April 7 ~  Luck and Talent Coppola: Close Up

"Art depends on luck and talent." ~ Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola

A man with luck and talent, unpredictable film director Francis Ford Coppola (1939-) was born on this day in Detroit, Michigan and is best known for his direction of the critically-acclaimed film, The Godfather (1972).

With tenacious vision, he adapted writer Mario Puzo's best seller into the screenplay, mixing a palette of colors into the memorable portrait of the Corleone family.

When studio executives pushed for Robert Redford to play Michael, he pushed harder for Al Pacino. When they stomped against Marlon Brando's casting, Coppola threatened to walk. When the studio lobbied for Laurence Olivier or George C. Scott to play the Don, Coppola and Puzo demanded Brando.

Producer Robert Evans later wrote metaphorically about Coppola's clever campaign to hire Brando: "Auguste Rodin molding clay with his hands did not have the agility of Francis' brain when it came to seduction. Whether personal or professional, his persuasive powers made Elmer Gantry look like Don Knotts."

The director's remarkable career has teetered between success and disaster; often he rises like a phoenix from the ashes of failures. The same man who directed The Godfather trilogy (1972,1974,1990) and Apocalypse Now (1979), what many consider the best films ever made, also directed the dismal failure The Cotton Club (1984, w/Richard Gere). His failures eventually led to bankruptcy in 1990.

"If you don't bet, you don't have a chance to win," he explained.

The director continues to win.

With his release of The Rainmaker in 1997, The San Francisco Examiner praised, "Coppola...is still one of the most gifted moviemakers of the last 30 years." He has the unmatched honor of winning five Oscars, three for scripts that have gone on to win the Best Picture award.

More Film-Making Quotations

Award WinnersUse your luck and talent to your advantage.