It seems Michael Corleone’s solitude in The Godfather trilogy was no mere cinematic conceit.
Rather, it was a Freudian reflection of Francis Ford Coppola’s own childhood.
Interviewed on BTR, the legendary director, who turned 70 in April – and whose new film, Tetro, tells the story of a man searching for his long- missing older brother – discusses how his unstable upbringing has impacted his oeuvre.
When asked if, like Al Pacino‘s character in The Godfather, he still embraces solitude, Francis tells hosts Movie Geeks United hosts Jamey DuVall and Jerry Dennis:
“We’re always prisoners of what our lives were like when we were kids. And for whatever reason, my father [the late Carmine Coppola] tended to sell our homes every six months.
“I think he was speculating in real estate on the side. He was a musician. But we were always moving to another place. I was going to a new school very often in the middle of a term. I went to 24 schools before I ever got to college.
“I went to Hofstra College in Long Island for four years. But before that, I went to six high schools.
“It’s not totally understand- able why [my father] did that. But he did. So as a result, I never really had friends, because it takes a while to be the new kid at school – especially when your name is Francis.
“Then when I was about nine, I had polio and I was taken out of school for a year and a half. I was paralyzed. So as a child, I learned to be alone a lot and kind of entertain myself with reading.
“I was like a boy scientist, doing experiments and reading about the lives of great scientists; playing with electrical gadgets in the basement.
“I was sad, I was lonely and I wanted to have friends. And then later when I was in a position – by working in theater – to have friends, that was nice.
“But now as an older man, I realize I’m extremely comfortable with being alone.”
Francis also discusses how technology has impacted the film industry since the height of his career in the ‘70s.
When asked, “If today, you were going to make some- thing like Apocalypse Now, would you still shoot on location? Or would you give in more to doing a lot of it on the computer?” the director says:
“A lot of my thinking and my conviction that the cinema was going to be electronic came from sitting in the mud for hours upon hours waiting for the helicopters to arrive, then being frustrated be- cause the pilots of those helicopters were afraid of the explosions that were going on below.
“So they were usually 10 feet higher than they were supposed to be. In any shot of Apocalypse Now where you see a lot of heli- copters, you’ve got to realize that there were another 10 higher than you can see, because they were afraid to come down low.”
Tetro, which Francis wrote, directed and produced, opens June 26.
To hear Francis’ full interview, click here.