For her latest film, fiercely independent writer-director Sofia Coppola made the unexpected decision to remake the 1971 Southern gothic thriller The Beguiled, about an injured Civil War soldier (Clint Eastwood in the original) recuperating in a girls school. Of course, she put her own twist on it, and became only the second woman to win the Cannes best director prize.

Sofia Coppola at The Beguiled premiereSofia Coppola at The Beguiled premiere

"I knew about the story from the original film," she says, "and then I tried to put it out of my mind and go back to the book and reimagine it in my own way. This is really the take looking from the other side. I wanted it to be this feminine, gauzy world that doesn't look threatening at all, so that it's a real surprise when the story shifts."

What intrigued Coppola about the premise was the idea of putting someone "so dirty and masculine into this lacy, soft world".

To do this required objectifying her star Colin Farrell. But she says he didn't mind at all. "He knew the story, and I respect that he's man enough to take on that role," she laughs. "He's confident enough to let women be in charge and be here for that, so I thought it was cool that he totally got it and had a good sense of humour. At one point we were shooting stills for a calendar where he was gardening, and he was giving it to us. He was covered in water, doing all this hunk stuff. Oh, he milked it!"

Farrell's main foil in the film is headmistress Martha, played by Nicole Kidman. "I wrote the script with her in mind," Coppola says. "I was picturing Nicole as Miss Martha, so I was really happy she said yes to doing the part! It was exactly what I imagined, but more. She just brought so much more to it."

And the movie also reunites Coppola with her frequent star Kirsten Dunst, who plays the teacher Edwina. "I was so happy to work with her again and I was impressed by how much she was able to convey," Coppola says, "because it's such a quiet role and everyone else is doing so much. She has this strong performance with a lot going on underneath it and so much vulnerability. She would turn into that character before our eyes. It's funny because at lunch, she would be bubbly Kirsten, and then we'd go back to work and she'd turn into Edwina. I could tell she was going into the zone."

Watch the trailer for The Beguiled: