It’s a movie mystery that has endured for 20 years: what does Bill Murray whisper to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Sofia Coppola’s 2003 favorite, Lost in Translation? In the two decades since the film’s September 2003 release, many have attempted to decode the parting thought that Murray’s over-the-hill film star, Bob Harris, leaves in the ear of Johansson’s ennui-ridden newlywed Charlotte after their unlikely friendship flowers during a stay in Tokyo.
Since Coppola and her stars have always declined to provide an exact transcript of the moment, it has been left to internet sleuths to solve Murray’s sotto-voiced puzzle, which he famously improvised in the moment. And, true to form, the internet thinks it has the answer. In a 2007 video, a YouTube-based cinema detective digitally processed the scene in question to isolate Murray’s audio. Their answer? “I have to be leaving, but I won’t let that come between us. OK?”
Case closed, right? Maybe not… at least according to Johansson. When Yahoo Entertainment spoke with the actress earlier this year during the press tour for Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City — which took place before the SAG-AFTRA strike — we read back the quote that Murray supposedly said to her 20 years earlier. “Oh my god, that sounds pretty profound,” Johansson replied, laughing. “Probably way more profound that what was actually said!”
Watch our interview with Scarlett Johansson below:
Naturally, Johansson declined to specify what was actually said. Listening to the internet’s answer a second time, she grew even less sure that the mystery had been solved. “Maybe? I don’t know about that. I give it, like, a B-minus.” Sounds like a job for ChatGPT!
But there is one thing that Johansson is sure of: Lost in Translation is a film that works just as well today as it did 20 years ago. “It’s [about] a relationship between two people, and it’s sort of timeless in that way,” the actress says of the movie, which received rave reviews and four Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Coppola took home the statue for Best Original Screenplay, while her father, The Godfater maestro Francis Ford Coppola, cheered her on. (Her cousin Nicolas Cage could also be seen whooping and hollering.)
Of course, the times themselves have changed quite a bit since 2003, and the relationship between an older man — particularly a famous actor — and a younger woman is a trickier story to tell in a post-#MeToo era. It’s worth noting that Bob and Charlotte’s relationship never turns romantic in Lost in Translation, although it’s clear at throughout the movie that they share an intense connection that’s hard to put into words. Hence the closing whisper.
For her part, Johansson feels that Bob and Charlotte still side-step any #MeToo concerns due to the unique circumstances of their brief, but memorable encounter. “The way these two character affect one another is really profound,” she notes. “You watch it and you don’t judge it,”
“It’s just two people that come together in this circumstance that’s sort of foreign and they’re what’s familiar to them,” Johansson continues. “It’s because of that they connect with one another. You feel like if they met in any other place or at any other time, the wouldn’t be as vulnerable to connecting in that way.”
Lost in Translation is currently streaming on Netflix.