Francis Ford Coppola defined the sensibilities of the New Hollywood movement with masterpieces such as Apocalypse Now. However, his greatest contribution to popular culture is definitely his reconfiguration of the crime genre when he embarked on the monumental journey of directing the iconic series of The Godfather films.
Told through the accounts of multiple generations, The Godfather franchise is nothing short of a mesmerising opus which paints a compelling and complete portrait of organised crime in America. Before it was made, the first film was dismissed as yet another mobster flick but everything changed when it came out and now it is the gold standard against which everything else is measured.
On the occasion of the film’s 50th anniversary, Coppola took the time out to reflect on the invaluable impact that The Godfather has had on the traditions of American filmmaking as well as the frameworks of popular culture. In a recent interview with Empire, the director spoke at length about how the film’s success completely changed his life and propelled him towards unprecedented fame.
“I went from having zero money at all and a family to support, to having several million dollars, which was astonishing,” Coppola recalled. “No-one in my family had that kind of money. I went from being unknown and poor with a lot of family responsibilities – I was married young and I loved my kids and my family – to having some money and acclaim. I was famous, everyone knew about The Godfather and knew about me.”
The film helped him become accepted within the filmmaking community as well because he had always felt like an outsider before that. According to him, the immediate success of The Godfather still didn’t earn him comparisons to the great directors of the ’70s but time has given him what he wanted because his legacy has only grown through the years.
Coppola admitted: “In my heart, all I ever really wanted was to be considered one of the group, which I am now because when they talk about all the big directors of the ‘70s, they say George Lucas and Francis Coppola and Marty Scorsese and Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma and Paul Schrader. So, I have what I want – I am one of the group.”