A Conversation with Francis Ford Coppola

On film (it's over), critics (can be lazy), and marriage (it's tough to be his wife)

Tetro's father, much like The Godfather, is a bigger-than-life patriarch who casts a long shadow. How aware are you of your own shadow with your filmmaking children?

I always had a policy when I was lucky enough to have kids that, if I was going away for two weeks, I'd take them out of school. They were with me all through my career. Obviously, in the Philippines [for Apocalypse Now], there's nothing else to do but play on the set, so they all learned about movies the same way as if we had been a circus family. I'm sure I can't know the difficulties of having me for a father from the point of view of a young person who wants to do similar work. I never said, "You don't want to do that—you gotta do this." I was happy when my kids expressed a love of movies. When my two little boys were 12 or so, they were the co-producers of Rumble Fish. I always elevated them, but if you talk to my son, he might say, "Oh, the guy's a nightmare." I don't think so, but I don't think I can know. I immediately saw Sofia's talent at a very young age. I made her first couple of films possible, and protected her. My son, Roman, when he did the second unit on Dracula, he made all those beautiful, in-camera optical effects. I gave him that responsibility.

More difficult is my wife, because she has many ambitions and talents, but who's going to be my wife? Who's going to fix the house up and make it nice? It's more difficult with a wife because there becomes a job vacancy if your wife is going to go off and become an artist. Who's going to be the wife? We both need one. I'll do the cooking, but who's going to worry about the household and stuff? That's been a very big, frustrating aspect. I've been married 46 years, and it's never been resolved.

Mihai Malaimare Jr./American Zoetrope


Read a review of Coppola's latest, Tetro, here.

Check out next week's Village Voice for J. Hoberman's review of Tetro

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