Creator: Francis Ford Coppola

Why can't I hold all these Oscars?

Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.

Francis Ford Coppola (April 7, 1939-) is a famed American film director/screenwriter/producer, one of the paragons of The New Hollywood and best known for such works as The Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now.

After doing low-budget films in the 1960s and early '70s, his breakthrough was winning an Academy Award for his screenplay of Patton. George Lucas was hired to be his assistant. The two founded Zoetrope International Pictures together in 1971. Coppola's directing breakthrough was 1969's The Rain People, which was a box office flop, but impressed Paramount executives enough to tap him as director for The Godfather.

In 1972, The Godfather was a critical and huge commercial success, and with that recognition, Coppola shot George Lucas to fame for producing his American Graffiti and THX 1138. In 1974 he directed The Godfather Part II, and The Conversation in the same year. The production of Apocalypse Now was an absolute nightmare for everyone who worked on it, but the film is widely regarded today by film critics as a masterpiece.

Those were his most famous works. His career stumbled with One from the Heart, an expensive flop which nearly bankrupted Zoetrope. Nonethless, Coppola remained prolific throughout The '80s, releasing Peggy Sue Got Married, featuring his nephew Nicolas Cage. He also directed The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, two "pet projects" of his, and Tucker: The Man and His Dream, largely because his father owned a Tucker. The Outsiders launched the careers of more than a few familiar actors now. In The '90s he went more commercial with films such as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Jack and The Rainmaker.

Recent projects include New York Stories with fellow famed (and Oscar-winning in their own right) directors Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese, Youth Without Youth and Tetro. He now publishes magazines and makes wine and lives in San Francisco.

His father Carmine Coppola was the first flautist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and won an Oscar scoring The Godfather Part II. His daughter Sofia Coppola became an acclaimed director (despite an ill-fated acting gig in The Godfather Part III). His sister Talia Shire was cast by him as Connie Corleone, and later became Rocky's wife Adrian (her son Jason Schwartzman is also an actor). His brother August is the father of Nicolas Cage. Along with the Hustons (Walter, John and Angelica) they are the only family to feature three generations of Oscar-winners.

Related tropes:

  • Auteur License: Got it with The Godfather, lost it somewhat after One From the Heart bombed and caused him to file bankruptcy. How much he still has this has varied from project to project since then until the past decade when he was able to fund his own films. He's recently taken to using profits from his lucrative winery to making personal films, solving the problem for himself seemingly, he's becomes highly prolific of late.
  • Author Appeal: His main reason for making Tucker: The Man and His Dream was his father owned a Tucker. George Lucas produced it for, surprisingly, the same reason - his father also owned a Tucker.
    • The Conversation draws on Coppola's own fascination with bugging and electronic gadgets generally. He also incorporates a lot of his personality into the film's protagonist, Harry Caul.
  • Berserk Button: In the DVD Commentary, Coppola is very defensive of his choice to cast his daughter Sofia in the third Godfather film. The much-criticized casting choice was due to Winona Ryder ducking out of the role day before shooting began (and Coppola having hard demands to stay on time and budget), and Coppola had to scramble to fill it. It's said to be a poor idea to bring it up in his presence.
    • Another Berserk Button is writer Peter Biskind whose book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls painted him as a Prima Donna Director which not surprisingly angered him greatly, though he also claims that the book is unfairly biased and very poorly researched and an inaccurate look at his generation from someone who wasn't there.
  • Breather Episode: One From the Heart was supposed to be this for him after the incredibly difficult production of Apocalypse Now. Sadly, its critical and commercial failure came close to killing his career and ensured he'd never reach the peaks of his 70s work again.
  • Creator Killer: One From the Heart (which even earned the nickname One Through the Heart for this), though he's still made somewhat high profile projects compared to most victims of this trope. Its failure did kill his independent production studio though. On the commentary, Coppola is still proud of his film, believing it was Worth It.
  • Friend to All Children: Very close to his own kids, and enjoys working with children and teens as well. He's cited this as the main reason he signed on to The Outsiders and Jack.
  • He Also Did: Before breaking into directing, he co-wrote the scripts for Is Paris Burning? and Patton, the latter earning him an Oscar. He also wrote the 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby, which wasn't produced until The Godfather became a smash hit. Coppola also funded the release of Kevin Brownlow's restoration of Abel Gance's Napoleon out of his own pocket, kick-starting the film restoration trend of the '80s and '90s.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Coppola felt that Mario Puzo deserved most of the credit for The Godfather, so it's known as Mario Puzo's The Godfather. He also named his Dracula adaptation Bram Stoker's Dracula. This is also, as he explains, driven by his desire to distinguish his original screenplays(which he feels are more personal) from adaptations. One exception seems to be Apocalypse Now which is an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness but is retitled and regarded as a Coppola movie.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: Critics regularly list The Godfather Parts I and II among the greatest movies ever, but Coppola seems to regard them as basically paycheck films. Ask Coppola for his favorite and he'll usually name Apocalypse Now, The Conversation or The Rain People.
  • Old Shame: Pretty much all of Coppola's screenwriting work except Patton; he's especially adamant that his script for The Great Gatsby was ruined by Executive Meddling. He doesn't have fond memories of The Cotton Club either, due to the tremendously difficult production triggered by his feud with Robert Evans.
  • Production Posse: Robert Duvall, James Caan, Frederick Forest and Teri Garr were his most frequent repeat collaborators.
  • Troubled Production: He became a lightning rod for those — The Godfather (Paramount's executives frequently complained with him), The Cotton Club (script issues, budget rising, clashing with the star), One from the Heart (ballooned budget and filming problems) and most infamously, Apocalypse Now — aka "Apocalypse When?" or "Apocalypse Forever" — a case so famous that it has its own documentary dedicated to it, Hearts of Darkness.
    • Coppola himself summed it up by saying "My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam" and famously explaining that "We had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane."
    • It's important to point out that despite this, Apocalypse Now was a critical and box-office success.