Francis Ford Coppola: My Hollywood exile
The director of ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’ is back with ‘Tetro’, an intensely personal film starring Vincent Gallo. David Jenkins finds out what makes the man tick
Do you find the physical task of making movies more of an endurance test now than, say, in the 1970s?
‘With a film of a subject matter you love and that intrigues you, you have limitless energy. It’s sort of like what they call “shelf life” in food products – some subjects have a long “shelf life”, meaning you are constantly renewed, while others get stale quickly.’
Do you feel your style of directing has changed over the years?
‘My approach was always to suit the style to the particular theme. Which is why, for example, the style of “The Godfather” is totally different to that of “Apocalypse Now”. But lately, I find there is a style I just naturally prefer – one in which the camera isn’t always moving all over the place, and in which the cutting isn’t so rapid you’re not sure what you’ve seen.’
Are you happy working on your own, away from the film industry?
‘I live near San Francisco in the most beautiful spot on earth, and enjoy myself in many ways. Yes, I love to work, which for now is to think and read and write, so it’s all a dream come true. I know that if a film is ready to emerge out of what I write, I’ll be able to go off and make it without asking anyone’s permission.’
If the right script or idea came along, would you be open to working with Hollywood?
‘I don’t think so, although I still get offers. But the subject matter and constraints are too narrow.’
Your last two films, ‘Youth Without Youth’ and ‘Tetro’, have provoked strong critical reactions – not all of them positive. Are there any critics whose opinion matters to you?
‘Some critics are stimulating in that they make you realise how you could do better, and those are valued.’
Why did you decide to shoot ‘Tetro’ in black and white?
‘I felt that this film related to “Rumble Fish”, and it just felt right to me for the story, which I considered to be poetic realism, which implied shooting in black and white.’
You’ve cast a largely unknown actor (Alden Ehrenreich) as one of the leads. Do you keep your eye out for new talent, especially actors and directors?
‘I love cinema, even though I don’t participate in the professional movie business any more. I still love to see films that offer something different, like Soderbergh’s “The Informant” or the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man”, which I love because they are not like anything I’ve seen before.’
‘Tetro’ is a film about a father-son conflict. Do you have any interest in psychoanalysis?
‘Not really. I’ve never visited a psychiatrist. Though maybe I should!’
Can you trace your own influence in your daughter Sofia’s filmmaking?
‘I’ve always said people should make films about their personal take on things, and I can see that in her work.’
Do you take pride in her work?
‘Yes, because her work is so pure, so personal and so “Sofia”.’
You bought the rights to Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ many years ago and it’s finally happening this summer with Walter Salles directing. Are you happy that it’s off the ground? Or sad not to be filming it yourself?
‘I am thrilled that it is being made. I never really had a good take on how to make it myself.’
Read our review of ‘Tetro’
Author: Tom Huddleston & David Jenkins (interview)
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