He is an iconoclast with one of the most revered filmographies in history. Francis Ford Coppola’s name still carries weight more than four decades removed from the release of “The Godfather.” In recent years, Coppola has shunned big-budget moviemaking for what he calls a trio of “student films” (“Youth Without Youth,” “Tetro” and “Twixt”).
I spoke to Coppola about the upcoming “Francis Ford Coppola 5-Film Collection” Blu-ray, which includes “The Conversation,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Apocalypse Now Redux,” “One From the Heart” and “Tetro” (much of which has never been viewable in high-definition before). Any occasion to talk to Coppola is a film lover’s dream come true. At 73, he remains as passionate and opinionated as ever.
In addition to the new DVD collection, due Tuesday, we discussed his just-completed, self-described “epic” screenplay; why he hopes to never see another “Godfather” film; and why he bailed out of the “Twilight” franchise after the first film.
MTV: Why are these the five films that ended up in this DVD release?
Francis Ford Coppola: This collection represents films that I own, which is why they’re able to be together and why there isn’t, for example, “The Cotton Club” or “Tucker.”
MTV: Which of the versions of “Apocalypse Now” would you recommend to someone who has never seen it before?
Coppola: At this point, it’s a matter of investment in time. It’s such a crazy movie, it depends if they want to see some of the things which were remarkable but were cut out because they seemed to slow things down. The same thing happened with “The Cotton Club.” Everyone said, “Oh, it’s too long, there’s too much tap dancing.” I’m thinking of “Cotton Club,” because I just looked at the original version we have on Betamax.
MTV: Since returning to filmmaking, you’ve helmed very small-scale works. Is that what you’re going to continue working on?
Coppola: What I was trying to do with those films was to make three student films in order to try and set a new trajectory and try to say, “Well, what happens if I have no resources?” Now, having done that, my new work is going to be much more ambitious and bigger in scope and budget and ambition, but now building on a new confidence or assurance. The three little films were very useful. I’m glad I did it. I hope George Lucas does it, because he has a wonderful personal filmmaking ability that people haven’t seen for a while.
MTV: Have you spoken to George since the Lucasfilm/Disney deal?
Coppola: Yes, he lives up here. He’s a good friend. He’s like a younger brother.
MTV: Has he shared anything about the plans for the new “Star Wars” films?
Coppola: I know nothing about that. I’m more interested in the next George Lucas personal film. I think selling “Star Wars” means he’s ready to let other people think about it and return to his personal filmmaking.
MTV: Can you tell me anything about what your new project is about?
Coppola: It looks at several generations of a family during a very interesting time of change starting in the ’20s and going all the way into the ’60s. It would be ambitious and expensive.
MTV: You utilized 3-D with “Twixt.” What do you think of the many great filmmakers utilizing it now? I was impressed with Ang Lee’s use of it in “Life of Pi.”
Coppola: I agree with you that “Life of Pi” did a beautiful job with 3-D, but after the first 10 minutes, I actually was no longer interested in the 3-D. It didn’t make a bit of difference to me whether it was in 2-D or 3-D. After the first few minutes, I was just annoyed to have glasses on and the decreased luminosity of the screen.
MTV: It sounds like you make a point of seeing a lot of new films.
Coppola: I’m so pleased that there are some good dramas out, because I was beginning to wonder if drama was a forgotten form. “Lincoln” is a wonderful piece of work, as is “Argo.” I loved “Moonrise Kingdom,” because in the first five minutes, you’ve pegged where it’s going and then it doesn’t go there. I love movies that don’t follow the rules of their genre.
MTV: Does Paramount ever come calling asking you about a “Godfather” sequel?
Coppola: No, I think people have realized that “The Godfather” was never sequel material. I’ve always maintained there should have been one “Godfather,” though I’m proud of the second one, and I thought the third should have been considered a coda and not called “The Godfather: Part III.”
MTV: Would you be annoyed if the studio chose to continue the franchise at some point?
Coppola: Well, yeah, because I feel that all films shouldn’t be sequels. Sequels are not done for the audience or cinema or the filmmakers. It’s for the distributor. The film becomes a brand.
MTV: “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Have you been amused to see vampires re-enter the zeitgeist in recent years?
Coppola: We all want that beautiful vampire to sink their teeth into our neck. It has so many interesting things that fascinate our psychology.
MTV: Have you seen any of the “Twilight” films?
Coppola: I saw the first one that Catherine Hardwicke did. It was a wonderful idea to tell a Romeo and Juliet story. It was a wonderful concept. But when it got into the vampire counsels and werewolves, it lost me.
MTV: It’s generally considered that some of the best storytelling is on TV today. Would you be interested in that medium?
Coppola: The only TV I would be interested in exploring would be live television. There’s no substitute for a team of artists performing at their peak live when failure is possible. It’s a high-wire act. That excites me.