our relationship=.”

She noted that there are few stories revolving around adult father-daughter relationships “which is such an important dynamic and a character shaping, life shaping dynamic. So, it was nice to see that being explored on screen. Plus, I think Sofia and I share a love of a certain kind of movie from a different era that has this quick banter whether it’s ‘The Thin Man’ or ‘It Happened One Night’ that’s all-in service of a larger mystery that’s being solved.”

“On the Rocks,” added Jones, also explores the generational differences between the two. “How do you love somebody who’s just a different generation that you? We don’t talk about it that much right now because I think everybody is very focused, rightfully so, on identity politics and making sure that voices are heard. But there’s still all of these people who are of a different generation that we love and to love them is a complicated thing in this moment in time. I think the script handled that so delicately.”

So, how was it like to work with the wild and crazy Murray? “It was pretty great,” enthused Jones. “I can’t lie. He’s this legendary figure, mysterious, hard to pin down and all these people report these great nights with Murray. But on the set, he’s just a really generous actor and person and easy to be around. Also, just very complex, honest and present. I understand why he’s a legend.” “He lives up to his reputation,” noted Coppola.

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