Francis Ford Coppola: What I Have Learned


The title sounds like a very interesting article to read except it appeared in Esquire magazine which makes one want to move on.  Whatever good Coppola had stated probably got edited down to what Esquire fashion readers would care to read.  Or I maybe wrong since Coppola is one of most feared people in Hollywood.  I think true artists are the hardest people to handle if you are coming from the business side of the industry.  I don't think they took anything out.  I agree with what Coppola says about Jack.  I actually heard this from a Hollywood producer.  This guy went into publishing business and was selling tons of classics and the like in his large book shop.  His sales were disappointing and he finally got counsel.  He switched to selling "best sellers."  And it was only then he realized why everyone sells whatever good or garbage that has topped the book charts.  This guy said he was so rich he didn't live off the interest of his holdings but the interest on the interest.  I still cannot fully grasp it.  I think he was bragging but true.  Then, I think maybe he was talking about someone else for a moment or I got it wrong.  But I think the overall point was made well and Coppola is a great person to learn the business from if you are cautious enough.


The 70-year-old director on meeting Gotti, wanting Scorsese to helmGodfather III, ignoringThe Sopranos, and more (wine with Bill Cosby, anyone?)

By Stephen Garrett

francis ford coppola

When I was sixteen or seventeen,I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a playwright. But everything I wrote, I thought, was weak. And I can remember falling asleep in tears because I had no talent the way I wanted to have.

Did you ever seeRushmore? I was just like that kid.

I've had wineat the table all my life. Even kids were allowed to have it. We used to put ginger ale or lemon soda in it.

I did somethingterrible to my father. When I was twelve or thirteen, I had a job at Western Union. And when the telegram came over on a long strip, you would cut it and glue it on the paper and deliver it on a bicycle. And I knew the name of the head of Paramount Pictures' music department — Louis Lipstone. So I wrote, "Dear Mr. Coppola: We have selected you to write a score. Please return to L. A. immediately to begin the assignment. Sincerely, Louis Lipstone." And I glued it and I delivered it. And my father was so happy. And then I had to tell him that it was fake. He was totally furious. In those days, kids got hit. With the belt. I know why I did it: I wanted him to get that telegram. We do things for good reasons that are bad.

People feelthe worst film I made wasJack.But to this day, when I get checks from old movies I've made,Jackis one of the biggest ones. No one knows that. If people hate the movie, they hate the movie. I just wanted to work with Robin Williams.

I was never sloppywith other people's money. Only my own. Because I figure, well, you can be.

Ten or fifteen yearsafterApocalypse Now,I was in England in a hotel, and I watched the beginning of it and ultimately ended up watching the whole movie. And it wasn't as weird as I thought. It had, in a way, widened what people would tolerate in a movie.

I saw this binfull of, basically, garbage film. We had shot five cameras when the jets came and dropped the napalm. You had to roll them all at the same time, so there was a lot of this leader, which was just footage. So I picked something out of this barrel and put it in the Moviola and it was very abstract, and every once in a while you saw this helicopter skid. And then over in sound there was all this Doors music, and in it was something called "The End." And I said, "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we started the movie with 'The End'?"

I have moreof a vivid imagination than I have talent. I cook up ideas. It's just a characteristic.

I just admirepeople like Woody Allen, who every year writes an original screenplay. It's astonishing. I always wished that I could do that.

To do goodis to be abundant — that's my tendency. If I cook a meal, I cook too much and have too many things. I was just watching a Cecil B. DeMille picture last night based on Cleopatra, and I realized how many parts of the real story he left out. So much of the art of film is to do less. To aspire to do less.

When I was starting out,I got a job writing a script for Bill Cosby. He used to have the very best wine for his friends. He didn't drink wine himself, but he had this wine called Romanée-Conti, which is considered one of the greatest wines in the world. I never knew wine could taste like that. He also taught me how to play baccarat. And one night I had $400, and I won $30,000. So I bought $30,000 worth of Romanée wines.

You have to viewthings in the context of your life expectancy.

The ending was clearand Michael has corrupted himself — it was over. So I didn't understand why they wanted to make anotherGodfather.

I said,"What I will do is help you develop a story. And I'll find a director and produce it." They said, "Well, who's the director?" And I said, "Young guy, Martin Scorsese." They said, "Absolutely not!" He was just starting out.

The only thingthey really argued with me about was calling itGodfather Part II.It was alwaysSon of the WolfmanorThe Wolfman Returnsor something. They thought that audiences would find it confusing. It was ironic, because that started the whole numbers thing. I started a lot of things.

I was in my trailer,working onGodfather IIorIIIin New York, and there was a knock on the door. The guy working with me said that John Gotti would like to meet Mr. Coppola. And I said, "It's not possible, I'm in the middle of something." There's an old wives' tale about vampires — that you have to invite them in, but once they cross the threshold, then they're in. But if you say you don't want to meet them, then they can't come in. They can't know you.

I never sawThe Sopranos.I'm not interested in the mob.

What greater snubcan you get than that absolutely nobody went to seeYouth Without Youth? Anything better than that is a success.

Some audienceslove to sit there and see all the names in the credits. Are they looking for a relative?

What should I do now?I could do something a little more ambitious. Or less. Better less. For me, less ambitious is more ambitious.


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