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Francis Ford Coppola

Screenwriter, Film Producer, Film Director
© Gerald Geronimo
Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 2.0 ]
Francis Ford Coppola (born April 7, 1939) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. In 1970, he won the Oscar for best original screenplay as co-writer, with Edmund H. North, of Patton (1970). His directorial prominence was cemented with the release in 1972 of The Godfather, a film which revolutionized movie-making in the gangster genre[citation needed], earning praise from both critics and the public before winning three Academy Awards—including his second Oscar (Best Adapted Screenplay, with Mario Puzo), Best Picture, and his first nomination for Best Director. He followed with The Godfather Part II in 1974, which became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Highly regarded by critics, it brought him three more Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture, and made him the second director, after Billy Wilder, to be honored three times for the same film. The Conversation, which he directed, produced and wrote, was released that same year, winning the Palme d'Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. He next directed 1979's Apocalypse Now. Notorious for its over-long and strenuous production, the film was nonetheless critically acclaimed for its vivid and stark depiction of the Vietnam War, winning the Palme d'Or at the1979 Cannes Film Festival. Coppola is one of only eight filmmakers to win two Palme d'Or awards. While a number of Coppola's ventures in the 1980s and 1990s were critically lauded, he has never quite achieved the same commercial success with films as in the 1970s. --- Coppola was born in Detroit, Michigan, to father Carmine Coppola, a flautist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and mother Italia (née Pennino). Coppola is the second of three children: his older brother was August Coppola, his younger sister is actress Talia Shire. Born into a family of Italian immigrant ancestry, his paternal grandparents came to the United States from Bernalda, Basilicata. Coppola received his middle name in honor of Henry Ford, not only because he was born in the Henry Ford Hospital but because of his musician-father's association with the automobile manufacturer. At the time of Coppola's birth, his father was a flautist as well as arranger and assistant orchestra director for The Ford Sunday Evening Hour, an hour-long concert music radio series sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Two years after Coppola's birth, his father was named principal flautist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the family moved to New York, settling in Woodside, Queens, where Coppola spent the remainder of his childhood. Contracting polio as a boy, Coppola was bedridden for large periods of his childhood, allowing him to indulge his imagination with homemade puppet theater productions. Reading A Streetcar Named Desire at age 15 was instrumental in developing his interest in theater. Eager to be involved in film-craft, he created 8mm features edited from home movies with such titles as The Rich Millionaire and The Lost Wallet. As a child, Coppola was a mediocre student, but he was so much interested in technology and engineering that his friends nicknamed him "Science". Trained initially for a career in music, he became proficient on the tuba and won a music scholarship to the New York Military Academy. Overall, Coppola attended 23 other schools before he eventually graduated from the Great Neck North High School. He entered Hofstra University in 1955 with a major in theater arts. There he was awarded a scholarship in playwriting. This furthered his interest in directing theater despite the disapproval of his father, who wanted him to study engineering. Coppola was profoundly impressed after seeing Sergei Eisenstein’s October: Ten Days That Shook the World, especially with the movie's quality of editing. It was at this time Coppola decided he would go into cinema rather than theater. Coppola says he was tremendously influenced to become a writer early on by his brother, August, in whose footsteps he would also follow by attending both of his brother's almae matres: Hofstra and UCLA. Coppola also gives credit to the work of Elia Kazan and for its influence on him as a director. Amongst Coppola's classmates at Hofstra were James Caan, Lainie Kazan and radio artist Joe Frank. He later cast Caan in The Rain People and The Godfather. While pursuing his bachelor's degree, Coppola was elected president of The Green Wig (the university's drama group) and the Kaleidoscopians (its musical comedy club). He then merged the two into The Spectrum Players and under his leadership, they staged a new production each week. Coppola also founded the cinema workshop at Hofstra and contributed prolifically to the campus literary magazine. He won three D. H. Lawrence Awards for theatrical production and direction and received a Beckerman Award for his outstanding contributions to the school's theater arts division. While a graduate student, one of his teachers was Dorothy Arzner, whose encouragement Coppola later acknowledged as pivotal to his film career. Coppola graduated from Hofstra university in 1959 with a bachelor's degree in Theatre Arts. --- Coppola enrolled in UCLA Film School for graduate work in film. There he directed a short horror film called The Two Christophers inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's William Wilson, and Ayamonn the Terrible, a film about a sculptor’s nightmares coming to life, before directing the experimental softcore comedy, Tonight for Sure, in 1962. They failed to attract any attention. At UCLA, Coppola met Jim Morrison. He later used Morrison's song "The End" in Apocalypse Now. The company that hired him for Tonight for Sure brought him back to re-cut a German film titled Mit Eva fing die Sünde an directed by Fritz Umgelter. He added some new 3-D color footage and earned a writer’s and director’s credit for The Bellboy and the Playgirls, also a box-office failure. Coppola was hired as an assistant by Roger Corman and his first job for Corman was to dub and re-edit a Russian science fiction film Nebo zovyot, which he turned into a sex-and-violence monster movie entitled Battle Beyond the Sun, released in 1962. Impressed by Coppola's perseverance and dedication, Corman hired him as dialogue director on Tower of London (1962), sound man for The Young Racers (1963) and associate producer of The Terror (1963). While on location in Ireland for The Young Racers in 1963, Corman, ever alert for an opportunity to produce a decent movie on a shoestring budget, persuaded Coppola to make a low-budget horror movie with funds left over from the movie. Coppola wrote a brief draft story idea in one night, incorporating elements from Hitchcock's Psycho and the result impressed Corman enough to give him the go-ahead. On a budget of $40,000 ($20,000 from Corman and $20,000 from another producer who wanted to buy the movie's English rights), Coppola directed in a period of nine days Dementia 13, his first feature from his own screenplay. The film recouped its expenses and later became a cult film among horror buffs. It was on the sets of Dementia 13 that he met his future wife Eleanor Jessie Neil. In 1965, Coppola won the annual Samuel Goldwyn Award for the best screenplay (Pilma, Pilma) written by a UCLA student. This secured him a job as a scriptwriter with Seven Arts. In between, he co-wrote the scripts for This Property Is Condemned (1966) and Is Paris Burning? (1966). However, with fame still eluding him and partly out of desperation, Coppola bought the rights to the David Benedictus novel You're a Big Boy Now and fused it with a story idea of his own, resulting in You're a Big Boy Now (1966). This was his UCLA thesis project that also received a theatrical release via Warner Bros. This movie brought him some critical acclaim and eventually his Master of Fine Arts Degree from UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in 1967. Following the success of You're a Big Boy Now, Coppola was offered the reins of the movie version of the Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow, starring Petula Clark in her first American film and veteran Fred Astaire. Producer Jack Warner was nonplussed by Coppola's shaggy-haired, bearded, "hippie" appearance and generally left him to his own devices. He took his cast to the Napa Valley for much of the outdoor shooting, but these scenes were in sharp contrast to those obviously filmed on a Hollywood soundstage, resulting in a disjointed look to the film. Dealing with outdated material at a time when the popularity of film musicals was already on the downslide, Coppola's result was only semi-successful, but his work with Clark no doubt contributed to her Golden Globe Best Actress nomination. The film introduced George Lucas to him, who became his lifelong friend as well as production assistant in his next film The Rain People in 1969. It was written, directed and initially produced by Coppola himself, though as the movie advanced, he exceeded his budget and the studio had to underwrite the remainder of the movie. The film won the Golden Shell at the 1969 San Sebastian Film Festival. In 1969, Coppola took it upon himself to subvert the studio system which he felt had stifled his visions, intending to produce mainstream pictures to finance off-beat projects and give first-time directors their chance to direct. He decided he would name his future studio "Zoetrope" after receiving a gift of zoetropes from Mogens Scot-Hansen, founder of a studio called Lanterna Film and owner of a famous collection of early motion picture making equipment. While touring Europe, Coppola was introduced to alternative filmmaking equipment and inspired by the bohemian spirit of Lanterna Film, he decided he would build a deviant studio that would conceive and implement creative, unconventional approaches to filmmaking. Upon his return home, Coppola and George Lucas searched for a mansion in Marin County to house the studio. However in 1969, with equipment flowing in and no mansion found yet, the first home for Zoetrope Studio became a warehouse in San Francisco on Folsom Street. The studio went on to become an early adopter of digital filmmaking, including some of the earliest uses of HDTV. In his book The American Cinema, Andrew Sarris wrote, "[Coppola] is probably the first reasonably talented and sensibly adaptable directorial talent to emerge from a university curriculum in film-making... [He] may be heard from more decisively in the future." --- The release of The Godfather in 1972 was a milestone in cinema. The near 3-hour-long epic, which chronicled the saga of the Corleone family, received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and fetched Coppola the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, which he shared with Mario Puzo and two Golden Globe Awards: for Best Director and Best Screenplay. However, Coppola had to face a lot of difficulties while filming The Godfather. He was not Paramount's first choice to direct the movie; Italian director Sergio Leone was initially offered the job, but declined in order to direct his own gangster opus, Once Upon a Time in America. Peter Bogdanovich was then approached but he also declined the offer and made What's Up, Doc? instead; Bogdanovich has often said that he would have cast Edward G. Robinson in the lead had he accepted the film. According to Robert Evans, head of Paramount Pictures at the time, Coppola also did not initially want to direct the film because he feared it would glorify the Mafia and violence and thus reflect poorly on his Sicilian and Italian heritage; on the other hand, Evans specifically wanted an Italian-American to direct the film because his research had shown that previous films about the Mafia that were directed by non-Italians had fared dismally at the box office and he wanted to, in his own words, "smell the spaghetti". When Coppola hit upon the idea of making it a metaphor for American capitalism, however, he eagerly agreed to take the helm. There was disagreement between Paramount and Coppola on the issue of casting; Coppola stuck to his plan of casting Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, though Paramount wanted either Ernest Borgnine or Danny Thomas. At one point, Coppola was told by the then-president of Paramount that "Marlon Brando will never appear in this motion picture". After pleading with the executives, Coppola was allowed to cast Brando only if he appeared in the film for much less salary than his previous films, perform a screen-test and put up a bond saying that he would not cause a delay in the production (as he had done on previous film sets). Coppola chose Brando over Ernest Borgnine on the basis of Brando's screen test, which also won over the Paramount leadership. Brando later won an Academy Award for his portrayal, which he refused to accept. Coppola would later recollect: "The Godfather was a very unappreciated movie when we were making it. They were very unhappy with it. They didn't like the cast. They didn't like the way I was shooting it. I was always on the verge of getting fired. So it was an extremely nightmarish experience. I had two little kids, and the third one was born during that. We lived in a little apartment, and I was basically frightened that they didn't like it. They had as much as said that, so when it was all over I wasn't at all confident that it was going to be successful, and that I'd ever get another job." After it was released, the film received widespread praise. It went on to win multiple awards, including Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Coppola. The film routinely features at the top in various polls for the greatest movies ever. It has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. In addition, it was ranked third, behind Citizen Kane, and Casablanca on the initial AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies list by the American Film Institute. It was moved up to second when the list was published again, in 2008. Director Stanley Kubrick believed that The Godfather was possibly the greatest movie ever made and had without question the best cast. --- In February 1963, Coppola married Eleanor Neil, whom he met on the set of Dementia 13. They had three children: Gian-Carlo, born 1963; Roman, born 1965 and Sofia, born 1971. Gian-Carlo Coppola, was in the early stages of a film production career when he was killed on May 26, 1986 in a speedboat accident. His daughter Gia was born to Jacqui de la Fontaine after he died in 1986 and is now an actress. Sofia Coppola appeared in all three Godfather films, the first two movies uncredited: as the infant being baptised at the end of The Godfather; as a young child on board ship in The Godfather Part II and in a supporting role as Michael Corleone's daughter Mary in The Godfather Part III and is now an Academy Award-winning writer and nominated director. Her films include The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation. In 2004, she became the first American woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for Lost in Translation. Coppola's surviving son, Roman Coppola, is a filmmaker and music video director whose filmography includes the feature film CQ and music videos for The Strokes, as well as co-writing two Wes Anderson films, The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom. He was also second-unit director on Bram Stokers Dracula. Coppola often works with family members in his films: He cast his two sons in The Godfather as extras during the street fight scene involving Sonny and Carlo Rizzi and at Vito Corleone’s funeral. His sister, Talia Shire, played Connie Corleone in all three Godfather films. His father Carmine, a composer and professional musician, co-wrote much of the music for The Godfather, The Godfather Part II (for which he received an Oscar for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, shared with Nino Rota) and The Godfather Part III (for which he was nominated for another Oscar for Best Original Song) and Apocalypse Now (for which he was nominated for a BAFTA Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music). In addition, Carmine and his wife Italia appear as the couple in the elevator scene in One from the Heart. Coppola's nephew, Nicolas Cage, son of his brother, the academic August Coppola, starred in Coppola's film Peggy Sue Got Married and was featured in Rumble Fish and The Cotton Club. Other famous members of Coppola's family include nephews Jason Schwartzman and Robert Schwartzman, sons of Talia Shire. Jason Schwartzman has starred in several films, including Rushmore and Slackers. He also co-wrote (along with director Wes Anderson and cousin Roman Coppola) and starred in the 2007 film The Darjeeling Limited. Robert Schwartzman is the lead singer in the band Rooney and appeared in The Princess Diaries as well as having small appearances in several films, including his cousin Sofia's The Virgin Suicides.

Wikipedia ]

Born
Francis Coppola
April 07, 1939 (age 85)
Profession
Screenwriter, Film Producer, Film Director
Spouse
Eleanor Coppola
Parents
Carmine Coppola, Italia Coppola
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