The Coppola Family Dynasty And What We Can learn From Them As Individuals

The Coppola’s are a multi-generational dynasty of extremely talented and influential artists. Not all children are motivated to go into the family business, but it’s hard to resist when it’s show business. It’s equally difficult to flourish in the tall shadows some figures cast. We all need to find our own direction and voice. The Coppola family as individuals can all stand on the strength of their own diverse bodies of work.

Carmine Coppola

“I have written symphonic poems and chamber music. It is my way of personal expression.” – Carmine Coppola

The family patriarch was a flute player with Radio City Music Hall, and the Detroit symphony, musical theatre director, and composer. He scored a restored 4-and-a-half-hour silent film about Napoleon, and won an Oscar for scoring his son’s film the Godfather Part II.

Francis Ford Coppola

“I think it’s better to be overly ambitious and fail than to be under ambitious and succeed in a mundane way. I have been very fortunate. I failed upward in my life!”- Francis Ford Coppola

Many film critics consider The Godfather Part II, and Apocalypse Now to be two of the best films ever made. Now semi-retired, the screenplay writer, producer and famed director has a new sideline, a booming winery and a restaurant called Rustic in California.

Francis Ford Coppola, the firebrand wildcard director was part of the American New Wave of 1970s cinemas. On the set of his first major work he pioneered the concept of having actors spend time together before filming to strengthen chemistry, dynamics and relationships. The cast dress rehearsals would be large family style dinners in character. Tenacious and quick thinking, Coppola worked with the natural organic reactions to problem solve. Former wrestler Lenny Montana who played menacing Luca Brasi was so nervous working with Marlon Brandon, he couldn’t deliver a good take, so Coppola added a scene for context, showing Brasi rehearsing to get ready to talk to the Godfather. In Apocalypse Now, one of the most famed and arduous film shoots in history, lead actor Marlon Brando showed up to set so overweight to play an army colonel, Coppola improvised and shot him in profile and in shadows, and added an extra layer of mystery and intrigue.

Coppola’s final footage measured over a million feet of film. He was so dedicated to the specific vision he had for the film he used his own money and put his winery and house up as collateral for bank loans. The on-location shoot in the Philippians immediately went off the rails and off schedule when a typhoon wiped out most of the equipment and destroyed the sets. Beginning in 1976 the film took almost a year to shoot, and another few years to edit. Coppola showed no restraint to get exactly what he wanted, and over a million feet of film was shot. Coppola said of his film’s strong anti-war message, “‘My film is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam. ‘The way we made it is the way Americans were in Vietnam. We had too much money, too much equipment and little by little we went insane.” Coppola took a different direction in the bold black and white film adaptations of SE Hinton novels, Rumblefish and the Outsiders, and created high concept art films for a teenage audience.

Sofia Coppola:

“It’s about misunderstandings between people and places, being disconnected and looking for moments of connection. There are so many moments in life when people don’t say what they mean, when they are just missing each other, waiting to run into each other in a hallway.”   Sofia Coppola

Despite her background growing up on filmsets, it wasn’t a given that Sofia Coppola would follow in her father’s famous footsteps into directing. She dabbled in fashion and photography, before falling organically into making her first feature film. A huge fan of the novel the Virgin Suicides, after hearing about an upcoming film adaptation, concerned about preserving the integrity of the work she wrote her own screenplay, and soon found herself directing the project. She continued to craft her own unique vision in her next breakthrough film, Lost in Translation, filmed on location in Japan. She utilized legendary actor Bill Murray in a unique way that reflected both his dramatic and comedic talents.

Author Bio: Tara Collum

Tara Collum lives in Toronto and grew up in Muskoka. She is the volunteer social media coordinator for the Death Row Support Project @COB_DRSP and co-writes a web serial at She is all about tea, books, mumblecore, music, long walks, and self-improvement. Follow Tara on twitter @99percentsun