Francis Ford Coppola Interview (December 3, 1997)



Francis Ford Coppola (/ˈkoʊpələ/; Italian: [ˈkɔppola]; born April 7, 1939) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is considered one of the major figures of the New Hollywood filmmaking movement of the 1960s and 1970s.[5] Coppola is the recipient of five Academy Awards, six Golden Globe Awards, two Palmes d’Or, and a British Academy Film Award (BAFTA).

After directing The Rain People in 1969, Coppola co-wrote Patton (1970), which earned him the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay along with Edmund H. North. Coppola’s reputation as a filmmaker was cemented with the release of The Godfather (1972), which revolutionized the gangster genre[6] of filmmaking, receiving strong commercial and critical reception. The Godfather won three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay (shared with Mario Puzo). His film The Godfather Part II (1974) became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Highly regarded by critics, the film gained Coppola three more Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture, making him the second director (after Billy Wilder) to win these three awards for the same film.

Also in 1974, he released the thriller The Conversation, which received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. His next film, the war epic Apocalypse Now (1979), which had a notoriously lengthy and strenuous production, was widely acclaimed for vividly depicting the Vietnam War. It also won the Palme d’Or, making Coppola one of only nine filmmakers to have won the award twice. Other notable films Coppola has released since the start of the 1980s include the dramas The Outsiders and Rumble Fish (both 1983), The Cotton Club (1984), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), The Godfather Part III (1990), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), and The Rainmaker (1997).

Many of Coppola’s relatives and children have become popular actors and filmmakers in their own right: his sister Talia Shire is an actress, his daughter Sofia and granddaughter Gia are directors, his son Roman is a screenwriter, and his nephews Jason Schwartzman and Nicolas Cage are actors. Coppola resides in Napa, California, and since the 2010s has been a vintner, owning a family-branded winery and a winery of his own.

Francis Ford Coppola was born in Detroit, Michigan, to father Carmine Coppola (1910–1991),[8] a flutist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and mother Italia Coppola (née Pennino; 1912–2004). He was born into a family of Italian immigrants. His paternal grandparents came to the United States from Bernalda, Basilicata.[9] His maternal grandfather, popular Italian composer Francesco Pennino, emigrated from Naples, Italy.[10] At the time of Coppola’s birth, his father—in addition to being a flutist—was an arranger and assistant orchestra director for The Ford Sunday Evening Hour, an hour-long concert music radio series sponsored by the Ford Motor Company.[11][12] Coppola was born at Henry Ford Hospital, and those two connections to Henry Ford inspired the Coppolas to choose the middle name “Ford” for their son.[13][14]

Francis is the middle of three children: his older brother was August Coppola and his younger sister is actress Talia Shire.[9]

Two years after Coppola’s birth, his father was named principal flutist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra, and the family moved to New York. They settled in Woodside, Queens, where Coppola spent the remainder of his childhood.

Having contracted polio as a boy, Coppola was bedridden for large periods of his childhood, during which he did homemade puppet theater productions. He developed an interest in theater after reading A Streetcar Named Desire at age 15. He created 8 mm feature films edited from home movies with titles such as The Rich Millionaire and The Lost Wallet. Although Coppola was a mediocre student, his interest in technology and engineering earned him the childhood nickname “Science”. He trained initially for a career in music and became proficient in the tuba, eventually earning a music scholarship to the New York Military Academy. In all, Coppola attended 23 schools before he eventually graduated from Great Neck North High School.

He entered Hofstra College in 1955 as a theater arts major. There, he was awarded a scholarship in playwriting. This furthered his interest in directing theater, though his father disapproved and wanted him to study engineering. Coppola was profoundly impressed by Sergei Eisenstein’s film October: Ten Days That Shook the World, especially the quality of its editing, and decided to pursue cinema rather than theater. He said he was influenced to become a writer by his brother August. Coppola also credits the work of Elia Kazan for influencing him as a writer and director. Coppola’s classmates at Hofstra included James Caan, Lainie Kazan, and radio artist Joe Frank. He later cast Lainie Kazan in One from the Heart and Caan in The Rain People, The Godfather, and Gardens of Stone.

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