Nationality: American. Born: Detroit, Michigan, 7 April 1939. Education: Hofstra University, B.A., 1959; University of California, Los Angeles, M.F.A. in cinema, 1967. Family: Married Eleanor Neil, 1963; children: Sophia, Giancarlo (died, 1987), Roman. Career: Worked in various capacities for Roger Corman at American International, 1962–64; director for Seven Arts, 1964–68; founder, American Zoetrope production organization, San Francisco, 1969; director for American Conservatory Theatre and San Francisco Opera Company, 1971–72; founder, with Peter Bogdanovich and William Friedkin, Directors Company, 1972; publisher, City magazine, 1975–76; opened Zoetrope Studios, San Francisco, 1980. Awards: Oscar for Best Screenplay (with Edmund H. North), for Patton , 1970; Oscar for Best Screenplay (with Mario Puzo), and Best Director Award, Directors Guild of America, for The Godfather , 1973; Palme d'or, Cannes Festival, for The Conversation , 1974; Oscars for Best Director and Best Screenplay (with Puzo) for The Godfather II , 1975; Palme d'or and FIPRESCI Prize, Cannes Festival, 1979, for Apocalypse Now , 1979. Address: Zoetrope Studios, 916 Kearny Street, San Francisco, CA 94133, U.S.A.
The Playgirls and the Bellboy (co-d, co-sc); Tonight for Sure (+ pr);
The Terror ( Lady of the Shadows ) (co-d, + assoc pr); Dementia 13 ( The Haunted and the Hunted ) (co-sc)
You're a Big Boy Now
Finian's Rainbow (d only)
The Rain People
The Godfather (co-sc)
The Conversation (+ pr); The Godfather, Part II (co-sc, + co-pr)
Apocalypse Now (co-sc, + pr, role, co-mus)
One from the Heart (co-sc, + pr)
The Outsiders (+ pr); Rumble Fish (co-sc, + pr)
The Cotton Club (co-sc)
Peggy Sue Got Married (+ pr)
Gardens of Stone (+ pr)
Tucker: The Man and His Dream (+ pr)
episode in New York Stories
The Godfather, Part III
Bram Stoker's Dracula (+ co-pr)
Jack (+ co-pr)
The Rainmaker (co-sc)
The Premature Burial (Corman) (asst-d); Tower of London (dialogue d); The Magic Voyage of Sinbad (adaptor)
The Young Racers (Corman) (sound, 2nd unit ph—uncredited); Battle beyond the Sun (Corman) (sc)
This Property Is Condemned (Pollack) (co-sc); Is Paris Burning? ( Paris brûle-t-il? ) (Clément) (co-sc)
Reflections in a Golden Eye (Huston) (sc)
Patton (Schaffner) (co-sc)
THX 1138 (Lucas) (exec pr)
American Graffiti (Lucas) (exec pr)
The Great Gatsby (Clayton) (sc)
The Black Stallion (Ballard) (exec pr)
Hammett (Wenders) (exec pr); The Escape Artist (Deschanel) (exec pr)
The Black Stallion Returns (Dalva) (exec pr)
Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Schrader) (exec pr)
Tough Guys Don't Dance (Mailer) (exec pr)
Wind (exec pr)
The Secret Garden (exec pr)
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (co-pr)
My Family, Mi Familia (exec pr); Haunted (exec pr); Don Juan DeMarco (pr)
Dark Angel (exec pr)
The Odyssey (series for TV) (exec pr); Buddy (exec pr)
Lanai-Loa (pr); Outrage (exec pr); Moby Dick (for TV) (exec pr); First Wave (series for TV) (exec pr)
The Florentine (pr); The Virgin Suicides (pr); The Third Miracle (exec pr); Goosed (exec pr); Sleepy Hollow (exec pr)
The Cotton Club , with William Kennedy, New York, 1986.
"The Youth of Francis Ford Coppola," an interview with R. Koszarski, in Films in Review (New York), November 1968.
"The Dangerous Age," an interview with John Cutts, in Films and Filming (London), May 1969.
"The Making of The Conversation ," an interview with Brian De Palma, in Filmmakers Newsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), May 1974.
Interview with Marjorie Rosen, in Film Comment (New York), August 1974.
"Journey up the River," an interview with Greil Marcus, in Rolling Stone (New York), 1 November 1979.
Interview with O. Assayas, and others, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1982.
Coppola, Francis Ford, "Je me considere comme un compositeur de films," in Cinéma (Paris), April 1983.
"Ten Years of a Dreamer," interview with Gideon Bachmann, in Stills (London), September-October 1983.
"Idols of the King," an interview with D. Thomson and L. Gray, in Film Comment (New York), September-October 1983.
Interview in American Film (Washington, D. C.), June 1988.
"Francis Ford Coppola: Promises to Keep," an interview with Robert Lindsey, in New York Times Magazine , 24 July 1988.
Interview with Ric Gentry, in Post Script (Jacksonville, Florida), Spring-Summer 1987 and Fall 1988.
Interview in Time Out (London), 2 November 1988.
"Francis Ford Coppola," an interview with L. Vincenzi, in Millimeter , November 1990.
"Francis Ford Coppola," an interview with David Briskin, in Rolling Stone (New York), 7 February 1991.
"Lear et l'opera: entretien avec Francis Ford Coppola," an interview with Michel Ciment, in Positif , April 1991.
"A Conversation with Coppola," with P. Parisi, in American Cinematographer , August 1991.
"Dracula Doesn't Scare Coppola," an interview with Janet Maslin, in New York Times , 15 November 1992.
"His Bloody Valentine," an interview with M. Dargis, in Village Voice (New York), 24 November 1992.
Interview with P. Biskind, in Premiere (Boulder), September 1996.
Johnson, Robert, Francis Ford Coppola , Boston, 1977.
Coppola, Eleanor, Notes: On Apocalypse Now , New York, 1979.
Pye, Michael, and Lynda Myles, The Movie Brats: How the Film Generation Took over Hollywood , New York, 1979.
Chaillet, Jean-Paul, and Elizabeth Vincent, Francis Ford Coppola , Paris, 1984, New York, 1984.
Zuker, Joel S., Francis Ford Coppola: A Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1984.
Frundt, Bodo, and others, Francis Ford Coppola , Munich, 1985.
Chown, Jeffrey, Hollywood Auteur: Francis Coppola , New York, 1988.
Cowie, Peter, Coppola: A Biography , London, 1989, revised edition, New York, 1994.
Goodwin, Michael, and Namoi Wise, On the Edge: The Life and Times of Francis Coppola , New York, 1989.
Biskind, Peter, The Godfather Companion , New York, 1990.
Lewis, Jon, Whom God Wishes to Destroy. . . : Francis Coppola and the New Hollywood , Durham, North Carolina, 1995.
Bergan, Ronald, Francis Ford Coppola: Close up the Making of His Movies , New York, 1999.
Schumacher, Michael, Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life , New York, 1999.
Taylor, John Russell, "Francis Ford Coppola," in Sight and Sound (London), Winter 1968/69.
McGillivray, D., "Francis Ford Coppola," in Focus on Film (London), Autumn 1972.
Pearce, Christopher, "San Francisco's Own American Zoetrope," in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), October 1972.
Braudy, Susan, "Francis Ford Coppola: A Profile," in Atlantic Monthly (Boston), August 1976.
Bock, Audie, "Zoetrope and Apocalypse Now ," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), September 1979.
McGilligan, Patrick, "Coppola on the Beat," in Films and Filming (London), December 1981.
Bygrave, M., and J. Goodman, "Meet Me in Las Vegas," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1981.
Myles, Lynda, "The Zoetrope Saga," in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1982.
Benayoun, Robert, and others, "Le chat et la pendule," in Positif (Paris), April 1984.
Krohn, B., "Coppola des studios Zoetrope aux studios Astorias," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1984.
Greene, N., "Coppola, Cimino: The Operatics of History," in Film Quarterly (Los Angeles), Winter 1984/85.
"Coppola Section," in Positif (Paris), February 1985.
"The Backdrop Is Only an Inch Away," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), June 1985.
Turnquist, K., "Grape Expectations," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), November 1985.
Braudy, Leo, "The Sacraments of Genre: Coppola, De Palma, Scorsese," in Film Quarterly (Los Angeles), Spring 1986.
Post Script (Jacksonville, Florida), Spring-Summer 1987.
Kolker, Robert, "Francis Coppola," in A Cinema of Loneliness: Penn, Kubrick, Coppola, Scorsese , New York, 1988.
Phillips, Gene, "Francis Coppola," in Films in Review (New York), March 1989.
Lourdeaux, Lee, "Francis Ford Coppola," in Italian and Irish Filmmakers in America: Ford, Capra, Coppola, Scorsese , Philadelphia, 1990.
Bookbinder, Robert, " The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II ," in The Films of the Seventies , New York, 1990.
Grant, Edmond, " Godfather III ," in Films in Review (New York), March-April 1991.
Bawer, Bruce, " Peggy Sue Got Married ," in The Screenplay's the Thing , Hamden, Connecticut, 1992.
Cahir, Linda, "Narratological Parallels in Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now ," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Summer 1992.
Greiff, Louis, "Conrad's Ethics and Margins of Apocalypse Now ," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Summer 1992.
Ehrenstein, David, "One from the Art: Dracula ," in Film Comment (New York), January-February 1993.
Norman, Barry, " The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II ," in The 100 Best Films of the Century , New York, 1993.
Kael, Pauline, " The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II ," in For Keeps , New York, 1994.
Whalen, Tom, "Romancing Film: Images of Dracula ," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), Spring 1995.
Fitzgerald, Frances, " Apocalypse Now ," in Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies , edited by Mark Carnes, New York, 1995.
Phillips, Gene, "Darkness at Noon: Apocalypse Now ," in Conrad and Cinema: The Art of Adaptation , New York, 1995.
Isaacs, Neil D., "Bathgate in the Time of Coppola: a Reverie," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 24, no. 1, January 1996.
Scorsese, Martin, "Notre génération," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 500, March 1996.
Librach, Ronald S., "A Nice Little Irony: Life Lessons," in Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 24, no. 2, April 1996.
24 Images (Montreal), no. 81, Spring 1996.
Rosenqvist, Janne, "Idiodysseia," in Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 4, 1996.
Greene, R., "The Big Picture," in Boxoffice (Chicago), October 1997.
Lambert, S., "Trial Run," in Boxoffice (Chicago), October 1997.
Welsch, Tricia, "Killing Them with Tap Shoes. Violent Performances in The Cotton Club ," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), vol. 25, no. 4, Winter 1998.
Olsen, Mark, "Grishamovies," in Film Comment (New York), March-April 1998.
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (TV special), 1991.
* * *
Francis Ford Coppola became the first major American film director to emerge from a university degree program in filmmaking. He received his Master of Cinema degree from UCLA in 1968, after submitting his first film of consequence, You're a Big Boy Now (1967), a free-wheeling comedy about a young man on the brink of manhood, to the university as his master's thesis.
The Rain People (1969), based on an original scenario of his own, followed in due course. The plot of this tragic drama concerns a depressed housewife who impulsively decides to walk out on her family one rainy morning to make a cross-country trek in her station wagon, in the hope of getting some perspective on her life. For the first time Coppola's overriding theme, which centers on the importance of the role of a family spirit in people's lives, is clearly delineated in one of his films.
Coppola's preoccupation with the importance of family in modern society is brought into relief in his Godfather films, which depict an American family over a period of more than seventy years. Indeed, the thing that most attracted him to the project in the first place was the fact that the best-selling book on which the films are based is really the story of a family. It is about "this father and his sons," he says, "and questions of power and succession." In essence, The Godfather (1972) offers a chilling depiction of the way in which young Michael Corleone's loyalty to his flesh-and-blood family gradually turns into an allegiance to the larger Mafia family to which they in turn belong—a devotion that in the end renders him a cruel and ruthless mass murderer. With this film Coppola definitely hit his stride as a filmmaker, and the picture was an enormous critical and popular success.
The Godfather II (1974) treats events that happened before and after the action covered in the first film. The second Godfather movie not only chronicles Michael's subsequent career as head of the "family business," but also presents, in flashback, the early life of his father in Sicily, as well as his rise to power in the Mafia in New York City's Little Italy. The Godfather II , like The Godfather , was a success both with the critics and the public, and Coppola won Oscars for directing the film, co-authoring the screenplay, and co-producing the best picture of the year. In 1990 he made his third Godfather film. This trilogy of movies, taken together, represents one of the supreme achievements of the cinematic art.
In contrast to epic films like the Godfather series, The Outsiders was conceived on a smaller scale; it revolves around a gang of underprivileged teenage boys growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the 1960s. The Outsiders was a box-office hit, as was Peggy Sue Got Married , a remarkable fantasy. The title character is a woman approaching middle age who passes out at a high-school reunion and wakes up back in high school in 1960. But she brings with her on her trip down memory lane a forty-two-year-old mind, and hence views things from a more mature perspective than she possessed the first time around.
Coppola has made two films about the Vietnam War. Apocalypse Now , the first major motion picture about the war, is a king-sized epic shot on location in the Philippines; and it contains some of the most extraordinary combat footage ever filmed. But there are no such stunning battle sequences in its companion film, Gardens of Stone , since it takes place state-side, and is concerned with the homefront during the same period.
His next subject was a biographical film about Preston Tucker, a maverick automobile designer, titled Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Coppola contends that Tucker developed plans for a car that was way ahead of its time in terms of engineering; yet the auto industry at large stubbornly resisted his ideas. Unfortunately, Coppola comments, creative people do not always get a chance to exercise their creativity.
Coppola demonstrated once more that he had mastered his craft in making Bram Stoker's Dracula. In it he created a more faithful rendering of the Stoker novel than had been the case with previous film versions of the celebrated horror tale, and the film turned out to be a huge critical and popular success. Francis Coppola is one creative person who has continued to exercise his considerable talent throughout his career. Admittedly, he has had his occasional failure, such as the off-center teen movie Rumble Fish (1983). But the majority of the films he has directed over the years have demonstrated that he is one of the most gifted directors to come across the Hollywood horizon since Stanley Kubrick.
Coppola himself observes that he looks upon the movies he has directed in the past as providing him with the sort of experience that will help him to make better films in the future. So the only thing for a filmmaker to do, he concludes, is to just keep going.
—Gene D. Phillips