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Coppola Talks “Twixt,” Success, Failure & The Future of Film

Photo of Meredith Brody By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood August 14, 2012 at 12:58PM

Francis Ford Coppola’s “Twixt," the third in a series of low-budget “personal” films he’s written, produced, and directed since the turn of the century has toured the film festival circuit – from Toronto in 2011 to San Francisco in 2012 – and was released in France in April, but a broad release remains elusive...
The Godfather: Part II
'The Godfather: Part II'

His career was so bizarre – “because of 'The Godfather,' everything went crazy” – he used it to the maximum, found himself in bankruptcy. He wanted to go back to where he was with “Rain People” – and use cheaper collaborators.  Without Vittorio Storaro, Gordon Willis, Dean Tavoularis, or Milena Canoneros, there are no hotel bills or plane tickets.

About “Youth Without Youth,” “Tetro,” and “Twixt,” he says “I’ve made three films that I like,” and he shrugs when referring to the mixed reactions that “Youth Without Youth” and “Tetro” have received: “I’m used to that – “The Conversation” wasn’t a big success, “Rumblefish,” “Apocalypse Now,” “One from the Heart”…”. He still remembers Frank Rich calling “One from the Heart” the biggest disaster in Hollywood history in “The New York Times.”  “I felt maligned,” he says, “like Hal Baltimore [Kilmer’s character in “Twixt”].”

He tells the audience he’s currently writing a big film, an epic, one part of which is a heartbreaking love story, that starts in the 20s and continues through the early 60s.  When he’s done, he says, he has an imaginary box full of imaginary money that he’ll use to make it.

More tidbits from the Q & A:

Art ahead of its time? After further discussion of “Apocalypse Now” and “One from the Heart” – “I was punished for flying too close to the sun,” Coppola says – someone comments that “maybe you’re ahead of the critics?” Coppola responds that art is ahead of its time, as seen in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” where the now-famous artists of the Belle Epoque are seen as strivers who can’t get hung in the salon shows of their time. The culture is always moving, he says.

Advice to young filmmakers? “Depend on your wits, and as Napoleon said, use the weapons you have.”

Stealing from each other: Asked whether Herzog’s “Aguirre: The Wrath of God” was an influence on “Apocalypse Now,” he says yes, as well as John Milius’ original script and Eugene Jones’ documentary “A Face of War” – “and then Herzog made 'Fitzacarraldo,'” he said, implying that Herzog in turn was inspired by “Apocalypse.” “They want you to steal from them – it sort of makes you immortal.”

Which artists have had an influence on his work?  Elia Kazan, the greatest director of actors; Murnau and Pabst (influenced Hitchcock, who went to UFA in the Twenties); William Wyler and “The Best Years of Our Lives”; King Vidor and Billy Wilder – he mentions “The Apartment.” Film has only been around for a hundred years, he says, and it’s had so many masterpieces.  People, it seems, were just waiting to make movies – think of the movies Goethe and Schiller would have made!  The future of movies is not 3-D – it lies in the writing – and showing movies live!

This article is related to: Twixt, Francis Ford Coppola, Interviews, Directors

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.