What Really Happened in Lost in Translation‘s Final Scene, According to Sofia Coppola

Director Sofia Coppola finally opens up about the mystery that’s been driving the film’s fanatics crazy for 15 years.

LOST IN TRANSLATION, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, 2003, (c) Focus Features/courtesy Everett Coll
© Focus Films, courtesy of Everett Collection

It’s been 15 years since the release of the film Lost in Translation, which is also to say that it’s been 15 years that the film’s final scene has been a subject of debate. Sofia Coppola‘s second film, after her directorial debut, the Virgin Suicides, stars Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray as two strangers turned unlikely companions during a stay at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo. They develop a relationship that blurs the line between friendship and romance—which is why the last scene, during which Murray’s aging actor spots Johansson’s confused newlywed in a crowd in the street, gets out of his car and puts his mouth to her ear to whisper some unknowable, profound farewell in her ear, has been such fertile territory for theories and speculation over the years. (Both Johansson, who was just 17 at the time, and Murray, have stayed mum about the mystery ever since.)

As it turns out, Coppola wasn’t trying to troll us with the scene. The director recently spoke with the magazine Little White Lies to reflect on the film’s anniversary, and clarified that even she doesn’t have a clue what’s buried deep in the audio. “People always ask me,” she said, after detailing just how essential she always considered Murray to be to the film, particularly once she became familiar with his ability to improvise. (Even though it took her a year to track him down and convince him to be in the film in the first place.)

Alas, that ability turns out to also be what’s been driving fans crazy for the past 15 years, since, as Coppola put it, to her, “that thing Bill whispers to Scarlett was never intended to be anything. I was going to figure out later what to say and add it in and then we never did.” She did, however, offer up a bit more: “It was between them. Just acknowledging that week meant something to both of them and it affects them going back to their lives,” she continued. “I always like Bill’s answer: that it’s between lovers—so I’ll leave it at that.”

Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation, 2003.

© Focus Films, courtesy of Everett Collection

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