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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

Filmmaker, Producer and Screenwriter

June 17, 1994
Las Vegas, Nevada

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  Francis Ford Coppola

I understand that when you were young, you watched a lot of TV. Could you tell us about that?

Francis Ford Coppola: My father was a musician. He was always interested in the new things, for that reason. He would come home from New York, and he did bring a television home, around 1945, right at the end of the Second World War. I was about 6. So I remember growing up with television, from the time it was just a test pattern, with maybe a little bit of programming once in a while.

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When I was about nine, I had polio, and one of the conditions of polio was -- of course, it was -- people were very frightened for their children, so you tended, if you had it, to be isolated. So there was about a year and a half when I stayed at home. I was paralyzed for a while. And so I basically watched television, and listened to the radio, and played with a tape recorder, and puppets, and my day was made up of those kinds of things.

When did you know what you wanted to do?

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Francis Ford Coppola: I was interested in two things, always. One was science, and the stories of the scientists and scientific experimentation. I liked very much to work in a shop down in the basement, and try to invent things and build gadgets. And at the same time I was interested in stories. And I had an older brother who was very interested in literature, and so I had an early exposure to literature, and what have you, and theater. My father sometimes would work in musical comedies, so I would have the opportunity to see musical comedies. Ultimately, those different technical, and sort of story interests -- around high school, or early high school -- I started to do the lighting, work on the lighting of the drama productions, and be around the shows. And so I started to become interested in theater, and I thought I wanted to be a playwright, because I was interested in stories and telling stories.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

When did it become film that you wanted to do?

Francis Ford Coppola: When I was a college student. I had enrolled in the drama department, and my father was not very pleased with that. He wanted me to study some more practical profession, engineering, or something, because I did have ability in science. But I won a playwriting scholarship to what was then Hofstra College, now Hofstra University. I was immersed in theater production, and started to direct theater.

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One afternoon, I remember, around four o'clock in a building called the Little Theater, I noticed a notice that they were going to show a film called Ten Days That Shook The World, by Eisenstein. And I went in to see it, it was pretty long, and there were only two or three other people. But I was so impressed with this film -- and it was a silent film -- but so impressed with what cinema could do. And, of course, having quite a bit of experience in theater -- but that afternoon, I think, was when I decided that I would not go into theater.

For me the specific decision was whether I was going to go to the Yale Drama School, or UCLA. At that point, I decided I was going into movies. Even my last year or two of college I was always trying to start a cinema workshop, or make a little film. One summer I actually tried to make a film. Then when I was graduated in 1960, I went to UCLA, to the graduate film school program.

What makes the movie art form so exciting to you?

Francis Ford Coppola: It combines so many other art forms, as do theater and opera, but the essence of cinema is editing. It's the combination of what can be extraordinary images, images of people during emotional moments, or just images in a general sense, but put together in a kind of alchemy. A number of images put together a certain way become something quite above and beyond what any of them are individually.

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This, of course, was one of the elements of the Eisenstein film that was so exciting. How the editing was able to take -- that's always fascinating -- take this, and this, and put it together, and have something come out that was neither of those two things. Of course, the sense of rhythm that editing can do! I was struck, I remember, on Ten Days That Shook The World, how although it was a silent film, there were sequences where you actually almost could hear the machine guns firing, because of the way it was edited. So it's a form of alchemy, of magic, that is very appealing. I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. Because the very earliest people who made film were magicians. One of the aspects of it was the idea of an illusion, a magical illusion, in the early days of movies.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

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A lot of early magicians began experimenting, using basically what is cinema to do their illusions. And of course we know that some of the early pioneers, like Meliès and what have you, were magicians who used cinema to create illusions. So I think cinema always had -- as did theater for me -- this ability to create some kind of magic, either through lighting -- but to use technology to create magic is what appealed to me, I think.

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This page last revised on Nov 06, 2007 15:27 PDT