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Writers on Film

Sam Wasson talks Francis Ford Coppola

Season 1, Ep. 140

The New York Times bestselling author of Fifth Avenue, Five A.M. and The Big Goodbye returns with the definitive account of Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola’s decades-long dream to reinvent American filmmaking, if not the entire world, through his production company American Zoetrope.

 Francis Ford Coppola is one of the great American dreamers, and his most magnificent dream is American Zoetrope, the production company he founded in San Francisco years before his gargantuan success, when he was only thirty. Through Zoetrope’s experimental, communal utopia, Coppola attempted to reimagine the entire pursuit of moviemaking. Now, more than fifty years later, despite myriad setbacks, the visionary filmmaker’s dream persists, most notably in the production of his decades in the making film and the culmination of his utopian ideals, Megalopolis.

Granted total and unprecedented access to Coppola’s archives, conducting hundreds of interviews with the artist and those who have worked closely with him, Sam Wasson weaves together an extraordinary portrait. Here is Coppola, charming, brilliant, given to seeing life and art in terms of family and community, but also plagued by restlessness, recklessness and a desire to operate perpetually at the extremes.

As Wasson makes clear, the story of Zoetrope is also the story of Coppola’s wife, Eleanor Coppola, and their children, and of personal lives inseparable from artistic passion. It is a story that charts the divergent paths of Coppola and his co-founder and onetime apprentice, George Lucas, and of their very different visions of art and commerce. And it is a story inextricably bound up in the making of one of the greatest, quixotic masterpieces ever attempted, Apocalypse Now, and of what Coppola found in the jungles of the Philippines when he walked the razor’s edge. That story, already the stuff of legend, has never been fully told, until this extraordinary book.

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