Sofia Coppola Said Her Marriage to Spike Jonze "Didn't End Well"

Isabel Jones
·6 min read

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Who: Oscar-winning screenwriter, director, producer, and occasional actress Sofia Coppola, 49, and Oscar-winning screenwriter, director, producer, and occasional actor Spike Jonze, 51.

How They Met: The acclaimed directors met in 1992, long before either was known for their work behind the camera. As the story goes, Coppola visited the set of Sonic Youth’s 100% music video, which Jonze happened to be co-directing. Kim Gordon told New York Magazine that the two were friends “for years before they got together,” explaining, “They were spending every day together, but for some reason, she just didn’t get it.”

Gordon expanded on this in a 1999 interview, telling Newsweek that she had introduced Jonze to Coppola. "I actually worked on it for a couple of years," she said. "They'd hang out together, but it was almost like the he's-too-nice syndrome. I was like, 'Show her your dark side!' We'd go to Thrifty's and try to find sunglasses for him."

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That said, Jonze was putting in the effort to transcend the friend-zone — well, sort of? One of Jonze’s friends, Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch, told New York Magazine that the Adaptation. director had once picked Coppola up from the airport in a fat suit. Why? I wish I could begin to understand.

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“He stuck cotton balls in his jowls and put on a fatty suit and rubbed Vaseline all over his face so he was really greasy. When she got off the plane, she sorta, like, half recognized him. He made her feel really uncomfortable when most people would show up with flowers or something.”

Yeah, flowers would’ve been nice and less problematic.

Anyway, somehow, Jonze broke the barrier and he and Coppola wed at Francis Ford Coppola’s vineyard in Napa Valley in the summer of 1999. Tom Waits sang as Coppola walked down the aisle in custom John Galliano, because of course.

Why We Loved Them: As far as cool, young, white indie directors with “do you know who my father is?” energy went, Coppola and Jonze were at the top of their game. Despite being born into immense privilege (she as the daughter of one of the most influential directors of all time and he as a descendant of the Spiegel catalog family), neither seemed eager to ride anyone’s coattails. Jonze’s name is actually a pseudonym — he was born Adam Spiegel.

They were the couple you imagined digging into film theory over the dinner table, comparing camera lenses and parsing Godard’s oeuvre as pillow talk.

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Though, from the sounds of it, work wasn’t their favorite topic. “We definitely talk about stuff, but I’m pretty stubborn,” Coppola told Indiewire. “I don’t think we really like to get advice from one another.”

She made a similar comment to The Guardian, explaining, "We're not made to be collaborators.”

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Despite what came to pass in their relationship, it was clear they always respected each other.

In a New York Times profile published mere months before the couple announced their separation, Jonze praised his wife and her work. “My first impression of Sofia,” he began, “was that she was quiet and graceful. And that she had taste, and when I say taste, I mean judgment in really subtle things. She always knew the feeling she wanted to convey in everything she did. And that's true taste.”

''Sofia has such a strong point of view,'' he continued. ''And, really, that's what being a director is: knowing what you would like and what you don't like and standing by that, despite all the pressures.’'

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When They Peaked: In 1997, Jonze directed the music video for the Chemical Brothers’ “Elektrobank.” The video stars Coppola herself, who’s acted a bit through the years, including a Razzie award-winning performance in The Godfather: Part III. The mesmerizing short features nearly six minutes of Coppola as a gymnast, tumbling her way to victory during a competition. It’s strange, and wonderful, and if there was a feature-length film of just this I would watch it.

The Breakup: Speculation about the state of Coppola and Jonze’s marriage began around the time of Lost in Translation’s 2003 release. Critics noted similarities between Giovanni Ribisi’s character (who’s in a strained marriage to Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte) and Jonze, which Coppola more or less confirmed (“that relationship was based on what I was going through at the time”). And in the aforementioned NYT profile, Coppola admitted that it had been “rough being apart so much,” noting in what now feels like premeditated foreshadowing from a skilled filmmaker, “We have to figure out our relationship after Sept. 12, when the movie comes out.’'

By December 2003, the couple had officially parted ways.

In September 2006, Coppola told Vanity Fair that her marriage to Jonze was “sort of my young relationship,” adding, "It wasn't really the right life for me to be with him, and what he wanted in his life. I wasn't fully formed."

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During that same period, the Marie Antoinette director admitted that she and Jonze were “um, not that in contact any more.”

"I didn't marry the right person," Coppola told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. "I think I had doubts," she said of the marriage, "but I didn't listen to them because I was young. Spike didn't end well."

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Jonze rarely speaks about his personal life in interviews, but he did discuss Coppola briefly with GQ in 2009. “When we got together, we weren’t directors,” he said. “But we sort of grew up together, in a way, from our early twenties to our early thirties.”

He admitted that Coppola was “a big part of my life and a big part of forming who I was.”

Critics have long theorized that Jonze’s Her is a response of sorts to Coppola’s Lost in Translation.

Where They Are Now:

Coppola married Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars in 2011. The couple shares two daughters: Romy, 13, and Cosima, 10.

The director’s latest feature film, On the Rocks, launches on Apple TV+ Oct. 23.

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In the years since the divorce, Jonze has been linked to actresses Drew Barrymore and Michelle Williams, but his current relationship status is unknown.

The multi-hyphenate is credited as a writer and producer for the upcoming Jackass movie.

#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.