Francis Ford Coppola worked with Marlon Brando many times. The two collaborated on The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, where Brando’s behavior has become the stuff of legends. How does Coppola feel about the actor now? Here’s what he has to say.
The Gift And The Curse
Coppola was just 33 when he got the gig of a lifetime: directing Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel The Godfather. Hot off co-writing Patton, Coppola went through the film perpetually on the hot seat. Paramount did not like him, nor did they like Brando.
Copolla later said, “I was told by the president [of Paramount] . . . ‘Brando will not appear in this picture, and I prohibit you from bringing up his name again.” The Wild One star took a pay cut for the film and put up a $1 million bond promising to stay out of trouble. He later won an Academy Award for the role of Vito Corleone, and the Godfather survives as one of the most revered films ever made.
It only made sense for Brando and Coppola to work again. After refusing to work on The Godfather Part II in a salary dispute, Coppola got Brando to sign on for Apocalypse Now. Anyone who’s seen the making-of-documentary Hearts of Darkness now knows that this may not have been the best idea.
Brando showed up to set well overweight and hadn’t learned any of his lines. Coppola, whose own sanity was waning in the jungle, was forced to let Brando improv nearly all of his lines. He had to be shot very purposefully from the neck up. With such a negative experience, one may expect Coppola to hold a grudge.
A Unique ‘Genius’
Perhaps Coppola has a short memory, but he has nothing bad to say about his star. In a new interview with GQ, Coppola discussed the iconic films of his career. In the lengthy interview, Coppola doesn’t say an errant word about Brando. Instead, he says Brando “he was not just a great actor, he certainly was a great actor, a very unique kind of actor…he was, aside from his acting, a kind of a genius.”
Coppola also calls Brando “an extraordinary man.” When the interviewer asks, likely referring to Apocalypse Now, if Brando was hard to work with, Coppola disagrees. “He wasn’t difficult to work with, he just worked a different way.”
All Kind Things
Elsewhere, Coppola calls him “smart” and an excellent addition to his magnum opus. All Coppola had to do was hand Brando a prop and the Superman star would use it in the best way possible. Working with Brando was different than working with, say, Al Pacino or James Caan, but he was a genius.
Time heals all wounds, and anyone with eyes and ears knows just how much Brando added to these pictures. Coppola’s reverence for Brando just proves what a unique talent Brando was.
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