Sofia Coppola never originally intended the words Bill Murray whispers to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost in Translation to be a big mystery.
The movie follows Murray’s fading movie star Bob as he meets and bonds with graduate Charlotte (Johansson) during several days in Tokyo.
Speaking to Edith Bowman on the latest episode of BBC Four series Life Cinematic, Coppola said she originally intended to add sound to the famously inaudible farewell sequence in her 2003 movie.
“I was thinking about the Italians, because they used to film and add the sound later,” said the 49-year-old filmmaker.
“I didn’t intend for it to be silent and then in the editing we were like ‘oh it’s better if it’s just between them and the audience puts their own interpretation’. It’s so much stronger that way.”
Watch: Coppola avoided working with Murray after Lost in Translation
Coppola added: “It wasn’t directly, but it did kind of start out as an homage to the Italians, and also because I was kind of stuck, like how are we going to convey the epicness of that moment.
“But I never meant it to be that way, so sometimes things work out in a way that you don’t expect.”
Coppola won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the movie, which was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor for Murray.
Read more: Coppola discusses her remake of The Beguiled
There are numerous theories about what Murray might have said to Johansson, with both actors keeping the secret to themselves to the extent that even Coppola doesn’t know.
The line was famously improvised by Murray and Coppola told Little White Lies in 2018 that she agreed with his description of the line as “between lovers” and therefore secret.
There are numerous theories about what the character might have said, with some suggesting he was advising she tell her husband how she really felt and other claiming to have discovered via audio manipulation that his words were: “I have to be leaving, but I won’t let that come between us, okay?”
Coppola and Murray did not work together again until 2015 Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas, but reteamed this year for comedy-drama On the Rocks.
The director was asked by Bowman whether Murray’s flamboyant, charismatic playboy character in On the Rocks was in any way inspired by her own father — The Godfather filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.
“Of course that love and bond that’s so specific to your dad is definitely in it, but my dad’s not like a bon vivant, as over the top as Felix,” said Coppola.
Read more: Murray joins online Ghostbusters reunion
“It’s definitely from a mix of a bunch of guys of that generation all put together in this funny character that Bill brings to life.
“But I did have a friend who spied on her husband with her playboy father, and that was the beginning seed of the story. But I’ve never done that.”
Life Cinematic features an in-depth interview with a different filmmaker in each episode, exploring their life and influences through the films they love the most.
Coppola’s choices include vintage Hollywood classics like 1950s drama A Place In The Sun and Andrea Arnold’s 2009 standout Fish Tank.
Three episodes of the series aired earlier this year, featuring 1917 director Sam Mendes, ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ helmer Edgar Wright and 50 Shades of Grey filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson.
Sofia Coppola: Life Cinematic airs on BBC Four on Wednesday 25 November.
Watch: Trailer for On the Rocks