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Francis Ford Coppola

 

Francis Ford Coppola (born April 7, 1939) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He was part of the New Hollywood wave of filmmaking.

In 1970, he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay as co-writer, with Edmund H. North, of Patton (1970). His directorial prominence was cemented with the release in 1972 of The Godfather, a film which revolutionized movie-making in the gangster genre, earning praise from both critics and the public before winning three Academy Awards—including his second Oscar(Best Adapted Screenplay, with Mario Puzo), Best Picture, and his first nomination for Best Director.

He followed with The Godfather Part II in 1974, which became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Highly regarded by critics, it brought him three more Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture, and made him the second director, after Billy Wilder, to be honored three times for the same film. The Conversation, which he directed, produced and wrote, was released that same year, winning the Palme d'Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. He next directed 1979's Apocalypse Now. Notorious for its over-long and strenuous production, the film was nonetheless critically acclaimed for its vivid and stark depiction of the Vietnam War, winning the Palme d'Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival. Coppola is one of only eight filmmakers to win two Palme d'Or awards.

While a number of Coppola's ventures in the 1980s and 1990s were critically lauded, he has never quite achieved the same commercial success with films as in the 1970s.

Coppola was born in Detroit, Michigan, to father Carmine Coppola a flautist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and mother Italia (nee Pennino). Coppola is the second of three children: his older brother was August Coppola, his younger sister is actress Talia Shire. Born into a family of Italian immigrant ancestry, his paternal grandparents came to the United States from Bernalda, Basilicata. His maternal grandfather, popular Italian composer Francesco Pennino, immigrated from Naples, Italy. Coppola received his middle name in honor of Henry Ford, not only because he was born in the Henry Ford Hospital but also because of his musician-father's association with the automobile manufacturer. At the time of Coppola's birth, his father was a flautist as well as arranger and assistant orchestra director for The Ford Sunday Evening Hour, an hour-long concert music radio series sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. Two years after Coppola's birth, his father was named principal flautist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra and the family moved to New York, settling in Woodside, Queens, where Coppola spent the remainder of his childhood. Contracting polio as a boy, Coppola was bedridden for large periods of his childhood, allowing him to indulge his imagination with homemade puppet theater productions. Reading A Streetcar Named Desire at age 15 was instrumental in developing his interest in theater. Eager to be involved in film-craft, he created 8mm features edited from home movies with such titles as The Rich Millionaire and The Lost Wallet. As a child, Coppola was a mediocre student, but he was so much interested in technology and engineering that his friends nicknamed him "Science". Trained initially for a career in music, he became proficient on the tuba and won a music scholarship to the New York Military Academy.[12] Overall, Coppola attended 23 other schools[14] before he eventually graduated from the Great Neck North High School He entered Hofstra College in 1955 with a major in theater arts. There he was awarded a scholarship in playwriting. This furthered his interest in directing theater despite the disapproval of his father, who wanted him to study engineering. Coppola was profoundly impressed after seeing Sergei Eisenstein's October: Ten Days That Shook the World, especially with the movie's quality of editing. It was at this time Coppola decided he would go into cinema rather than theater. Coppola says he was tremendously influenced to become a writer early on by his brother, August, in whose footsteps he would also follow by attending both of his brother's alma maters: Hofstra and UCLA. Coppola also gives credit to the work of Elia Kazan and for its influence on him as a director. Amongst Coppola's classmates at Hofstra were James Caan, Lainie Kazan and radio artist Joe Frank. He later cast Lainie Kazan in One from the Heart and Caan in The Rain People and The Godfather.

While pursuing his bachelor's degree, Coppola was elected president of The Green Wig (the university's drama group) and the Kaleidoscopians (its musical comedy club). He then merged the two into The Spectrum Players and under his leadership, they staged a new production each week. Coppola also founded the cinema workshop at Hofstra and contributed prolifically to the campus literary magazine. He won three D. H. Lawrence Awards for theatrical production and direction and received a Beckerman Award for his outstanding contributions to the school's theater arts division. While a graduate student, one of his teachers was Dorothy Arzner, whose encouragement Coppola later acknowledged as pivotal to his film career.

Coppola enrolled in UCLA Film School for graduate work in film. There he directed a short horror film called The Two Christophers inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "William Wilson", and Ayamonn the Terrible, a film about a sculptor's nightmares coming to life, before directing the experimental softcore comedy Tonight for Sure in 1962.

At UCLA, Coppola met Jim Morrison. He later used Morrison's song "The End" in Apocalypse Now.

The company that hired him for Tonight for Sure brought him back to re-cut a German film titled Mit Eva fing die Sunde an directed by Fritz Umgelter. He added some new 3-D color footage and earned a writer's and director's credit for The Bellboy and the Playgirls, also a box-office failure. Coppola was hired as an assistant by Roger Corman and his first job for Corman was to dub and re-edit a Russian science fiction film, Nebo zovyot, which he turned into a sex-and-violence monster movie entitled Battle Beyond the Sun, released in 1962. Impressed by Coppola's perseverance and dedication, Corman hired him as dialogue director on Tower of London (1962), sound man for The Young Racers (1963) and associate producer of The Terror (1963).

While on location in Ireland for The Young Racers in 1963, Corman, ever alert for an opportunity to produce a decent movie on a shoestring budget, persuaded Coppola to make a low-budget horror movie with funds left over from the movie. Coppola wrote a brief draft story idea in one night, incorporating elements from Hitchcock's Psycho, and the result impressed Corman enough to give him the go-ahead. On a budget of $40,000 ($20,000 from Corman and $20,000 from another producer who wanted to buy the movie's English rights), Coppola directed in a period of nine days Dementia 13, his first feature from his own screenplay. The film recouped its expenses and later became a cult filmamong horror buffs. It was on the sets of Dementia 13 that he met his future wife Eleanor Jessie Neil. In 1965, Coppola won the annual Samuel Goldwyn Award for the best screenplay (Pilma, Pilma) written by a UCLA student. This secured him a job as a scriptwriter with Seven Arts. In between, he co-wrote the scripts for This Property Is Condemned (1966) and Is Paris Burning? (1966). However, with fame still eluding him and partly out of desperation, Coppola bought the rights to the David Benedictus novel You're a Big Boy Now and fused it with a story idea of his own, resulting in You're a Big Boy Now (1966). This was his UCLA thesis project that also received a theatrical release via Warner Bros. This movie brought him some critical acclaim and eventually his Master of Fine Arts Degree fromUCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in 1967.

Following the success of You're a Big Boy Now, Coppola was offered the reins of the movie version of the Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow, starring Petula Clark in her first American film and veteran Fred Astaire. Producer Jack Warner was nonplussed by Coppola's shaggy-haired, bearded, "hippie" appearance and generally left him to his own devices. He took his cast to the Napa Valley for much of the outdoor shooting, but these scenes were in sharp contrast to those obviously filmed on a Hollywood soundstage, resulting in a disjointed look to the film. Dealing with outdated material at a time when the popularity of film musicals was already on the downslide, Coppola's result was only semi-successful, but his work with Clark no doubt[according to whom?] contributed to her Golden Globe Best Actress nomination. The film introduced to him George Lucas, who became his lifelong friend as well as production assistant in his next film The Rain People in 1969. It was written, directed and initially produced by Coppola himself, though as the movie advanced, he exceeded his budget and the studio had to underwrite the remainder of the movie. The film won the Golden Shell at the 1969 San Sebastian Film Festival.

In 1969, Coppola took it upon himself to subvert the studio system which he felt had stifled his visions, intending to produce mainstream pictures to finance off-beat projects and give first-time directors their chance to direct. He decided he would name his future studio "Zoetrope" after receiving a gift of zoetropes from Mogens Scot-Hansen, founder of a studio called Lanterna Film and owner of a famous collection of early motion picture-making equipment. While touring Europe, Coppola was introduced to alternative filmmaking equipment and inspired by the bohemian spirit of Lanterna Film, he decided he would build a deviant studio that would conceive and implement creative, unconventional approaches to filmmaking. Upon his return home, Coppola and George Lucas searched for a mansion in Marin County to house the studio. However, in 1969, with equipment flowing in and no mansion found yet, the first home for Zoetrope Studio became a warehouse in San Francisco on Folsom Street. The studio went on to become an early adopter of digital filmmaking, including some of the earliest uses of HDTV. In his book The American Cinema, Andrew Sarris wrote, "[Coppola] is probably the first reasonably talented and sensibly adaptable directorial talent to emerge from a university curriculum in film-making... [He] may be heard from more decisively in the future."

Coppola epitomized a group of filmmakers known as the "New Hollywood" that emerged in the early 1970s with ideas that challenged conventional film-making. The group included Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Terrence Malick, Robert Altman, Woody Allen, William Friedkin, Philip Kaufman and George Lucas.

Coppola co-wrote the script for Patton in 1970 along with Edmund H. North. This earned him his first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. However, it was not easy for Coppola to convince Franklin J. Schaffner that the opening scene would work.

I wrote the script of Patton. And the script was very controversial when I wrote it, because they thought it was so stylized. It was supposed to be like, sort of, you know, The Longest Day. And my script of Patton was—I was sort of interested in the reincarnation. And I had this very bizarre opening where he stands up in front of an American flag and gives this speech. Ultimately, I wasn't fired, but I was fired, meaning that when the script was done, they said, "Okay, thank you very much," and they went and hired another writer and that script was forgotten. And I remember very vividly this long, kind of being raked over the coals for this opening scene.

"When the title role was offered to George C. Scott, he remembered having read Coppola's screenplay earlier. He stated flatly that he would accept the part only if they used Coppola's script. 'Scott is the one who resurrected my version,' says Coppola."

The movie opens with Scott's rendering of Patton's famous military "Pep Talk" to members of the Third Army, set against a huge American flag. Coppola and North had to tone down Patton's actual language to avoid an R rating; in the opening monologue, the word "fornicating" replaced "fucking" when criticizing the The Saturday Evening Post. Over the years, this opening monologue has become an iconic scene and has spawned parodies in numerous films, political cartoons and television shows.

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Biographies of famous people

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