Francis Ford Coppola is admired as one of the most influential movie directors, producers and screenwriters of all time.
Coming from a musical family and fascinated by theater and film from an early age, Coppola majored in Theater Arts at Hofstra College, later enrolling in UCLA's Film School for graduate work in film. Shortly thereafter he met Roger Corman who encouraged him, giving him opportunities on several low budget films, which helped to develop his skills as both writer and director.
In 1970 he won his first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Patton but it was his next film, The Godfather (1972) that brought him to worldwide attention, winning three Academy Awards and establishing him as a major talent. This was followed in 1974 by The Godfather Part II (six Academy Awards) and The Conversation (Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival), then by Apocalypse Now (Palme d'Or, 1979), and other films such as Rumble Fish (1983), The Godfather Part III (1990), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) – films that further enhanced his reputation.
As with other 'New Hollywood' filmmakers such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese, Coppola's films have been constantly innovative – showing influences from many different sources including the Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa.
While returning to the production style of his student days with low budgets and original scripts in his last three films, he is currently in pre-production on an ambitious film about three generations of an Italian-American family.
The renowned American film director Francis Ford Coppola has produced many of modern America's cinematic masterpieces, brilliantly depicting the light and shadow of American society.
His father Carmine was a flutist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra under the great conductor Arturo Toscanini, and encouraged a creative environment at home. Interested in film from an early age, at eight Coppola famously made several 8 mm film programs, charging a fee for the lemonade available.
He entered Hofstra University, New York, in 1955 and majored in Theater Arts. Upon graduation, he moved to California and enrolled in the UCLA Film School. While there, he worked for Roger Corman and produced several low budget films. He recalls, "I didn't expect to become an important film director in Hollywood or associated with big productions. My earliest films were always with original screenplay, with very personal tastes."
The Godfather (1972), a depiction of the Mafia world, chronicling the Corleone family, received widespread praise for its gripping storyline, punctuated with shocking scenes, winning the Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role. Coppola followed this in 1974 with The Godfather Part II (6 Academy Awards including three for Coppola) and The Conversation (the Palme d'Or). Coppola had now entered the ranks of major film directors.
Despite these successes, when Coppola came to make Apocalypse Now (1979), a brutal depiction of the Vietnam War, he received little support. "Absolutely no one came forth to help me with the project. I went to the bank with all of I had earned and the property I owned, and asked if they would give me the guarantee to make the film." He confounded the critics; the film won the Palme d'Or, and was a critical and financial success, giving him an unshakable position in the movie world.
Despite the financial struggle, Coppola has never lost his creative drive. In partnership with George Lucas, he established American Zoetrope, a film company which encouraged young unknown artists to make personal and meaningful films. Throughout his career, Coppola has continued, as with other "New Hollywood" filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, to challenge the boundaries of cinema.
In his last three films, Youth without Youth (2007), Tetro (2009) and Twixt (2011), he returned to the production style of his student days ― low budgets and original screenplays. He is now preparing to produce an ambitious film about three generations of an Italian-American family. Japanese cinema, in particular Akira Kurosawa, greatly influenced Coppola and in his latest films, he has adopted Yasujiro Ozu's camera technique of maintaining a camera that is absolutely stationary.
Over the past 35 years, in addition to creating films, Coppola has also been engaged in wine production in the Napa Valley and has recently restored the famous winery, Inglenook to its former glory.