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Overview for Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola


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Also Known As: Frank Coppola,Thomas Colchart,Francis Coppola Died:
Born: April 7, 1939 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan, USA Profession: Producer ... director producer screenwriter composer executive magazine publisher vintner restaurateur


he began what would become a $55 million rumor-bound production in November 1989, reuniting screenwriters Coppola and Puzo, as well as stars Pacino, Keaton and Shire. Coppola's decision to cast daughter Sofia in a pivotal role after Winona Ryder withdrew due to illness backfired miserably, turning a pivotal role into an industry laughingstock. His daughter's failure to capture the part was widely cited as one of the film's worst flaws - leading to cries of nepotism. Studio pressure to meet a December release terminated the editing process prematurely, leaving essentially an unfinished product that seemed aimless and uncertain. A revised "Godfather III" was later made available in the DVD version. Though it remained nowhere near as good as the first two parts, it was far superior to the original theatrical release, thanks to Walter Murch's additional editing. Autumnal, sad, and full of confessions, "The Godfather III" was one of Coppola's most candid films and better than originally believed.

Throughout Coppola's career, shaky business ventures magnified the problems of his box-office flops. In the 1960s, he had poured profits from screenwriting into an ill-fated venture called Scopitone, a precursor of music videos, which showed short movies on a juke box, while the 1970s saw him quickly lose $1.5 million on the San Francisco-based City Magazine during his stewardship. Though the bankruptcy of American Zoetrope signaled his ultimate failure to establish himself independent of the Hollywood power structure, the success of a few mid-'90s films restored Coppola's fortune and subsequent investments later thrived. He bought Blancaneaux, a 50-acre property on the banks of the Privassion River in Belize and began operating it as a luxury hotel in 1993. The following year, he opened - along with partners Robert De Niro, Robin Williams and restaurateur Drew Nieporent - Rubicon, a San Francisco restaurant. Coppola paid $10 million in 1995 to purchase the balance of the old Inglenook wine-producing property, completing his dream estate and expanding his wine company, Niebaum-Coppola. He later offered a food line, "Francis Coppola Selects," reflecting his love of cooking that featured olive oils, vinegars and sun-dried tomatoes.

It would be his growing wine business, in fact, that would keep his name alive, as his nineties film offerings were mostly forgettable, with Coppola more or less a director for hire. He did, however, score a huge success at the helm of "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992) with the help of a stunning production design (Thomas Sanders), superb cinematography (Michael Ballhaus) and chilling music (Wojciech Kilar). A sumptuous visual extravaganza that more than compensated for lapses in the story, the film grossed $200 million worldwide and carried home Oscars for makeup, sound effects editing and costume design. His nine-year-old granddaughter's request that he make something for kids influenced his next directorial choice. "Jack" (1996) starred Robin Williams as a 10-year-old child with a disorder that caused him to grow four times faster than normal and to have the appearance of a 40-year-old man. The fable, a kind of "Peggy Sue Got Married" premise dealing with Jack's diminished life expectancy, appealed to Coppola for its parallel to his son Gian-Carlo's tragically short but full life. Regrettably, the movie failed to resonate with audiences and pulled up lame at the box office. He picked a proven winner as his next project, scripting and helming the film adaptation of "John Grisham's 'The Rainmaker'" (1997), one of the best of the Grisham adaptations, but one that still lacked the fire and inspiration of Coppola's finer works. After "The Rainmaker," Coppola took nearly a decade off, before returning with "Youth Without Youth" (2007), a low-budget thriller about a fugitive (Tim Roth) fleeing across Europe before the onset of World War II. He then helmed "Tetro" (2009), a drama centered on an artistic immigrant family in Buenos Aires.e impact. Both also lost money. Nevertheless, they captured the writer's world, as Coppola had intended, and provided screen introductions for an astonishing number of young actors who would, within a few years, dominate Hollywood, including Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Nicolas Cage, C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Christopher Penn and Diane Lane.

Coppola's run of bad luck continued with "The Cotton Club" (1984), an ambitious musical set in the famous Harlem jazz club of the 1920s. Despite putting the script through nearly 40 drafts before the trouble-plagued production began, Coppola was hamstrung by the predetermined character of white cornetist Dixie Dwyer (dictated by Richard Gere's contract), which led to an improbable and incoherent story. Coupled with that problem was Coppola's unmitigated fascination with huge state-of-the-art production methods that ballooned costs to $48 million and had him spending most of his time in his customized high-tech trailer - the 'Silverfish' - surrounded by cameras, monitors, consoles and computers. It was a pure recipe for disaster. Still, he continued his love affair with technology for his television directing debut, "Rip Van Winkle" (Showtime, 1985), crafting many of the fantastic scenes with computer imaging systems. Meanwhile, along with producer George Lucas, he was able to indulge himself by making "Captain EO" (1985), a 12-minute space fantasy for Disney theme parks starring pop superstar Michael Jackson.

Coppola next helmed the light time-travel comedy, "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986), and though it suffered for its inevitable comparisons to "Back to the Future" (1985), it managed a respectable box office. In spite of a weak script, Coppola constructed the tale around a series of poignant encounters; the most powerful - like when Peggy sees her grandparents as they were 25 years earlier - causing the audience to choke-up right along with the time-traveling heroine. A high school student himself in the 1950s, Coppola effectively conveyed an authentic look and feel for the period. The film solidified Kathleen Turner's reputation as an A-list actress and made a star of Coppola's nephew, Nicolas Cage, although some thought him grating in his turn as Peggy Sue's husband. An aura of tragedy surrounded "Gardens of Stone" (1987), a well-acted Vietnam War-era drama played out on the home front, which pleased some critics, but not audiences. During its filming, Coppola's eldest son Gian-Carlo was accidentally killed in a boating accident, due to the negligence of actor and star of "Gardens," Griffin O'Neal, who was later charged with manslaughter for driving the boat recklessly and under the influence of drugs. After replacing O'Neal, Coppola managed to finish the film, albeit with a heavy heart.

The far more impressive "Tucker: The Man and His Dream" (1988) starred Jeff Bridges in the role of the real-life 1940s auto-industry visionary. Coppola had been planning to make this film since the early 1970s, when he had become fascinated with the story of Preston Tucker, the brash but intelligent entrepreneur who dared to challenge the Detroit establishment. The story was not without parallels to Coppola's own career in Hollywood, but more importantly, "Tucker" focused attention on entrepreneurship and innovation at a time in American history when those qualities were sorely lacking. Like "Peggy Sue," "Tucker" also revealed a striking sense of period. Because Coppola used the cinematic conventions of the 1940s to capture the look and feel of the time, "Tucker" was as much about his own memory of the period as it was about the period itself.

Coppola was working in Rome when the opportunity arose to direct "Godfather III" (1990). In desperate need of a hit, Coppola acceded to Paramount chairman Frank Mancuso's pleas for a third installment in the series. Bargaining for full artistic control over the project,t

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