Interview with Francis Coppola: Filmmaking is an illusion, but horse’s head was real


Filip Orth
Student at Santa Clara University, Freelancer
Bratislava, Slovakia

Francis Ford Coppola, a distinguished director, producer and screenwriter of numerous movies, including Oscar-winning movies, some of which were the Godfather series or Apocalypse Now. A great person with a business mindset and a strong Italian legacy. Today the revered director invests more of his time into wine, while still being interested in filmmaking.

1.  How did you come to making movies? What does filmmaking mean to you? And how did film change your life?

I was a lonely, sickly kid who was interested in science; that led me to volunteer at each subsequent school I went to in the theater dept, because they always need kids who are good with electricity and tech, and that’s where the girls were.  So ultimately, I became a theater major in college and from that evolved into filmmaking.


source: Coppola's archive

source: Coppola’s archive

2.  When you were working on your first famous movies, which people at first criticized, how did you go on to continue to believe that they would be successful while ignoring negative opinions?  

I’ve always had insecurities about what I was hoping to do, and somehow was persistent despite them. Maybe all creative artists are fraught with insecurity, but dealing with them is the measure of success.


3.  Based on what do you decide which movies you make? What genre and with what focus?

Just personal ‘hunches’ or things that touch my personal emotions.


4.  What do you consider your greatest success in life?

The existence of a renovated and once again great ‘Inglenook winery’ in the Napa Valley.


Coppola at Santa Clara University  | Photo / source: Charles Barry

Coppola at Santa Clara University | Photo / source: Charles Barry

5.  How does the whole director´s “family” work, what is your connection with other directors, such as Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg?

America enjoys a friendly coterie of its many wonderful filmmakers.  We have known each other and helped each other for decades.


6.  What do you think is that some kind of limit in terms of filming? Where is filming going?

Now that ‘film’ is a digital medium (opposed to the photo-chemical, mechanical one) it can greatly evolve into styles and forms difficult to imagine. Essentially it would be like trying to imagine the films your great-grandchildren will be making.


7.  Was it difficult to be so considerate while trying to get props for movies? As for instance the head of a horse in the movie “The Godfather”.

No, filmmaking is an illusion. and whereas that was the real head of a real horse, it came from a ‘dog food’ company for people’s pets. 


8.  What would you do in a movie that you could do without any restrictions?

Nothing. every filmmaker has many restrictions while shooting a film.


source: Coppola's archive

source: Coppola’s archive

9.  I know it’s probably a tough question to answer for a film director, but do you have an all-time favorite movie? Which one is it? Why?

I am always surprised when people come up with a top ten ‘greatest movies’ list, as in reality there have been thousands of actually great movies and movie masterpieces. there were perhaps already 100 in the silent era alone. If you ask me my pick as the greatest movie ever made I could name easily a hundred. but definitely a Kurosawa would be on the list, as perhaps also a John Huston or William Wyler — not to mention an Andrei Wajda or Scorsese or Spielberg or Pabst, Fellini, Murnau and on and on.


10.  Where and how do you usually get inspiration for your movies?

From my personal life experiences.


11.  Is there a legacy or a message that you would like to pass on to people? 

Yes.  Art is an essential part of modern life,  just as water is and in the future, one day a nation’s main purpose will no longer be ‘production,’ and in the words of Aristotle, that one day production of needed goods and resources will be handled by ‘non-living’ workers, and so the main purpose of the State will replace that goal of ‘production’ (and all the ills that come from that *purpose) to EDUCATION. The State as not only the organizing entity of future generations but also a school which teaches and encourages all citizens to enjoy the ultimate pleasure of friendship and learning.


* making goods that no one needs or wants but increasing demand via advertising, marketing and instilling ‘needs’ that are not really existing other than for the purpose of wealth-gathering.


We are grateful for the interview,

see also Slovak version of this interview 


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