By Stephen Garrett
When I was sixteen or seventeen, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a playwright. But everything I wrote, I thought, was weak. And I can remember falling asleep in tears because I had no talent the way I wanted to have.
Did you ever see Rushmore? I was just like that kid.
I've had wine at the table all my life. Even kids were allowed to have it. We used to put ginger ale or lemon soda in it.
I did something terrible to my father. When I was twelve or thirteen, I had a job at Western Union. And when the telegram came over on a long strip, you would cut it and glue it on the paper and deliver it on a bicycle. And I knew the name of the head of Paramount Pictures' music department — Louis Lipstone. So I wrote, "Dear Mr. Coppola: We have selected you to write a score. Please return to L. A. immediately to begin the assignment. Sincerely, Louis Lipstone." And I glued it and I delivered it. And my father was so happy. And then I had to tell him that it was fake. He was totally furious. In those days, kids got hit. With the belt. I know why I did it: I wanted him to get that telegram. We do things for good reasons that are bad.
People feel the worst film I made was Jack. But to this day, when I get checks from old movies I've made, Jack is one of the biggest ones. No one knows that. If people hate the movie, they hate the movie. I just wanted to work with Robin Williams.
I was never sloppy with other people's money. Only my own. Because I figure, well, you can be.
Ten or fifteen years after Apocalypse Now, I was in England in a hotel, and I watched the beginning of it and ultimately ended up watching the whole movie. And it wasn't as weird as I thought. It had, in a way, widened what people would tolerate in a movie.
I saw this bin full of, basically, garbage film. We had shot five cameras when the jets came and dropped the napalm. You had to roll them all at the same time, so there was a lot of this leader, which was just footage. So I picked something out of this barrel and put it in the Moviola and it was very abstract, and every once in a while you saw this helicopter skid. And then over in sound there was all this Doors music, and in it was something called "The End." And I said, "Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we started the movie with 'The End'?"
I have more of a vivid imagination than I have talent. I cook up ideas. It's just a characteristic.
I just admire people like Woody Allen, who every year writes an original screenplay. It's astonishing. I always wished that I could do that.
To do good is to be abundant — that's my tendency. If I cook a meal, I cook too much and have too many things. I was just watching a Cecil B. DeMille picture last night based on Cleopatra, and I realized how many parts of the real story he left out. So much of the art of film is to do less. To aspire to do less.
When I was starting out, I got a job writing a script for Bill Cosby. He used to have the very best wine for his friends. He didn't drink wine himself, but he had this wine called Romanée-Conti, which is considered one of the greatest wines in the world. I never knew wine could taste like that. He also taught me how to play baccarat. And one night I had $400, and I won $30,000. So I bought $30,000 worth of Romanée wines.
You have to view things in the context of your life expectancy.
The ending was clear and Michael has corrupted himself — it was over. So I didn't understand why they wanted to make another Godfather.
I said, "What I will do is help you develop a story. And I'll find a director and produce it." They said, "Well, who's the director?" And I said, "Young guy, Martin Scorsese." They said, "Absolutely not!" He was just starting out.
The only thing they really argued with me about was calling it Godfather Part II. It was always Son of the Wolfman or The Wolfman Returns or something. They thought that audiences would find it confusing. It was ironic, because that started the whole numbers thing. I started a lot of things.
I was in my trailer, working on Godfather II or III in New York, and there was a knock on the door. The guy working with me said that John Gotti would like to meet Mr. Coppola. And I said, "It's not possible, I'm in the middle of something." There's an old wives' tale about vampires — that you have to invite them in, but once they cross the threshold, then they're in. But if you say you don't want to meet them, then they can't come in. They can't know you.
I never saw The Sopranos. I'm not interested in the mob.
What greater snub can you get than that absolutely nobody went to see Youth Without Youth? Anything better than that is a success.
Some audiences love to sit there and see all the names in the credits. Are they looking for a relative?
What should I do now? I could do something a little more ambitious. Or less. Better less. For me, less ambitious is more ambitious.