Cover image for Francis Ford Coppola : a filmmaker's life
Francis Ford Coppola : a filmmaker's life
Schumacher, Michael.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
viii, 536 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1998.3.C67 S38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"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.

Author Notes

Michael Schumacher is the author of six books, including biographies of Allen Ginsberg, Phil Ochs, and Eric Clapton. He lives in Wisconsin.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A film director's biography invariably winds up being a chase to uncover aspects of his or her films that add up to the director's signature, accounting, in some way, for the contributions of the master of light, the cinematographer. These two biographies proceed along different paths, but both seek to identify the directors' inimitable touch on the films they claim and on those they dismiss. Schumacher posits a wealth of details about all aspects of the creation of most of Coppola's films. In detail, he works on Dementia 13 through John Grisham's The Rainmaker (with enough discussion to situate in the director's oeuvre the three films that were barely features, e.g., the HBO special Rip Van Winkle), charting Coppola's techniques with actors and crew, the integration of his family into the work, and his well-publicized battles with Hollywood executives. Much emphasis is given to the battles and the financial and emotional toll brought to bear on the filmmaker, because therein Schumacher develops his theme of the wunderkind battling the powers that be for his creative prerogatives. And it has been a hair-raising ride for Coppola, seemingly exacerbated owing to his extreme arrogance and unshakeable belief in his abilities to push filmmaking further than it had been before. Schumacher broadens his story with well-placed digressions into the progress of Coppola's contemporaries, such as director George Lucas and producer Robert Evans. What he ends up with is a thoroughly engaging biography that teaches much about the nurturing of the creative process. Walker and his coauthors delve right into their man's films in a way that recalls the film studies in the old Film Comment quarterly. And though Kubrick, who died recently, was obsessed with controlling his work, like Coppola, these writers know from the onset that Kubrick, with the glaring exception of Spartacus, perhaps because it lacks an artistic coherence or because Kubrick dismissed it, maintained control of all facets of his films. They acknowledge his reclusive behavior but insist that taking up permanent residence in England was beneficial. The task is to lay out the analysis of the films to prove auteur, made more complete by asserting their man's expertise with the camera. Kubrick, to these critics, was not Hollywood's boy. They even try to prove that his work bares the stamp of European sensitivities; Kubrick, for these critics, showed the influence of Max Ophuls and Fritz Lang during his German expressionist years. For them, Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's thirteenth and last film, excellently realizes its European source. Nonetheless, in its own way, this is a fitting tribute and solid biography of the work of a master of film collaboration. --Bonnie Smothers

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is not an authorized biography, though it often reads like one because Schumacher systematically defends director and screenwriter Coppola against the critics who have panned his films as contrived, excessively violent or a triumph of style over substance. Still, he presents a brisk and astute portrait of one of the most influential directors of the past 30 years, adept at both operatic blockbusters (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) and smaller personal movies (John Grisham's The Rainmaker). The inner man remains elusive, although SchumacherÄbiographer of Allen Ginsberg, Phil Ochs and Eric ClaptonÄdelves deeply into such personal crises as Coppola's childhood polio, during which he recuperated by making home movies; his protracted affair with a young, unnamed screenwriter, which nearly wrecked his marriage; and the devastating impact of his son Gian-Carlo's tragic death in a boating accident in 1986. The book's real strength lies in its flavorful behind-the-scenes re-creation of the making of all of Coppola's movies. Cameos of Nicholas Cage, Marlon Brando, Winona Ryder, Fred Astaire and many other stars nearly steal the show. Schumacher tends to portray Coppola as an uncompromising visionary who waged a career-long battle to free himself from the Hollywood dream factory's constrictive commercial dictates. Yet the lingering question is why the relentlessly driven filmmaker abandoned his creative, auteuristic endeavors in favor of safer, more profitable work-for-hire films. In any case, Coppola fans will rejoice. 16 pages of photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Coppola made his reputation as a director by winning back-to-back Best Picture Oscars for The Godfather, Parts 1 and 2. The exuberant Coppola was like a godfather to the new American cinema movement of the 1970s. Since then, contend critics, he has not fulfilled his early promise, eclipsed by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and others. Schumacher (There but for Fortune: A Life of Phil Ochs) has written a comprehensive review of Coppola's turbulent career with the cooperation of the director and many of his colleagues. Topics include Coppola's start directing nudie movies, his apprenticeship under B-movie mogul Roger Corman, and his friendship with George Lucas. On the personal side, Schumacher describes the involvement of Coppola's family in his films, including father Carmine, wife Eleanor (herself a gifted filmmaker), and son Gio, whose death in a boating accident devastated Coppola. Film buffs will enjoy the juicy details on the making of the Godfather films and anecdotes on the chaotic shoot of Apocalypse Now. Coppola is a larger-than-life subject, and this book deserves a large audience in public and academic libraries.ÄStephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
Chapter 1 From Puppet Shows to Dementia: A Filmmaker's Beginningsp. 3
Chapter 2 Big Boyp. 35
Chapter 3 American Zoetropep. 62
Chapter 4 The Godfatherp. 87
Chapter 5 Renaissance Manp. 126
Chapter 6 The Death of Michael Corleonep. 150
Chapter 7 Skirmishes Before the Warp. 175
Chapter 8 "The Most Important Movie I Will Ever Make"p. 197
Chapter 9 Apocalypse When?p. 233
Chapter 10 The Shape of Things to Comep. 267
Chapter 11 Fatal Gamblep. 293
Chapter 12 Paladin in Oklahomap. 315
Chapter 13 Tap Dancing Through Minefieldsp. 336
Chapter 14 Warm Nostalgia, Unbearable Griefp. 369
Chapter 15 Con Man, Reflectedp. 391
Chapter 16 The Biggest Home Movie in Historyp. 411
Chapter 17 Bonfire of the Vampiresp. 435
Chapter 18 Full Recoveryp. 454
Epiloguep. 480
Endnotesp. 487
Filmographyp. 514
Selected Bibliographyp. 523
Acknowledgmentsp. 525
Indexp. 527