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MARIE ANTOINETTE

About The Production (Continued)
Just as Coppola envisioned Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette, she had a similar picture in her mind of Jason Schwartzman as King Louis XVI, known as France's most awkward, timid and reluctant monarch. Schwartzman, who came to the fore with a lauded performance in Wes Anderson's RUSHMORE, has more recently been seen in such contemporary roles as David O. Russell's I ♥ HUCKABEES and Steve Martin's SHOPGIRL. He was an unexpected choice for a period piece, which is part of what struck Coppola as being just right.

"I always felt there was something very sympathetic about Louis XVI," comments Coppola. "He was never meant to be King and was only in that position because his older brother died. I think he was plagued with this sense of being very inadequate – he was near-sighted and said to be inept at a great many things. So I really felt that Jason, who has this very vulnerable and sensitive side, would make Louis more touching and believable. I think he brings heart to Louis XVI. And another thing about Jason is that he looks like a Bourbon. When you look at those old portraits, he fits right in, although Antonia Fraser said – and I agree – that Jason is a lot more handsome than Louis.”

Coppola was also impressed with how Schwartzman threw himself into the role, gaining more than 40 pounds to portray the famously chubby monarch and taking extensive lessons in order to learn how to dance, ride horseback and carry himself with 18th Century royal comportment – albeit in a uniquely nerdy and myopic way.

Schwartzman was taken with Coppola's intrepidly modern approach. "I liked the idea of giving these historical figures some mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and helping to bring Louis XVI fully to life,” he comments. " We tend to forget that when thinking about historical figures, or anyone from long ago — that they were real moving people who were sometimes afraid and who sometimes got too full, and sometimes slouched, and sometimes doubted this or that. I remember seeing Amadeus when I was a kid and having my mind totally blown apart because it was the first time I realized people from the 18th Century laughed. I was so young and my perception of the past was very much, ‘They were old and cold and uptight.' Seeing that film changed me, it made those people real and accessible. What I found so compelling was that the film took the characters seriously without ever losing sight of the fact that no matter what title they held, or how genius they were, they were always, at the end of the day, just people. I find that to be true with Marie Antoinette as well. It's not like watching people up on a pedestal from far away – you're right in there with Marie Antoinette and Louis in their daily lives. So it's a very intimate story about something huge.”

Schwartzman immersed himself in Louis' life in preparation for the role – a process that led to at least as much confusion as certainty. "It seems that the view of who Louis was is completely different in every historian's interpretation,” he says. "Even his personal diaries weren't very personal. On the day he meets Marie Antoinette, the woman he is going to spend the rest of his life with, he writes in hunting log: ‘Met the Dauphine today.' That's it. And on their wedding night, when they are supposed to consummate the marriage, he writes: ‘Nothing happened.' No more. So he's quite tough to figure out. Ultimately, after all the research, I decided to base everything on Antonia's book and Sofia's script.”

Schwartzman viewed Louis' predicament sympathetically. "I came to see him as a young man who was placed in a position in which he felt overwhelmed. He didn't see himself as strong enough, handsome enough or brilliant enough to be King, but he also really believed that God had intended for him to be King,” he says.

When it came to his young<

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