Francis Ford Coppola Biography

Screenwriter, Director, Producer(1939–)
Director, producer and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola is best known for creating The Godfather film series starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.

Synopsis

Francis Ford Coppola was born April 7, 1939, in Detroit, Michigan. He first found directorial success with Finian’s Rainbow in 1968. He gained international critical attention for his screenwriting talents, with 1970’s Patton. Two years later, he released The Godfather (1972). In 1997, he stepped away from directing for a time. In 2007, he returned to hands-on filmmaking with Youth Without Youth.

Early Life

Director, producer, writer and businessman Francis Coppola was born on April 7, 1939, in Detroit, Michigan. Francis Ford Coppola emerged as one of the 20th century’s leading directors in the 1960s. Stricken with polio as a child, he was bedridden and found creative ways to entertain himself, including producing his own puppet shows. Coppola developed an interest in film early on and studied theater at Hofstra University in New York.

After graduating in 1960, Coppola moved to California to attend the prestigious film program at UCLA where he learned from many great instructors, including pioneering female director and screenwriter Dorothy Arzner. While in graduate school, he worked with B-movie king Roger Corman. It was Corman that gave him first shot of directing a feature film, 1963’s Dementia 13, which Coppola also wrote. While that film failed to take off, he found directorial success with the 1968 musical Finian’s Rainbow.

Critical Acclaim

Coppola first gained international critical attention for his screenwriting talents, earning an Academy Award for 1970’s Patton. Two years later, he released what is considered to be one of his best works, The Godfather (1972). Based on a novel by Mario Puzo, the critically acclaimed saga centered on the Corleones, an Italian American family involved in organized crime. Marlon Brando played the family’s patriarch and Al Pacino as his son and reluctant successor. Coppola received his first nomination as director from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He also scored second screenplay win, and the film won for Best Picture. The sequel, The Godfather Part II (1974) was equally well received.

Continuing to make outstanding films, Coppola produced the riveting Vietnam War drama Apocalypse Now in 1979. Starring Martin Sheen, the film was an imaginative retelling of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Coppola also served as the executive producer on the family-friendly classic The Black Stallion that same year. In the 1980s and 1990s, he made several films, ranging from personal drama surrounding a group of wayward teenagers in The Outsiders (1983) to glittering jazz age saga The Cotton Club (1984) to the faithful adaptation of the classic vampire tale Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). He also created the final chapter to his mafia trilogy, The Godfather Part III (1990).

Ventures Outside Directing

After The Rainmaker (1997), Coppola stepped away from directing for a time. He focused much of his energies on other ventures, especially his California winery. Working behind the scenes, Coppola served as a producer on his daughter Sofia’s first directorial effort, 1999’s The Virgin Suicides. He has also been an executive producer for a number of films and television series, including Lost in Translation (2003), Kinsey (2004), Marie Antoinette (2006) and The Good Shepherd (2006).

In 2007, Coppola returned to hands-on filmmaking with Youth Without Youth, which he adapted from a novella by Mircea Eliade, a Romanian philosopher. At the time, Coppola told Entertainment Weekly, “I’m announcing a new phase where I make more personal films.” The filmmaker next directed 2009's Tetro, a drama about an Italian immigrant family. Switching genres, Coppola then directed and wrote the 2011 thriller Twixt

In addition to his own work, Coppola has many relatives in the film industry. His sister is actress Talia Shire, and his nephew is actor Nicolas Cage. In addition to daughter Sofia, he and wife Eleanor also have a son named Roman who directs and acts as well. Their late son, Gian-Carlo Coppola, was an actor. He died in a boating accident in 1986. Gian-Carlo's daughter, Gia Coppola, made her first foray into directing and screenwriting with 2013's Palo Alto.   

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