Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life

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9780747551362: Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life

Beginning with his birth in 1939 to Italian-American parents, through his early years as a maverick director and screenwriter, right up to his legal victory over Warner Bros in 1998, this book explores Coppola's professional development into one of the finest directors of his generation.

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The terrible fact about Francis Ford Coppola's career is that it will always be divided evenly in half, down a line called Apocalypse Now. Before that film is prodigious promise--an Academy Award for writing Patton, two uncannily fine Godfather movies, and the Antonioni-esque smallness of The Conversation. After, there is telescoping debt, talk of reinventing the studios, and multiple, hollow exercises in style. If that's a tough assessment, it's one borne out by this thick, fair biography. The author, Michael Schumacher, who has previously published books on Allen Ginsberg and Eric Clapton, makes much of Coppola's boyhood spell of polio, from which he emerged miraculously healthy and movie-mad. He orchestrated his life thereafter with a consequent mania, as though making up for lost time. While still in film school, he sold screenplays and made Z-budget drive-in movies for Roger Corman. In two years, he wrote 12 scripts for 7 Arts, and in the mid-1960s started a family, made You're a Big Boy Now and Finian's Rainbow, pushed George Lucas to write THX1138, founded American Zoetrope, and took a job, purely for the money, directing The Godfather. The chapters on Apocalypse Now are the book's highlights, and without saying as much they explain the spent quality at the core of Coppola's films in the next two decades. After hurricanes in Manila, Marlon Brando, and the ungodly beauty of those helicopters at dawn, whose career wouldn't wing straight to twilight? --Lyall Bush

From the Inside Flap:

"So you still want to direct films?" Coppola wearily asked one of his assistants after a long day of shooting on The Godfather.
"Always remember three things. Have the definitive script ready before you shoot. There'll always be some changes, but they should be small ones. Second, work with people you trust and feel secure with. Remember good crew people you've worked with on other films and get them for your film. Third, make your actors feel very secure so they can do their job well."

Pausing for a moment, Coppola considered his advice.

"I've managed to do none of these things on this film," he concluded.

Francis Ford Coppola is one of the seminal filmmakers of the generation that changed the way movies are made. Five of the films he's worked on are listed among the American Film Institute's top 100 films ever made. He is a man who's spent his life seeking to realize his own artistic vision even as he acknowledges the force that truly drives Hollywood--box office receipts.

Francis Ford Coppola: A Filmmaker's Life is the first complete picture of the flawed cinematic genius who directed the Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, and other distinctive films--some wildly successful, some disastrous.

Coppola is on every film aficionado's list of Hollywood's greatest directors. But he is renowned nearly as much for his mistakes as for his masterpieces, for his bluster as for his brilliance, for the money he has lost as for the fortunes he has made. In an era when playing it safe seems to be the credo of the Hollywood/Wall Street complex, Coppola is a driven, unpredictable renegade who has repeatedly gambled everything in an effort to bring his ideas to life, regardless of the cost.

In Francis Ford Coppola, we hear the entire story of this man's career covered in more detail than ever before: from his apprenticeship under Roger Corman to his winning a Director's Guild Lifetime Achievement Award. Along the way, we learn how he turned a pulp Mafia novel into a cinematic classic, how he almost literally killed himself during the filming of Apocalypse Now, and how he confirmed Hollywood's predictions about him, with various flops and follies along the way.

In the hands of biographer Michael Schumacher--who gained unprecedented access to Coppola's friends, critics, peers, casts, and crews--the story of Francis Ford Coppola makes for irresistible reading and the first complete picture of this complex, conflicted genius.

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