Deeply influenced by his Italian-American heritage, by family, by the meaning of home, Francis Ford Coppola has worked his way through from budding young director to one of the most internationally-recognised names in the film industry, whilst also running a number of successful resorts across Central America, Italy and opening his own American vineyards. A man of many talents, we scratch the surface behind this living legend to see what makes Francis Ford Coppola tick.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of The Godfather (an impressive feat if you have managed to avoid this iconic piece of film), the trilogy chronicles the life of Don Vito Corleone of the Italian mafia and his family. More than just the typical mob drama, this film has transcended generations with its message, its metaphor for the American society of the time and its keen, deep focus on familial relationships. This familial trope appears throughout his works, and we ask Francis why this interest in relationships has adorned his works.
Francis, historically your works convey the intricacies of familial relationships and relationships in general. As an Italian-American do you feel particularly inspired by your heritage and the strong values of a Southern Italian family unit?
A symbol of its time, The Godfather spoke to its generation and was representative not only of the Italian-American community of the time but of American society as a whole.
Do you think The Godfather is still applicable to the society of today and what other works of film, television or art do you find particularly reflective of today’s society?
As the main theme of the film was succession it is likely that these matters are still relevant in any period of human history. I would imagine that any work that deals with the situation and use of power, its manipulation and justification would live beyond its time.
You have always worked on the cutting edge of the film industry, on the avant-garde. To what do you credit this drive and innovation, where does it stem from?
No doubt the first seven years of my childhood. Not unlike the beautiful book of Dario Fo, My First Seven Years (plus a few more), my own life cast me as an outsider and that is what I have remained.
In recent years Francis has been seen to step back from his role at the forefront of the industry, taking on a number of properties and even vineyards; these include La Lancha in Guatemala, Blancaneaux Lodge and Turtle Inn in Belize, Palazzo Margherita in Italy and Jardin Escondido in Argentina. We explore the importance of these resorts to Francis and the significance of moving away from the film industry.
Francis, we know your first purchase, Blancaneaux Lodge, was actually the outcome of working on a film in the Philippines, where you fell in love with a particularly far-flung island. Finding your own paradise closer to home, Blancaneaux Lodge was your first step in this direction. What was the importance of this to you and why did you decide to make the move away from films?
I didn’t move away from the film industry, it moved away from me. The television and cinema business cultivated a type of audience that was no longer interested in what I was interested in – that which can be found in literature.
Although a number of your resorts are located across Central America, we wonder if Palazzo Margherita – situated in the Italian town your grandfather grew up in and the location of your daughter Sophia’s wedding – holds a special place in your heart? Can you tell us a little bit more of the story behind this property and your affinity with the town of Bernalda?
In the days of immigration from the south, those who left rarely returned. So they told their children and their grandchildren stories that became myths about their homeland. And so it was in the Coppola family, where stories of ‘Bernalda Bella’ were handed down, perhaps greatly enlarged upon. So the subsequent generations came to visit, as I did – and were enchanted by what they found.
We know that your family members contributed to the design of Palazzo Margherita in order to create a real home away from home for all of you to visit. Given the amazing places you have lived during your life – the Philippines, San Francisco, Argentina – we wonder whether your sense of family and Italian heritage draws you back to Palazzo Margherita or whether you feel more at home elsewhere?
I love to visit the Palazzo Margherita and Bernalda and am very proud of them. I love the food and the dialect and the fact that the Corso stretches straight from the old town down across through the new town.
I guess our final question is – what next? With the film, wine and tourism industry firmly under your belt, we wonder what your next project will be?
Trying to understand how the fact of the now electronic/digital mode of manufacture of contemporary cinema will influence its future.
A truly perceptive individual, Francis Ford Coppola has captured not only the imaginations of a generation but, more significantly, expressed a truth that make his films truly timeless. This passion that has driven his work in the film industry is apparent across all his endeavours, as Palazzo Margherita and his other properties are more than just a business venture for him – they are a piece of home.