AFI Movie Club: SOPHIE’S CHOICE – American Film Institute
Sophie's Choice Film Still - Meryl Streep



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SOPHIE’S CHOICE stars Kevin Kline and AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Meryl Streep — and is ranked #91 on AFI’s list of the greatest American films in cinematic history.


DID YOU KNOW? The role of Sophie came down to Meryl Streep and Slovenian actress Magdaléna Vášáryová. Even though Streep was offered the role, she opted not to commit until the script was completed – and in the interim, she filmed THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN.

DID YOU KNOW? SOPHIE’S CHOICE was director Alan J. Pakula’s first venture into screenwriting. Pakula garnered an Academy Award® nomination for his debut screenplay.

DID YOU KNOW? Kevin Kline’s film debut was playing Nathan Landau in SOPHIE’S CHOICE. Kline had already filmed a reprisal of a Broadway performance – “The Pirate King” – for a motion picture adaption of THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE – but it was not released until after SOPHIE’S CHOICE had already hit cinemas.

DID YOU KNOW? Meryl Streep spent months learning Polish and spoke with her accent both on and offscreen throughout filming.

DID YOU KNOW? Costume designer Albert Wolsky and Meryl Streep’s hair and makeup artist J. Roy Helland got an early jump on Sophie’s character design – starting well before rehearsals began. To achieve the appropriate style of the time period, dresses were created from the fabrics of re-cut vintage garments.

DID YOU KNOW? The west coast premiere of SOPHIE’S CHOICE was a fundraiser for AFI. Proceeds for the event matched a donation from the National Endowment for the Arts, contributing to the building of the new AFI campus.

DID YOU KNOW? The only real-life character in the movie was Rudolf Hoess, who was an actual commandant at Auschwitz. This is noted in the end credits.

DID YOU KNOW? Every day after filming in Yugoslavia, Meryl Streep would play with her onscreen children to gain an organic, realistic connection with them. According to Jennifer Lawn Lejeune – who played Streep’s daughter – when it was time to film their iconic seen, filmmakers assumed they would only get one take. Instead, they were able to shoot the scene 13 times.

DID YOU KNOW? For her portrayal of Sophie, Meryl Streep received her fourth Academy Award® nomination and won her second Oscar® – her first in the Best Actress in a Leading Role category. Currently, Streep has received 21 Academy Award® nominations in her career – nine more than any other actor.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

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The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

  • Have you heard the term “Sophie’s Choice” removed from the context of the film? How is it used? Were you aware of the specifics of its origins?
  • Can you ever run away from your past?
  • What does Stingo represent throughout the movie?
  • How does SOPHIE’S CHOICE resonate in the #MeToo era?
  • Given Nathan’s behavior toward Sophie, why do you think she stays with him?
  • Did Sophie know she would return to Nathan when she was being intimate with Stingo?
  • Was Sophie and Nathan’s conclusion inevitable for the two characters?
  • Why did Stingo read the poem while looking over Sophie and Nathan on the bed at the end of the movie?
  • If you were Sophie, what choice would you have made? How would you rate SOPHIE’S CHOICE?


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