Obvious History: Spike Jonze wooed Sofia Coppola with a fat suit

By
Photography Lance Acord

Published April 13, 2018

In collaboration with @velvetcokeObvious History is a weekly series which unearths forgotten moments in pop culture’s past, where the famous and the fascinating collided.

The directors Spike Jonze and Sofia Coppola met in 1992 on the set of Sonic Youth’s music video for “100%,” which Jonze was asked to direct after the band’s bassist, Kim Gordon, came across his career-making skateboard film Video Days. “They were friends for years before they got together,” Kim Gordon told New York magazine of the relationship. “They were spending every day together, but for some reason, she just didn’t get it.”

Early in their romance, when Coppola flew to L.A. to visit Jonze, he decided to play a little practical joke on her. “He told me about this time he was going to pick up Sofia at the L.A. airport,” Beastie Boy Adam Yauch told NY Mag. “He stuck cotton balls in his jowls and put on a fatty suit and rubbed Vaseline all over his face so he was really greasy. When she got off the plane, she sorta, like, half recognized him. He made her feel really uncomfortable, when most people would show up with flowers or something.”

However discomfiting it was for Coppola to be chauffeured around by a man in a fat suit, it worked. The pair married in 1998 and were together for four years before divorcing in 2003, citing irreconcilable differences. Coincidentally, the two most emotionally-charged films of both directors’ careers—Lost in Translation and Her—were among their first projects released post-divorce. The dismissive photographer character played by Giovanni Ribisi was reportedly based off of Jonze. “I was trying to figure [my marriage] out when I was writing that,” Coppola told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. “My friends said, ‘Finish the script and you’ll know what to do.'” Looking back, she admits: “I think I had doubts, but I didn’t listen to them because I was young. Spike didn’t end well.”