Francis Ford Coppola (born 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 became fast friends and 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 (the rest is history). 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. In fact, Coppola's films had won so many Oscars that he could smelt them all down to make the most critically acclaimed suit of armor in all the land.
When the Seventies ended, Coppola's fortunes began to turn. His career stumbled with One from the Heart, which was a massive departure from the realism of his previous films and proved an expensive flop which nearly bankrupted Zoetrope. Nonetheless, 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, Bram Stoker's Dracula, 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, and her sons Jason and Robert Schwartzman are also in the 'biz. His brother August is the father of Nicolas Cage. Along with the Hustons (Walter, John, and Anjelica), they are the only family to feature three generations of Oscar-winners.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 a 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.
- 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.
- Genre Roulette: Even in The '70s, Coppola wrote screenplays for a war film (Patton), a literary adaptation (The Great Gatsby), directed a paranoid thriller (The Conversation), a war movie (Apocalypse Now) and two gangster movies that are more like Historical Fiction period and family dramas than actual crime movies. He has become even more diverse by making Teen/YA movies, period Biopic, musicals, a Dracula movie and recently, he's moved into actual experimental movies.
- 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.
- Raised Catholic: Like most Italian-Americans of his generation, though religion did not make as big a mark on him as it did on Martin Scorsese. Harry Caul's lingering issues with his Catholic upbringing were autobiographical reflections on Coppola's part.
- His movies revolve around dreamers, idealists (benign like Tucker, self-deluded in the case of Michael Corleone who wants to make the family legit, insane with Kurtz) and visionaries, and feature Byronic Hero, doomed romance and heroes fighting compromise and being burnt by the sun for flying too close (Dracula himself).
- Coppola himself expresses this view many times in his own interviews in terms of how he sees his own career and his characters. He notes that to him the gangsters of The Godfather were like characters from Italian Opera, and that he's drawn to characters who are obsessive, determined and committed to a vision, willing to risk everything, face the consequences and say it was Worth It, which he himself does all the time on his commentaries with regards to his less successful personal films.
- Transatlantic Equivalent: In their aesthetics, methodologies, and even personalities, Coppola and Werner Herzog are bosom-buddies. Both favor flawed yet ambitious heroes in bold projects that balance meticulous planning with off-the-cuff episodes, with attendant complications. They even had their own "Madness in the Jungle" movie, eachnote .
- Vitriolic Best Buds: He and George Lucas met in 1967 as two filmmakers in their 20s just starting to get a foothold in the business, and teamed up to create Zoetrope International Pictures, intended to be a place where young new filmmakers could do their stuff without any Executive Meddling. Unfortunately, the disastrous performance of their first release, Lucas' THX 1138, killed the idea and they've had a quite tempestuous relationship ever since, though Lucas still describes it as the closest relationship he's ever had with anyone.
- Battle Beyond the Sun
- Dementia 13
- You're a Big Boy Now
- Finian's Rainbow
- The Rain People
- Patton (Screenwriter only - He shared the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with Edmund H. North)
- The Godfather
- The Conversation
- The Godfather Part II
- Apocalypse Now
- One from the Heart
- The Outsiders
- Rumble Fish
- The Cotton Club
- Peggy Sue Got Married
- Gardens of Stone
- Tucker: The Man and His Dream
- New York Stories (Anthology film, he directed Life Without Zoe)
- The Godfather Part III
- Bram Stoker's Dracula
- The Rainmaker
- Youth Without Youth