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Francis Ford Coppola (born April 7, 1939) is an Italian-American film director, producer and screenwriter. Away from showbusiness, Coppola is also a vintner, magazine publisher and hotelier. He is a graduate of Hofstra Universitymarker where he studied theatre. He earned an M.F.A. in film directing from the UCLA Film School. He is most renowned for directing the Godfather films, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.



Coppola was born in Detroitmarker, Michigan, to a family of Italian ancestry (his grandparents were immigrants from Bernaldamarker, Basilicata). He received his middle name in honor of Henry Ford and because he was born at the Henry Ford Hospitalmarker. Coppola is son of Italia (née Pennino) and arranger/composer Carmine Coppola, who was the first flautist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He was the second of three children (his older brother was August Coppola and younger sister is actress Talia Shire). Two years later, Carmine became the first flautist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the family moved to New York City, finding a home in Woodside, Queensmarker, where Francis spent the remainder of his childhood.

Coppola had polio as a boy, leaving him bedridden for large periods of his childhood, and allowing him to indulge his imagination with homemade puppet theater productions. Using his father's 8 mm movie camera, he began making movies when he was 10. He studied theatre at Hofstra Universitymarker and graduated from the University in 1960, prior to earning a Master of Fine Arts degree in film direction from UCLA Film School. There, he made numerous short films. While in UCLA's Film Department, Francis met Jim Morrison, whose music was used later in Apocalypse Now.


Coppola has often worked with family members on his films. He cast his two sons in The Godfather as extras during the street fight scene and Don Corleone's funeral; his daughter, Sofia Coppola, appeared in all installments of the series (the first two movies with uncredited roles). 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 in The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and Apocalypse Now. His nephew, Nicolas Cage, starred in Coppola's film Peggy Sue Got Married and was featured in Rumble Fish and The Cotton Club.

His eldest son, 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. 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 the Wes Anderson film The Darjeeling Limited.

Coppola's daughter, Sofia Coppola, is an Academy Award-winning writer and nominated director. Her films include the critically acclaimed films 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, in which she directed Lost in Translation.

Other famous members of Coppola's family include his nephews Nicolas Cage, Jason Schwartzman and Robert Schwartzman. Jason Schwartzman has starred in several films, such as 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. His brother, Robert Schwartzman, is the lead singer in the band Rooney and has made small appearances in several films, including his cousin's The Virgin Suicides.

Coppola, with his family, expanded his business ventures to include winemaking in California's Napa Valley at the Rubicon Estate Winerymarker in Rutherfordmarker, California. He produced his first batch in 1977 with the help of his father, wife and children stomping the grapes barefoot. Every year the family has a harvest party to continue the tradition. His company, Francis Ford Coppola Presents, owns a winery in Geyservillemarker, Sonoma County, California. The company also produces a line of pastas and pasta sauces, and it owns several cafes and resorts.


Coppola owns the Turtle Inn in Placencia, Belize. For 14 years he co-owned the Rubicon restaurant in San Francisco along with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, the restaurant closed in August 2008.

Coppola serves as "Honorary Consul H. E. Ambassador Francis Ford Coppola." for the Central American nation of Belizemarker in San Francisco. In November 2005, Coppola took part as a special guest at the 46th International Thessaloniki Film Festival in Greece.

Coppola is currently living in the San Francisco Bay Areamarker. He also spends considerable time in Buenos Airesmarker, Argentina, where he is establishing a subsidiary of his production company. In San Francisco, Coppola owns a restaurant named Cafe Zoetrope, located in the Sentinel Building. It serves traditional Italian cuisine and wine from his personal vineyard and bottling company.

Over the years, Francis Coppola has given political contributions to several candidates of the Democratic Party, including Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi for the U.S. House of Representatives and Barbara Boxer and Alan Cranston for the U.S. Senate.



In the early 1960s, Coppola 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. After graduating to mainstream motion pictures with You're a Big Boy Now, Coppola was offered the reins of the movie version of the Broadwaymarker 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 Valleymarker 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. During this period, Coppola lived for a time with his wife and growing family in Mandeville Canyon in Brentwoodmarker, California, according to author Peter Biskind in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (Touchstone Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1998).

Early 1970s

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), The Conversation (1974), and The Godfather Part II (1974). In between directing the Godfather films, Coppola wrote the screenplay for the critically and commercially unsuccessful 1974 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, which was directed by Jack Clayton and starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. While at Warner Brothers Coppola hired George Lucas as his assistant and eventually produced Lucas' breakthrough film, American Graffiti, which was released in 1973. Also during this period, Coppola invested in San Francisco's City Magazine, hired an all-new staff, including mob daughter and writer Susan Berman, and named himself publisher. Although critically acclaimed, the magazine was short lived. The magazine floundered until 1976 when Coppola published its last issue.

The Godfather and The Godfather Part II

In 1972, The Godfather was released to critical acclaim and huge commercial success. Directed by Coppola (the first choice for director was Sergio Leone), and adapted by Coppola and Mario Puzo from Puzo's bestselling novel, The Godfather follows the story of the Corleone crime family under Don Vito Corleone during the 1940s and 50s. The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor for Marlon Brando. Coppola himself was awarded Best Adapted Screenplay, along with Mario Puzo, and was nominated for Best Director.

In 1974, the highly anticipated sequel The Godfather Part II was released. Again directed and co-written by Coppola, the second film follows the story of the Corleones under Don Michael Corleone in the late 1950s, intercut with sequences depicting Vito as a young man in the early twentieth century (played by Robert De Niro) and his subsequent rise to power. The sequel was as commercially successful as the first film and received much critical praise. It became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture; it also earned Coppola Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay while winning three other awards and earning five other nominations.

THX 1138 and American Graffiti

In the early 1970s Coppola also helped launch the career of George Lucas by producing his first two films, THX 1138 and American Graffiti. The latter film became a huge success at the box office and met to strong reviews, even earning Coppola a Best Picture nomination. Lucas would later go off to create the extremely successful Star Wars and Indiana Jones series. Coppola would later reunite with George Lucas in 1986 to direct the Michael Jackson film for Disney theme parks, Captain Eo, which at the time was the most expensive film per minute ever made.

The Conversation

In between The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, Coppola directed The Conversation, the 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, competing against The Godfather Part II; Coppola became one of the few directors to have two films competing for the Best Picture Oscar since the annual number of nominees was reduced to five in 1945. While The Godfather Part II won the Oscar, The Conversation won the 1974 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker.

Apocalypse Now

Following the success of The Godfather, The Conversation and The Godfather Part II, Coppola began filming Apocalypse Now, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness set in Cambodiamarker during the Vietnam War (Coppola himself briefly appears as a TV news director). Before production of the film began, Coppola went to his mentor Roger Corman for advice about shooting in the Philippines, since Corman had filmed several pictures there. It was said that all the advice Corman offered Coppola was "Don't go." The production of the film was plagued by numerous problems, including typhoons, nervous breakdowns, the firing of Harvey Keitel, Martin Sheen's heart attack, extras from the Philippine military leaving in the middle of scenes to go fight rebels, and an unprepared Marlon Brando with a bloated appearance (which Coppola attempted to hide by shooting him in the shadows). It was delayed so often it was nicknamed Apocalypse When?. The film was equally lauded and hated by critics when it finally appeared in 1979, and the cost of production nearly bankrupted Coppola's nascent studio American Zoetrope. The film was selected at the 1979 Cannes Film Festivalmarker and won the Palme d'Or, along with The Tin Drum, directed by Volker Schlöndorff.

Apocalypse Now's reputation has grown in time and Apocalypse Now is regarded by many as a masterpiece of the New Hollywood era. Roger Ebert considers it to be the finest film on the Vietnam war and included it on his list for the 2002 Sight and Sound poll for the greatest movie of all time.

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.

After filming Apocalypse Now, Coppola famously stated:
"We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little, we went insane."

In 2001, Coppola re-released Apocalypse Now as Apocalypse Now Redux, restoring several sequences lost from the original 1979 cut of the film, thereby expanding its length to 200 minutes.

The UK's 2008 Top Gear special episode, portraying the presenters' epic journey across Vietnam, prepended "Francis Ford" before each name in the rolling credits as a tribute to Coppola's work on this film.


Napoléon restoration and One from the Heart

Despite the setbacks during the making of Apocalypse Now, Coppola kept up with film projects, presenting in 1981 a restoration by the British film historian Kevin Brownlow of the celebrated 1927 Abel Gance film Napoléon that was released in the United States by American Zoetrope. Coppola's father scored a soundtrack for this cut of the film. However, more of the film has since been found and incorporated by Brownlow, and Carmine Coppola's soundtrack is written to match the film at a different frame speed from that at which Gance shot it. Coppola's insistence on his father's score (others do exist), and his claim to have worldwide rights on showings of the film (he purchased some rights from Claude Lelouch who in turn had purchased them from a penniless Gance), mean that this film is not presently screened, and its fullest form is unavailable on DVD.

Coppola returned to directing with the experimental musical One from the Heart (1982). The film was a financial failure.


Hammett is a 1982 homage to noir films and pulp fiction directed by Wim Wenders and completed by Francis Ford Coppola. The film is a fictionalized story about writer Dashiell Hammett, based on the novel of the same name by Joe Gores.German director Wenders was hired by Coppola to direct this film, which was to be his American debut feature. But by the time the final version was released in 1982, only 30 percent of Wenders' footage remained, and the rest had been completely reshot by Coppola. Wenders made a short film called Reverse Angle documenting his disputes with Coppola surrounding the making of Hammett.

The Outsiders

In 1982, he directed The Outsiders, a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton. Coppola credited his inspiration for making the film to a suggestion from middle school students who had read the novel. The Outsiders is notable for being the breakout film for a number of young actors who would go on to become major stars. These included major roles for Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, and C. Thomas Howell. Others rising stars in the cast include Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, and Tom Cruise. Matt Dillon and several others also starred in Coppola's related film, Rumble Fish, which was also based on a S.E. Hinton novel and filmed at the same time as The Outsiders on-location in Tulsa, Oklahomamarker. Carmine Coppola wrote and edited the musical score, including the title song "Stay Gold", which was based upon a famous Robert Frost poem and performed for the movie by Stevie Wonder.

The Cotton Club

In 1984 Coppola directed The Cotton Club. The film was produced by Robert Evans. It was a box-office failure, with a budget of $45 million and a gross revenue of only $25 million. Despite performing poorly at the box office, the film was nominated for several awards, including Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Picture (Drama) and the Oscar for best Film Editing.

Gardens of Stone and Tucker: The Man and His Dream

In 1987 Coppola reteamed with James Caan for Gardens of Stone but the film was overshadowed by the death of Coppola's eldest son Gian-Carlo Coppola during the film's production. Also in 1987 he directed an episode of Rip Van Winkle.

He followed this with Tucker: The Man and His Dream, a biopic based on the life of Preston Tucker and his attempt to produce and market the Tucker '48. Coppola had originally conceived the project as a musical with Marlon Brando in the lead role as his next project after the release of The Godfather Part II. Now, with Jeff Bridges in the role of Preston Tucker, the film received positive reviews, earning three nominations at the 62nd Academy Awards.

New York Stories

In 1989 Coppola teamed up with fellow Oscar-winning directors Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen for an anthology film called New York Stories. Coppola directedthe Life without Zoe segment starring his sister Talia Shire, and also co-wrote the film with his daughter Sofia Coppola. Life Without Zoe was mostly panned by critics and was generally considered the segment that brought the film's overall quality down.


The Godfather Part III

In 1990, he released the third and final chapter of The Godfather series with The Godfather Part III. Coppola successfully managed to get Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, and Talia Shire to return to the franchise, but Robert Duvall refused to reprise his role as Tom Hagen over salary disagreements. While not as critically acclaimed as the first two films, it was still a box office success. Some reviewers criticized the casting of Coppola's daughter Sofia, who stepped into a role abandoned by Winona Ryder just as filming began. Despite this, The Godfather Part III went off to gather 7 Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Picture for Coppola himself. The film failed to win any of these awards, the only film in the trilogy to do so.

Dracula, Frankenstein and recent films

In 1992, Coppola released Bram Stoker's Dracula, an adaptation of Stoker's novel which tried to follow Stoker's novel more closely than previous film adaptations, although its closeness to the book is often debated. Coppola cast Gary Oldman in the film's title role, along with Winona Ryder and Anthony Hopkins. The movie's box office success enabled Coppola to keep his vineyard. The film won Academy Awards for Costume Design, Makeup, and Sound Editing. Two years later Coppola produced, but did not direct an adaptation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which featured Kenneth Branagh (who also directed the film) in the title role and Robert De Niro as the monster.

Coppola would only make two more films in the 1990s: Jack, starring Robin Williams in 1996, and The Rainmaker, an ensemble courtroom drama in 1997. His next project would not be for another 10 years.

Youth Without Youth was released on December 14, 2007. It was made for about $19 million, and was given a limited release. As a result, Coppola announced his plans to produce his own films in order to avoid the marketing input that goes into most films (making them appeal to too-wide an audience).

His most recent film, Tetro, was shot in Buenos Airesmarker and was released in select cinemas in June 2009.

Meanwhile, for years, he has tried to make a movie called Megalopolis, a film about an architect in a futuristic New York who tries to create utopia through architecture.

Zoetrope: All Story

In 1997, Coppola founded Zoetrope: All-Story, a literary magazine devoted to short stories and design. The magazine publishes fiction by emerging writers alongside more recognizable names, such as Woody Allen, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, Alice Munro, Don DeLillo, Mary Gaitskill, and Edward Albee; as well as essays, including ones from Mario Vargas Llosa, David Mamet, Steven Spielberg, and Salman Rushdie. Each issue is designed, in its entirety, by a prominent artist, one usually working outside his / her expected field. Previous guest designers include Gus Van Sant, Tom Waits, Laurie Anderson, Marjane Satrapi, Guillermo del Toro, David Bowie, David Byrne, and Dennis Hopper. Coppola serves as founding editor and publisher of All-Story.


Year Film Academy Award Nominations Academy Award Wins
1963 Dementia 13
1966 You're a Big Boy Now 1
1968 Finian's Rainbow 2
1969 The Rain People
1972 The Godfather 10 3
1974 The Conversation 3
The Godfather Part II 11 6
1979 Apocalypse Now 8 2
1982 One from the Heart 1
Hammett (uncredited)
1983 The Outsiders
Rumble Fish
1984 The Cotton Club 2
1986 Captain EO
Peggy Sue Got Married 3
1987 Gardens of Stone
1988 Tucker: The Man and His Dream 3
1989 New York Stories
1990 The Godfather Part III 7
1992 Bram Stoker's Dracula 4 3
1996 Jack
1997 The Rainmaker
2000 Supernova (uncredited), with Walter Hill and Jack Sholder
2007 Youth Without Youth
2009 Tetro

Year Film
1963 Dementia 13
1966 This Property Is Condemned
Is Paris Burning?
You're a Big Boy Now
1969 The Rain People
1970 Patton
1972 The Godfather
1974 The Great Gatsby
The Conversation
The Godfather Part II
1979 Apocalypse Now
1982 One from the Heart
1983 Rumble Fish
1984 The Cotton Club
1986 Captain EO
1989 New York Stories
1990 The Godfather Part III
1997 The Rainmaker
2007 Youth Without Youth
2009 Tetro
TBA Mirror
TBA Megalopolis
TBA Descent


See also


Further reading
  • Jeffrey Chown. Hollywood Auteur: Francis Coppola. New York: Praeger Publishers, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1988. ISBN 0-275-92910-8.

External links

Year Film
1964 Battle Beyond the Sun (American re-edit only)
1995 The Fantasticks (uncredited)
2000 Supernova (uncredited)
2001 The Legend of Suriyothai (2003 US re-edit version)

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