Five time Academy Award winning director, screenwriter and producer Francis Ford Coppola is famous for directing such blockbusters as “The Godfather” (1972), “The Godfather, Part II” (1974) and “The Godfather, Part III” (1990), which he also co-scripted with Mario Puzo. For his efforts, he was handed a number of awards, including four Oscars, two Golden Globe Awards, two Director Guild of America Awards and two Writer Guild of America Awards. Coppola won his first Academy Award for his writing contribution to the 1970 film “Patton.” He also gained success with “The Conversation” (1974), which brought him two Cannes Film Festival Awards and a National Board of Review Award, and the Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now” (1979), from which he won two Golden Globe Awards, a BAFTA Award, a David di Donatello Award and two Cannes Film Festival Awards.
One of America's most noted filmmakers, Coppola, however, suffered setbacks after “Apocalypse Now” with a string of box office duds, including “One From the Heart” (1982), “The Outsiders” (1983), “Rumble Fish” (1983), “The Cotton Club” (1984) and “Gardens of Stone” (1987). He enjoyed better success as the director of “Peggy Sue Got Married” (1986), “Bram Stoker's Dracula” (1992, won a Saturn Award) and “John Grisham's 'The Rainmaker'” (1997) before taking a long term break from directing. He had an unaccredited stint in Walter Hill's science fiction thriller “Supernova” (2000) and resumed his directing career with “Youth Without Youth” (2007), an adaptation of Mircea Eliade's novella of the same name, which he also scripted, and the mystery “Tetro” (2009). As a producer, Coppola is known for producing his daughter Sofia Coppola's films “The Virgin Suicides” (1999), “Lost in Translation” (2003) and “Marie Antoinette” (2006) and other films such as “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) and “The Good Shepherd” (2006). He will serve as an executive producer on Sofia's new film “Somewhere” (2010).
Coppola was awarded the Berlinale Camera at the 1991 Berlin International Film Festival and Career Golden Lion at the 1992 Venice Film Festival. He went on to achieve a Career Award from the 1994 Cinema Writers Circle (Spain), the Billy Wilder Award from the 1997 National Board of Review, the Board of the Governors Award from the 1998 American Society of Cinematographers and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the 1998 Directors Guild of America. He also won the Mary Pickford Award at the 2001 Satellite Awards, the Special 50th Anniversary Award at the 2002 San Sebastián International Film Festival and the Gala Tribute from the 2002 Film Society of Lincoln Center. In 2003, he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Denver International Film Festival.
Coppola has been married to wife Eleanor Coppola since 1963. They have four children together, including the popular Roman Coppola and Sofia Coppola.
Childhood and Family:
Francis Ford Coppola was born on April 7, 1939, in Detroit, Michigan. He is the second of three children to Carmine Coppola, an Italian American popular composer, and actress Italia Pernnino. His older brother, August Floyd Coppola (born in 1934), a comparative literature professor, is the father of actor Nicolas Cage. He has a younger sister name Talia Rose Coppola (Talia Shire; born on April 24, 1946), who is an actress. The first flute player for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the senior Coppola landed a job as first flutist in the NBC Symphony and moved the family to New York. Young Francis spent the rest of his childhood there.
“When I was about nine, I had polio and people were very frightened for their children so you tended to be isolated. I was paralyzed for a while, so I watched television.” Francis Ford Coppola
At age 10, Francis was diagnosed with polio and had to stay in bed for nine months. During this time, he continuously watched TV and developed a passion for making puppet shows as entertainment. With his father's 8mm movie camera, he began making movies. Thanks to his family’s support, he gradually recovered and was able to return to school. An accomplished tuba player, he was accepted into the New York Military Academy at Cornwall On-Hudson, but was frustrated by the school's emphasis on sports. As a result, he ran away to Manhattan after eight months and returned to high school. In addition to playing the tuba, he also began writing plays at school. His writing earned him a scholarship to Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, from which he received a B.A. in drama in 1960. At Hofstra, he emerged as one of the top students and a troublemaker. He did not want to become a filmmaker until after watching Sergei Eisenstein's “Ten Days That Shook The World” (1927). He subsequently pursued his ambitions at UCLA Film School, from which he received an MFA in 1967.
On February 2, 1963, Francis married Eleanor Coppola (born Eleanor Jessie Neil). Their children include Gian-Carlo Coppola (born in 1963, killed in seafaring accident in 1986), Roman Coppola (born on April 22, 1965; an actor/director/producer), Mary Coppola and Sofia Coppola (born on May 14, 1971; an actress/producer/writer/director).
While at UCLA, Francis Ford Coppola shot a number of short films, among them some soft core porn films that led to his recruitment as the right hand man of independent auteur Roger Corman. For Corman, he dubbed, reedited and rewrote a Soviet science fiction film titled “Nebo zovyot/The Heaven's Call” (1960) into a monster film called “Battle Beyond the Stars” (1962). He went on to serve as an assistant director and dialog director for Corman's “The Premature Burial” and “Tower of London” (both also 1962). That same year, the then-23 year old Coppola won notice for his writing job on his UCLA screenplay “Pilma, Pilma” (never produced), for which he netted the Samuel Goldwyn Award. Work as part of a scriptwriting team for Seven Arts (later Warner Brothers Seven Arts) soon followed.
Coppola made his feature film directing debut with “Dementia 13” (1963), a horror film produced by Corman, which he also wrote. He gained attention with his second directing effort, “You're a Big Boy Now” (1966), which he adapted from a novel by David Benedictus. The movie wowed critics and earned him a Golden Palm nomination at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival and a Best Written American Comedy nomination from the Writers Guild of America. Under his direction, Geraldine Page received an Academy nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and a Golden Globe nomination in the same category. The success subsequently established Coppola as a new director of talent and promise. He next directed “Finian's Rainbow” (1968), which although was a box office flop, introduce him to George Lucas who worked as a production assistant on his next movie, “The Rain People” (1969), which he wrote and directed. Starring Shirley Knight and James Caan, “The Rain People” won Coppola a Golden Seashell from the 1969 San Sebastián International Film Festival.
Coppola also contributed to the script of René Clément's “Is Paris Burning” (1966) and Sydney Pollack's “This Property is Condemned” (1966). It was his work on Franklin J. Schaffner's biopic “Patton” (1970), based on the biography “Patton: Ordeal and Triumph” by Ladislas Farago and Omar N. Bradley's memoir “A Soldier's Story” that brought him his first Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced, as well as a WGA award for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen. He shared the acknowledgment with writing partner Edmund H. North.
In 1971, Coppola executive produced the science fiction film “THX-1138” through a joint venture with his newly established company, American Zoetrope, and Warner Brothers. Written and directed by first timer George Lucas, the film was rejected by the studio and suffered a loss at the box office. The disappointment caused Coppola to repay the $300,000 debt to Warner.
Coppola's luck was subsequently changed when he directed and co-wrote (with Mario Puzo) the crime drama “The Godfather” (1972), which was based on Puzo's 1969 novel of the same name. Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan, the film was a huge success at the box office and grossed over $133 million worldwide against its $6.5 million budget. It was also a success with the critics and collected 3 Oscars. For his work, Coppola won an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, Golden Globes for Best Director - Motion Picture and Best Screenplay, a Writers Guild of America for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, a Directors Guild of America for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures and a Kansas City Film Critics Circle for Best Director. He also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
“’The Godfather’ changed my life, for better or worse. It definitely made me have an older man's film career when I was 29. So now I say, 'If I had my older career when I was young, as an older man maybe I can have a young filmmaker's career.” Francis Ford Coppola
Coppola next produced the 60’s nostalgia flick “American Graffiti” (1973), which served as Lucas' star making vehicle, wrote the screenplay for Jack Clayton's “The Great Gatsby” (1974), based on a novel by F Scott Fitzgerald, and directed and wrote the crime film “The Conversation” (1974). Starring Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest and featuring Harrison Ford, Teri Garr and an unaccredited appearance from Robert Duvall, the movie brought him Oscar nominations for Best Feature and Best Writing, Original Screenplay, a National Board of Review for Best Director and the Golden Palm and Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival.
Coppola's next massive victory arrived later that same year when he was reunited with Puzo for the highly successful installment “The Godfather: Part II” (1974). Still starring Al Pacino as Don Michael Corleone, the movie won Coppola Oscars for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material, in addition to other awards like a Writers Guild of America for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, a National Society of Film Critics and a Kansas City Film Critics Circle for Best Director. He also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Director - Motion Picture and Best Screenplay - Motion Picture.
By the end of 1975, Coppola had commenced work on “Apocalypse Now,” which eventually earned a theatrical release in 1979. Starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Blando, the Vietnam War film scored an emotional premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it nabbed a Golden Palm and FIPRESCI Prize. Coppola went on to win Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Original Score and a BAFTA and David di Donatello for Best Director. With a production budget of $31.5 million, the film grossed over $78 million at the domestic market with a worldwide total of about $150 million.
Following “Apocalypse Now,” Coppola, dealt with several disappointments. “One From the Heart” (1982) grossed only $636,796 against its $26 million budget, while the S.E. Hinton adaptations “The Outsiders” (1983) and “Rumble Fish” (1983) failed to charm critics or audiences although the latter film earned Coppola the FIPRESCI Prize and OCIC Award at the 1984 San Sebastián International Film Festival. The Richard Gere/Gregory Hines starring vehicle “The Cotton Club” (1984) made only $25,928,721 against a budget of over $50 million. Eventually, Zoetrope Studios filed for Chapter 11 in 1990.
In 1986, Coppola directed the 3 D film “Captain EO,” which starred Michael Jackson. The same year, he directed “Peggy Sue Got Married” (1986), which starred Kathleen Turner and his nephew Nicolas Cage. “Peggy Sue Got Married” enjoyed respectable success at the box office. It marked the first commercial victory for Coppola since “Apocalypse Now.” The following year, he made his TV directing debut with “Rip Van Winkle,” which aired as part of Showtime's “Faerie Tale Theatre.” He quickly returned to the big screen with “Gardens of Stone” (1987), which was adapted by Ronald Bass from the novel of the same name by Nicholas Proffitt, “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” (1988), a financial disappointing biopic that starred Jeff Bridges as Preston Tucker, and the “Life Without Zoe” segment of “New York Stories” (1989), which he co-wrote with his daughter Sofia.
Entering the 1990s, Coppola completed the Godfather trilogy with “The Godfather: Part III” (1990), which won a Fotogramas de Plata for Best Foreign Film. Although it was not as successful as its predecessors, the film earned over $136 million against its budget of $54 million. He recalled, “I think 'Godfather III' had a lot of good things about it. It had good potential. I think it was made a little too rushed because it was made in one year and they wanted it out that Christmas. It was a big, complex, difficult story. I think if I had spent more time writing it I would have solved or defined some of the issues better, rather than doing it while we were shooting. Also I think the loss of the Robert Duvall as a character made a difference. As I look back on it, he was a very important part of that story. Clearly he was the most important character still living from the other movies so I think ultimately losing the Hagen character was more than I was able to write my way out of so quickly. I could have done it had we not started shooting right away.”
Two years later, Coppola was put back in the spotlight as the director of the horror film “Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'” (1992), which starred Gary Oldman as Count Dracula. The movie grossed over $215 million worldwide and received generally favorable reviews from critics. He took home a Saturn from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for Best Director and a Fotogramas de Plata for Best Foreign Film (Mejor Película Extranjera). His follow up directorial effort, “Jack” (1996), starring Robin Williams, however, was a flop at the box office. He fared better with John Grisham's “The Rainmaker” (1997), which he directed and scripted.
After “The Rainmaker,” Coppola took a break from directing and focused on his career as a producer. He executive produced the Sci-Fi Channel series “First Wave” (1998), television films like “Survival on the Mountain” (1997), “Buddy” (1997), “Moby Dick” (1998) and “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” (1999), and produced the movies “Lani Loa: The Passage” (1998), “The Virgin Suicides” (1999), his daughter Sofia's directing and writing debut, and “The Florentine” (1999). He also served as an executive producer on Agnieszka Holland's “The Third Miracle” (1999), Aleta Chappelle's “Goosed” (1999) and Tim Burton's “Sleepy Hollow” (1999). Coppola also launched the literary magazine “Zoetrope” in 1997.
Coppola continued to lend his producing talents to such films as Victor Salva's “Jeepers Creepers” (2001), Hal Hartley's “No Such Thing” (2001), “In My Life” (2002, TV), Anthony Abrams and Adam Larson Broder's “Pumpkin” (2002), Robert Duvall's “Assassination Tango” (2002) and “Jeepers Creepers II” (2003). He then executive produced the Scarlett Johansson/Bill Murray vehicle “Lost in Translation” (2003), which was an award winning film written and directed by his daughter Sofia, Bill Kondon's drama “Kinsey” (2004) and the direct to video “Forever Is a Long, Long Time” (2004). In 2006, Coppola was reunited with his daughter when he executive produced “Marie Antoinette” (2006), which won an Oscar for costume design. The same year, he served as an executive producer on “The Good Shepherd,” which was directed by Robert De Niro and starred Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie.
Returning to the director's chair, Coppola scripted and directed “Youth Without Youth” (2007), a low budget, self financed project adapted from the novella of the same name by Romanian author Mircea Eliade. Made in 2005, the movie starred Tim Roth, Alexandra Maria Lara and Bruno Ganz. Two years later, he directed Matt Dillon in the drama “Tetro” (2009), which he also wrote and produced. His more recent producing effort is “Somewhere” (2010), a dramatic comedy written and directed by daughter Sofia.
Denver International Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2003
Film Society of Lincoln Center: Gala Tribute, 2002
San Sebastián International Film Festival: Special 50th Anniversary Award for his impressive career, 2002
Satellite: Mary Pickford, 2001
American Society of Cinematographers: Board of the Governors, 1998
Directors Guild of America: Lifetime Achievement Award, 1998
National Board of Review: Billy Wilder, 1997
Cinema Writers Circle (Spain): Career Award, 1994
Fotogramas de Plata: Best Foreign Film (Mejor Película Extranjera), “Dracula,” 1994
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films: Saturn, Best Director, “Dracula,” 1993
Venice Film Festival: Career Golden Lion, 1992
Fotogramas de Plata: Best Foreign Film (Mejor Película Extranjera), The Godfather: Part III, 1992
Berlin International Film Festival: Berlinale Camera, 1991
San Sebastián International Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, “Rumble Fish,” 1984
San Sebastián International Film Festival: OCIC, “Rumble Fish,” 1984
David di Donatello: Best Producer - Foreign Film (Migliore Produttore Straniero), “Kagemusha,” 1981
Golden Globe: Best Director - Motion Picture, “Apocalypse Now,” 1980
Golden Globe: Best Original Score - Motion Picture, “Apocalypse Now,” 1980
BAFTA: Best Direction, “Apocalypse Now,” 1980
David di Donatello: Best Director - Foreign Film (Migliore Regista Straniero), “Apocalypse Now,” 1980
Cannes Film Festival: FIPRESCI Prize, Competition, “Apocalypse Now,” 1979
Cannes Film Festival: Golden Palm, “Apocalypse Now,” 1979
Oscar: Best Director, “The Godfather: Part II,” 1975
Oscar: Best Picture, “The Godfather: Part II,” 1975
Oscar: Writing, Screenplay Adapted From Other Material, “The Godfather: Part II,” 1975
Directors Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, “The Godfather: Part II,” 1975
Writers Guild of America: Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, “The Godfather: Part II,” 1975
Kansas City Film Critics Circle: Best Director, “The Godfather: Part II” and “The Conversation,” 1975
National Society of Film Critics: Best Director, “The Godfather: Part II,” 1975
Cannes Film Festival: Golden Palm, “The Conversation,” 1974
Cannes Film Festival: Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special Mention, “The Conversation,” 1974
National Board of Review: Best Director, “The Conversation,” 1974
Oscar: Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium, “The Godfather,” 1973
Golden Globe: Best Director - Motion Picture, “The Godfather,” 1973
Golden Globe: Best Screenplay, “The Godfather,” 1973
Kansas City Film Critics Circle: Best Director, “The Godfather,” 1973
Directors Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, “The Godfather,” 1973
Writers Guild of America: Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium, “The Godfather,” 1973
Oscar: Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced, “Patton,” 1971
Writers Guild of America: Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen, “Patton,” 1971
San Sebastián International Film Festival: Golden Seashell, “The Rain People,” 1969