Lost in Translation is a 2003 romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Bill Murray stars as Bob Harris, a fading American movie star who is having a midlife crisis when he travels to Tokyo to promote Suntory whisky. There, he befriends another estranged American named Charlotte, a young woman and recent college graduate played by Scarlett Johansson.
The film explores themes of alienation and disconnection against a backdrop of cultural displacement in Japan. Further analysis by critics and scholars has focused on the film’s defiance of mainstream narrative conventions and its atypical depiction of romance.
Coppola started writing the film after spending time in Tokyo and becoming fond of the city. She began forming a story about two characters experiencing a “romantic melancholy” in the Park Hyatt Tokyo, where she stayed while promoting her first feature film, the 1999 drama The Virgin Suicides. Coppola envisioned Murray playing the role of Bob Harris from the beginning and tried to recruit him for up to a year, relentlessly sending him telephone messages and letters. While Murray eventually agreed to play the part, he did not sign a contract; Coppola spent a quarter of the film’s $4 million budget without knowing if he would appear in Tokyo for shooting. When Murray finally arrived, Coppola described feelings of significant relief. The screenplay was short and Coppola often allowed a significant amount of improvisation during filming.
The film premiered on August 29, 2003, at the Telluride Film Festival and was a major critical and commercial success. Critics praised the performances of Murray and Johansson, as well as the writing and direction of Coppola. At the 76th Academy Awards, Lost in Translation won Coppola Best Original Screenplay, and the film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Coppola), and Best Actor (Murray). Other accolades won include three Golden Globe Awards and three British Academy Film Awards.