Maverick director Francis Ford Coppola is a biographer's dream: in an industry dominated by those who play it safe, the director of the Godfather
trilogy has always seemed larger than life. As Michael Schumacher shows, Coppola's reputation for "equal parts talent and bombast" is overshadowed only by his willingness to stake everything on projects in which he believes, sometimes with dire financial consequences. Yet throughout the catalogue of disasters and setbacks detailed in this comprehensive biography, Coppola has carried on making films, even if they have frequently confounded audience expectation.
Coppola's interest in film making began at an early age when, incapacitated by polio, he experimented with a 16mm projector and a tape recorder. He would later attend film school and work for legendary producer Roger Corman, gaining invaluable training from the master of low-budget genre pictures. In many ways Coppola was a trailblazer, graduating to feature films earlier than the fellow film students--George Lucas and Steven Spielberg among them--alongside whom he would later form the New Hollywood. In its most entertaining chapters, Schumacher's impeccably researched book follows Coppola as he enjoys the incredible success of The Godfather, survives the madness of the notorious Apocalypse Now shoot in the Philippines, then spirals rapidly into debt after the disaster that was One From The Heart. Since this spectacular failure in the early 1980s, Coppola has never quite delivered a masterpiece, offering only fleeting glimpses of his idiosyncratic talent. But even in his failures, Schumacher depicts Coppola as a fiercely creative and independent figure struggling against the might of corporate Hollywood. It is a testament to the writer's devotion to his subject that on finishing the biography we are left with an unshakeable feeling that a return to form must surely be imminent. --John Oates