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If you like Francis Ford Coppola's story, you might also like:
Tenley Albright,
James Cameron,
Nora Ephron,
Ron Howard,
Peter Jackson,
George Lucas,
Jonas Salk and
Robert Zemeckis

Francis Ford Coppola's recommended reading: A Streetcar Named Desire

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Francis Ford Coppola in the Achievement Curriculum section:
Media & The Arts

Related Links:
Coppola Vineyards

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Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola
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Francis Ford Coppola Interview (page: 3 / 4)

Filmmaker, Producer and Screenwriter

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  Francis Ford Coppola

Tell us about the film you directed for Roger Corman.

Francis Ford Coppola: Roger had a technique. He would make a film, usually paid for by AIP, American International Pictures. He would put together the team and the equipment to make the film, and then, after it was over, he would make a second film, because all of those expenses were already paid. You'd get a real bargain on it.

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Roger said he was going to make a film in Europe and asked me if I knew anyone who could be like the sound man on it. So, I said, "Oh, I could." Of course, I didn't know anything about it. I mean, I was good with technology, but I had never done the sound. So I took the recorder home and read the instructions, and Roger did take me.

[ Key to Success ] Courage

Francis Ford Coppola Interview Photo
About three-quarters through that film, which was called, The Young Racers Roger was called back home to direct The Raven with Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff. I knew he couldn't pass up a bargain to make another film while were in Europe. So I said, "Roger, you know, I have a script that could be made. It's kind of like Psycho. He always wanted a film that was like some hit film. Hitchcock's Psycho was a big deal at the time. I said, "I have this script..." and he said, "Show me some of it."

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I showed him the three pages I wrote that night, which was of course, the most garish kind of action scene I could come up with. And he said, "Okay." And I went off. He gave me a check for $20,000. He sent me with a young woman who had worked on the production who was going to be the co-signer -- and I went to Ireland. When I was in Ireland, I met another producer and I said I was making a film for Roger, and this guy offered to buy the English rights for another $20,000. So I had now $40,000. Roger, of course, expected to get his $20,000 back, still make the movie for the 20 with the English rights, and get the film for free. But I sort of just duped him. I took both checks and I put it in the bank. And I had this young woman sign the check, and I just kind of made the amount to the whole amount, so she basically was out of the check signing. Then I made the movie for $40,000, which was this little black-and-white horror film called Dementia 13, which we made in about nine days.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

You wrote it in a couple of days?

Francis Ford Coppola Interview Photo
Francis Ford Coppola: I wrote it that first week in Ireland. I had this one scene that I had showed Roger, and then I came up with the rest. I stayed up all night or something.

Which films really stand out in your memory?

Francis Ford Coppola: The professional world was much more unpleasant than I thought. I was always wishing I could get back that enthusiasm I had when I was doing shows at college. When I was young and it was new to me, it just seemed like so much fun. You didn't want to go home at night, or you'd come back late at night and do some more work on it.

I always found the film world unpleasant. It's all about the schedule, and never really flew for me in the way that my very happy college career did. I would have to say that the happiest days that I can remember were when The Godfather was over and I didn't have to go there anymore, or when Apocalypse was over.

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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.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

So I took a job right away when it was done. They needed someone to write a script of The Great Gatsby very quickly for the movie they were making. I took this job so I'd be sure to have some dough to support my family.

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I went off, and I don't know why I was in Paris, but I was in Paris, staying up all night writing this Gatsby script, and that's when The Godfather opened. And it was this enormous success! So I would just get a phone call and they'd say, "Oh yeah, it's going great! Everyone loved it!" I'd say, "Oh, yeah, really? I can't get this script done." It's ironic that probably the greatest moment of my career, certainly at age 32 or so, making The Godfather, having such enormous success, wasn't even one that I was aware of, because I was somewhere else and I was, again, under the deadline. Certainly, it was a wonderful night when we won all those Oscars for Godfather II, because at first, that picture came out, and people, they really didn't like it too much. But to I have to be honest, that I associate my motion picture career more with being unhappy, and being scared, or being troubled, or being under the gun, and not at al with anything pleasant.

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This page last revised on Oct 27, 2010 16:08 EST