coppola: “This is kind of my Tennessee Williams period”


Visiting Francis Ford Coppola one day this summer on his impossibly picturesque 1,650-acre estate in the Napa Valley, where 235 of those acres are planted with grapevines whose fruit was ripening in the noontime sun—the morning fog had just started to burn off—I couldn’t help thinking that Orson Welles should have made wine, too. He only got as far as shilling for it in those corny old Paul Masson commercials that were endlessly parodied in the late 70s and early 80s. (Oleaginous basso voice: “What Paul Masson said nearly a century ago is still true today: We will sell no wine before its time.”) Welles died in 1985 at the age of 70. He spent his last decades scrounging for money to complete unfinished films, scrounging for more money to initiate new ones, and debasing his talent by acting in god-awful movies, TV shows, and commercials—shortly before his death he provided the voice for Unicron in the original, 1986 Transformers movie—in order to keep his head above water. This was not the ending anyone aside from William Randolph Hearst would have wished on him. Coppola, for his part, is now 68. It seems fair to say that he is one of the few American film directors who can match Welles both for talent and for showmanship—for sheer cinematic nerve. Like Welles, he is also no stranger to grandiosity, bunkum, overreach, self-immolation, and red ink. Unlike Welles, and thanks in no small part to those vineyards, his story looks to have a happier dénouement.

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