Sofia Coppola reveals why Apple TV Plus execs pulled out on Wharton project

Image of director Sofia Coppola on the set of "On The Rocks.”
Director Sofia Coppola on the set of "On The Rocks,” which in 2020 was streamed on Apple TV+ (Image credit: Apple)

Award-winning director, screenwriter, and producer Sofia Coppola has recently provided more details on why her adaptation of the novel, “The Custom of the Country,” by the acclaimed American author Edith Wharton, was never produced and shown on Apple TV Plus. The director had plans to develop the story into a five-episode miniseries.

In a new interview, which appears in the latest issue of the New Yorker magazine, “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,” according to Variety

The Variety story also noted that Coppola had spent 2020 and 2021 at work on the miniseries. But Coppola said that in 2021, Apple "pulled our funding... It’s a real drag. I thought they had endless resources.”

What happened? Coppola had previously collaborated successfully with Apple on the film project, "On The Rocks,” which starred Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. “The Custom of the Country” was going to bring Apple and Coppola back together.

Director sheds details on why her pricey film project was shelved

According to the New Yorker article, Coppola says that she had been in constant contact with executives "on everything from the budget to the script." But in the end, it seemed the male executives (or "mostly dudes," as Coppola says in the article), "didn’t get the character of Undine." 

However, it's possible that the Apple execs may have balked at the expense of the project. The New Yorker story notes that Coppola's movie, "Marie Antoinette" was her most expensive film to date: $40 million, which really isn't a lot compared to many Hollywood films. But "The Custom of the Country" was going to be significantly more expensive. Just how much more expensive? Coppola said she was planning for “five ‘Marie Antoinettes.’ ”

Whatron's “The Custom of the Country,” is a story of Undine Spragg, a woman from the Midwest, who comes to New York City and rises to the top of high society. During the first half of the twentieth century, Wharton wrote a number of brilliant novels that depicted New York’s upper-class society during the Gilded Age. 

Terry Sullivan

Terry Sullivan has tested and reported on many different types of consumer electronics and technology services, including cameras, action cams, mobile devices, streaming music services, wireless speakers, headphones, smart-home devices, and mobile apps. He has also written extensively on various trends in the worlds of technology, multimedia, and the arts. For more than 10 years, his articles and blog posts have appeared in a variety of publications and websites, including The New York Times, Consumer Reports, PCMag, Worth magazine, Popular Science, Tom’s Guide, and Artnews. He is also a musician, photographer, artist, and teacher.