Great director Francis Ford Coppola, 82, could enjoy his age with the money he’s earned, but he’ll spend nearly all of it on a movie he’s been dreaming of making for 40 years, the title already on his mind: “Megalopolis.” Coppola believes it will be one of those few truly immortal movies, watched every year from generation to generation, forever.
Fifty years after filming The Godfather, Coppola believes he still has a lot to say in the cinema. He finally wants to make a personal film, of his own, that addresses themes that spring from his heart and occupy his mind, and is willing to risk his personal fortune in order to succeed. In 1982, he did something like this by filming A Day-Long Dream, which cost $26 million and grossed $600 thousand. He had to sell his studios and other properties, and it took years of sacrifice to get out of debt with the banks.
But it’s been a long time since that failure. Coppola earned good money, today he lives in Napa Valley and the Hinglenook estate produces excellent, profitable wine. The director is in good shape, he’s driving a Tesla at speeds not recommended for his age, trying to lose weight and all he needs is an earbud. He reads The Dream of the Red Chamber, the greatest novel in Chinese literature, which with its 120 chapters is one of the most extensive books in the world, a fascinating and profound allegory of life.
Coppola spoke about his life and “Megalopolis” for the American “Gentleman’s Quarterly” magazine, revealing some details. It would cost at least $120 million, it would be a New York movie, a love story that explored human nature and would ask a fundamental question: Is the society we live in really the only one available? Coppola said he would like Megalopolis to follow the path of It’s a Wonderful Life by Frank Capra, the once-a-year movie that everyone sees always close to Christmas Eve. Released in 1946, it was crushed by many critics and had a poor reception, causing the rank to lose $500,000. Today it is considered a masterpiece, it is kept in the Library of Congress and is always at the top of lists of the best American films ever made. Frank Capra and James Stewart considered it their best job. The FBI reported him at the time as a product of communist culture, because he portrayed Henry Potter as a greedy banker.
According to Coppola, “Megalopolis” should become a film that makes us think every year about human nature for generations and generations. The problem, as always when you want to make very personal movies, is finding someone who is willing to give you the money you need. The director said he still owns the rights to “Apocalypse Now” today, because no one has agreed to fund it. Coppola was 33 years old, he had already won five Oscars, but in Hollywood the producers did not want to risk money on a project that seemed already dark and tormented by reading Joseph Conrad’s novel. “The more personal the film is – as the director said – the more it represents your dream and the more difficult it is to finance it.”
The fiftieth year of “Il Padrino”, which falls this year, does not move him much. He remembers that Paramount had the rights to Mario Puzo’s novel and suggested he make a film about it. He did not want it, but friends persuaded him. He had to struggle to have Marlon Brando in the cast, there were horrific fights on set and everyone hated Al Pacino. At one point, the production also thought about changing the director and calling Elia Kazan, because Coppola always seemed full of doubts and did not make up his mind about everything. He was too poor to afford an apartment and lived in the home of actor James Caan. “The Godfather is the movie that spoiled me,” Coppola says today, because everything he did after that was compared to that: “If I had continued making Mafia movies today, I would have been very rich, but I would have learned nothing.” And after a long way, it’s finally time for Megalopolis. The best thing in life, Coppola recalls, “is to have a dream, to plant it for years, and to finally see it come true.”
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