Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Francis Ford Coppola
Career: 1960 to 1978
Coppola studied film at UCLA and while there, he made numerous short films, including some pornography. In the late 1960s, he started his professional career making low-budget films with Roger Corman and writing screenplays. His first notable motion picture was made for Corman, the low-budget Dementia 13 (which is available on video).
After graduating to mainstream motion pictures with 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 Dealing with outdated material at a time when the popularity of film musicals was already on the downslide, Coppola's end result was only semi-successful, but his work with Clark no doubt contributed to her Golden Globe Best Actress nomination.
In 1971, Coppola won an Academy Award for his screenplay for Patton. However, his name as a filmmaker was made as the co-writer and director of The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), which both won the Academy Award for Best Picture — the latter being the first sequel to do so.
In between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Coppola directed The Conversation, a story of a paranoid wiretapping and surveillance expert (played by Gene Hackman) who finds himself caught up in a possible murder plot. The Conversation was released to theaters in 1974 and was also nominated for Best Picture, resulting in Coppola being the only director in Hollywood history to have two films released in the same year nominated for Best Picture and competing for the same prize at the Academy Awards.
During this period he also wrote the screenplay for the 1974 remake of the critical and commercial failure, The Great Gatsby (with Mia Farrow and Robert Redford), and produced George Lucas's breakthrough film, American Graffiti.
Career: 1979 to present
Following the success of The Godfather and its sequel, Coppola set about filming an ambitious version of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, set during the Vietnam War. The film, entitled Apocalypse Now (1979), was beset by numerous problems, including typhoons, recreational drug use (which some, including Coppola's biographer Ronald Bergan have characterised as drug abuse), nervous breakdowns, Martin Sheen's heart attack, and Marlon Brando's bloated appearance (which Coppola attempted to hide by shooting him in the shadows). It was delayed so often it was nicknamed Apocalypse Whenever. The film was equally lauded and hated by critics when it finally appeared, and the cost nearly bankrupted Coppola's nascent studio American Zoetrope. The 1991 documentary film Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, directed by Eleanor Coppola (Francis's wife), Fax Bahr , and George Hickenlooper , chronicles the difficulties the crew went through making Apocalypse Now, and features behind the scenes footage filmed by Eleanor.1981 a restoration of the 1927 film Napoléon that was edited and released in the United States by American Zoetrope. However it wasn't until the experimental musical One from the Heart (1982) that he returned to directing. Unfortunately, the film was a huge failure, although it developed a cult following in later years.
In 1990 he completed the Godfather series with The Godfather Part III which, while not as critically acclaimed as the first two movies, was still a box office success. The film was marred by the presence of Coppola's inexperienced and clearly uncomfortable daughter Sofia, who stumbled her way through a role abandoned by Winona Ryder just as filming began. Her performance was subjected to universal critical ridicule, but in later years she redeemed herself as a director and screenwriter with The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation.
Coppola's father Carmine was a renowned composer and musician, and wrote the scores of many of his son's films, and his nephew Nicolas Cage is an acclaimed actor.
In recent years, Coppola with his family has extended his talents to winemaking in California's Napa Valley at the Niebaum-Coppola Winery, and opening resorts in Guatemala and Belize, inspired by his accommodation in the Philippines during the making of Apocalypse Now, with decor supervised by Eleanor Coppola.
In 1997, Coppola founded Zoetrope All-Story , a flashy literary magazine that publishes short stories. The magazine has published fiction by T.C. Boyle and Amy Bloom and essays by David Mamet, Steven Spielberg, and Salman Rushdie. Since its founding, the magazine has grown in reputation to become one of the premier American journals of literary fiction. Coppola serves as founding editor and publisher of All-Story.
- Kinsey (2005, co-producer)
- The Rainmaker (1997, director)
- Jack (1996, director)
- The Secret Garden (1993, executive producer)
- Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992, director)
- The Godfather: Part III (1990, director)
- Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988, director)
- The Cotton Club (1984, director)
- The Outsiders (1983, director)
- Rumble Fish (1983, director)
- One from the Heart (1982, director)
- Apocalypse Now (1979, director)
- The Godfather, Part II (1974, director)
- The Conversation (1974, director)
- The Godfather (1972, director)
- Finian's Rainbow (1968, director)
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