Coppola, Francis Ford

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Coppola, Francis Ford

Coppola, Francis Ford (kōˈpəˌlə), 1939–, American film director, b. Detroit. Coppola began his career directing low-budget films and working on screenplays for other directors. He won his first Academy Award for Patton (1970) and firmly established his reputation with The Godfather (1972; Academy Award). In this film, he converted an unambitious novel about the Corleone family and organized crime into a subtle portrait of the immigrant experience in America. He created an even more expansive version of this story in The Godfather Part II (1974; Academy Award). Apocalypse Now (1979) was Coppola's ambitious effort to show Vietnam as America's Heart of Darkness, with Joseph Conrad's story providing the narrative skeleton; an expanded cut of the film entitled Apocalypse Now Redux was released 22 years later. His post-Apocalypse films, including The Outsiders (1983), The Cotton Club (1984), and Tucker (1987), varied widely in quality, but he returned to top form with The Godfather, Part III (1990), which brought the story of the Corleones into the 1980s. In 1992, Coppola turned to the horror genre with his version of the vampire classic, Bram Stoker's Dracula. Thereafter he focused more on the making of wines from his California vineyards. In 2007 he released Youth without Youth, a complex film about a man who mysteriously recovers his lost youth, adapted from a novella by Mircea Eliade.


See biography by M. Schumacher (1999).

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Director Francis Ford Coppola’s contribution to vampire films was 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Coppola, Francis Ford (1939–)

(pop culture)

Francis Ford Coppola, director of the 1992 motion picture Bram Stoker’s Dracula, was born on April 7, 1939, in Detroit, Michigan. In 1962, three years after completing his bachelor’s degree at Hofstra University, he went to work for Roger Corman at American International Pictures. He served as co-director and co-screenwriter for The Playgirls and the Bellboy before directing his first horror films The Terror and Dementia 13 in 1963. That same year he married Eleanor Neil. In 1964 he became the director at Seven Arts and while there also completed a Masters of Fine Arts degree at UCLA (1967). His film You’re a Big Boy Now was accepted by the school as his master’s thesis. He would become the first major American film director to come out of one of the several university film programs that had arisen in post–World War II America. Three years after his graduation he won his first Oscar for his screenplay for Patton.

In 1972, he founded the Directors Company with Peter Bogdanovich and William Franklin. That same year he had his first major motion picture, The Godfather, for which he won an Oscar for best screenplay (with Mario Puzo). He also won two Oscars for The Godfather, Part II: one for best director and one for best screenplay (again with Puzo). His 1979 production Apocalypse Now was the first major picture about the Vietnam War. It won the Palme d’Or and the Fipresci Prize from the Cannes Festival. He moved on to do a number of notable films, including Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), and The Godfather, Part III.

Coppola thus emerged in the early 1990s as the most acclaimed director ever to turn his attention to the Dracula theme. The production began with a screenplay by Jim Hart and with Winona Ryder (who gave Coppola the screenplay) as Mina Murray, the female lead. There were budget limitations, and a decision was reached to film the picture entirely at Columbia’s studios in Los Angeles. It took 68 days. A basically youthful cast was selected along with Anthony Hopkins, fresh from his Oscar win for best actor for Silence of the Lambs, as Abraham Van Helsing. His goal was to take the old theme, return to the novel for fresh inspiration, and produce a new movie that would stand out from the prior Dracula versions.

The screenplay not only relied upon the Bram Stoker novel, but the extensive research on the historical Dracula, the fifteenth-century Romanian prince Vlad the Impaler by historians Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu. In order to integrate that new historical material, a rationale for the actions of Dracula (based in part upon unresolved personal issues from the fifteenth century) was injected into the story line from the novel. The movie was also helped by changing guidelines concerning what could be shown on the screen. For example, it was not until 1979 in the Frank Langella Dracula that the vital scene from the novel in which Dracula and Mina shared blood was incorporated into a film.

Though Coppola had available to him the high-tech special effects developed in the decade since the previous Dracula, he chose not to use them. Instead, he returned to some older tricks of cinematic illusions. Elaborate use of double exposures was employed and miniatures were used instead of matte paintings to provide more depth.

The finished product quickly took its place among the best of the Dracula films, though Dracula aficionados were divided on it. The initial response to its opening surprised many, grossing double the original expectations for its first week when it played on almost 2,500 screens. The movie provided Columbia Pictures with its largest opening ever, surpassing Ghostbusters 2 (1989). It has proved equally popular on video. A rumored sequel, Van Helsing’s Chronicles, that would have continued the story of the vampire hunter with star Anthony Hopkins was never filmed. Coppola has not revised the vampire theme in subsequent films.


Bergan, Ronald. Francis Ford Coppola: Close Up: The Making of His Movies. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1998. 144 pp.
Biodrowski, Steve. “Coppola’s Dracula: Directing the Horror Classic.” Cinefantastique 23, 4 (December 1992): 32–34.
Coppola, Francis Ford, and James V. Hart. Bram Stoker’s Dracula: The Film and the Legend. New York: Newmarket Press, 1992. 172 pp.
———, and Eiko Ishioka. Coppola and Eiko on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Edited by Susan Dworkin. San Francisco: Collins Publishers, 1992. 96 pp.
Holte, James Craig. Dracula in the Dark: The Dracula Film Adaptations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997. 161 pp.
The Vampire Book, Second Edition © 2011 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.

Coppola, Francis Ford

(1939–  ) movie director; born in Detroit, Mich. A disciple of Roger Corman, he began directing in 1961. The phenomenal success of The Godfather (1972) led him to set up his own production company and studios, but most of his subsequent movies fared poorly with either the critics or the public, and the colossal expense of his Vietnam War film, Apocalypse Now (1979), all but drove him into bankruptcy. He would recover to continue directing his own movies and supporting those by other young filmmakers but the baroque extravagance of movies such as Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) did little to advance his reputation. His Oscars include awards for Patton (1970, for screenwriting) and three for The Godfather Part II (1974, for direction, screenwriting, and best picture).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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They can be grouped into roughly three categories: those who "survived" into the next decades (Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas); those who hung on as ghosts of their former selves (Francis Coppola, Robert Altman); and those who saw the moments of their greatness flicker and fade (William Friedkin, Peter Bogdanovich, Bob Rafelson, Terrence Malick, Hal Ashby).
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