At 84 years old, Francis Ford Coppola has this physical status:
After earning his theater arts degree from Hofstra in 1960, Coppola enrolled in UCLA Film School. There, he directed a short horror film, The Two Christophers, inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's "William Wilson" and Ayamonn the Terrible, a film about a sculptor's nightmares coming to life. He also met undergraduate film major Jim Morrison, future frontman of The Doors. Coppola later used Morrison's song "The End" in Apocalypse Now.
In the early 1960s, Coppola made $10 a week. Looking for a way to earn some extra money, he found that many colleagues from film school made money filming erotic productions known as "nudie-cuties" or "skin flicks", which showed nudity without implying any sexual act.
At 21, Coppola wrote the script for The Peeper, a comedy short film about a voyeur who tries to spy on a sensual photo shoot in the studio next to his apartment. Coppola found an interested producer, who gave him $3,000 to shoot the film. He hired Playboy Bunny Marli Renfro to play the model and had his friend Karl Schanzer to play the voyeur. With The Peeper finished, Coppola found that the cartoonish aspects of the film alienated potential buyers, who did not find the 12-minute short exciting enough to screen in adult theaters.
After much rejection, Coppola received an opportunity from Premier Pictures Company, a small production company that invested in an adult production called The Wide Open Spaces, an erotic western written and directed by Jerry Schafer, which had been shelved for more than a year. Both Schafer's film and The Peeper featured Marli Renfro, so the producers paid Coppola $500 to combine the two films. After Coppola re-edited the picture, it was released in 1962 as the softcore comedy Tonight for Sure.
Another production company, Screen Rite Pictures, hired Coppola to do a similar job: re-cutting a German film titled Mit Eva fing die Sünde an (Sin Began with Eve), directed by Fritz Umgelter. Coppola added new color footage with British model June Wilkinson and other nude starlets. The re-edited film was released as The Bellboy and the Playgirls.
Some years later, Roger Corman hired Coppola as an assistant. Corman first tasked Coppola with dubbing and re-editing the Soviet science fiction film Nebo zovyot, which Coppola turned into the sex-and-violence monster movie Battle Beyond the Sun, which was released in 1962. Impressed by Coppola's perseverance and dedication, Corman hired him as a dialogue director for Tower of London (1962), sound man for The Young Racers (1963) and associate producer and one of many uncredited directors for The Terror (1963).
Coppola's first feature-length film was Dementia 13 (1963). While on location in Ireland for The Young Racers in 1963, Corman persuaded Coppola to use that film's leftover funds to make a low-budget horror movie. Coppola wrote a brief draft in one night, incorporating elements from Hitchcock's Psycho, and the result impressed Corman enough to give the go-ahead. On a budget of $40,000 ($20,000 from Corman and $20,000 from another producer who wanted to buy the movie's English rights), Coppola directed Dementia 13 over the course of nine days. The film recouped its expenses and later became a cult film among horror buffs. It was on the set of Dementia 13 that Coppola met his future wife, Eleanor Jessie Neil.
In 1965, Coppola won the annual Samuel Goldwyn Award for best screenplay (Pilma, Pilma) written by a UCLA student. The honor secured him a job as a scriptwriter with Seven Arts. During this time, Coppola also co-wrote the scripts for This Property Is Condemned (1966) and Is Paris Burning? (1966).
Coppola bought the rights to the David Benedictus novel You're a Big Boy Now and merged it with a story idea of his own, resulting in his UCLA thesis project You're a Big Boy Now (1966), which earned Coppola his Master of Fine Arts Degree from UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television in 1967. The film also received a theatrical release via Warner Bros and earned critical acclaim. Geraldine Page was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for her performance.
Following the success of You're a Big Boy Now, Coppola was offered to work on movie version of the Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow, starring Petula Clark in her first American film and veteran Fred Astaire. Producer Jack L. Warner was not impressed by Coppola's shaggy-haired, bearded, "hippie" appearance and generally left him to his own devices. Coppola took the cast to the Napa Valley for much of the outdoor shooting, but those scenes were in sharp contrast to those filmed on a Hollywood soundstage, resulting in a disjointed look to the film. Dealing with outdated material at a time when the popularity of film musicals was already waning, Clark received a Golden Globe Best Actress nomination. The film introduced Coppola to George Lucas, who became his lifelong friend as well as a production assistant in his next film The Rain People in 1969.
The Rain People was written, directed, and initially produced by Coppola himself, though as the movie advanced, he exceeded his budget and the studio had to underwrite the remainder of the movie. The film won the Golden Shell at the 1969 San Sebastian Film Festival.
In 1969, Coppola wanted to subvert the studio system, which he felt had stifled his visions, intending to produce mainstream pictures to finance off-beat projects and give first-time directors a chance. He decided name his future studio "Zoetrope" after receiving a gift of zoetropes from Mogens Scot-Hansen, founder of a studio called Lanterna Film and owner of a famous collection of early motion picture-making equipment. While touring Europe, Coppola was introduced to alternative filmmaking equipment and, inspired by the bohemian spirit of Lanterna Film, decided he would build a deviant studio that would conceive and implement unconventional approaches to filmmaking. Upon his return home, Coppola and George Lucas searched for a mansion in Marin County to house the studio. However, in 1969, with equipment flowing in and no mansion found yet, the first home for Zoetrope Studio became a warehouse in San Francisco on Folsom Street. The studio went on to become an early adopter of digital filmmaking, including some of the earliest uses of HDTV. In his 1968 book The American Cinema, Andrew Sarris wrote, "[Coppola] is probably the first reasonably talented and sensibly adaptable directorial talent to emerge from a university curriculum in film-making ... [He] may be heard from more decisively in the future."
Coppola was at the forefront of a group of filmmakers known as "New Hollywood" that emerged in the early 1970s, with ideas that challenged conventional filmmaking. The group included Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Terrence Malick, Robert Altman, Woody Allen, William Friedkin, Philip Kaufman, and George Lucas.
Coppola co-wrote the script for Patton in 1970 along with Edmund H. North. This earned him his first Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. However, it was not easy for Coppola to convince Franklin J. Schaffner that the opening scene would work. Coppola later revealed in an interview,
When the title role was offered to George C. Scott, he remembered having read Coppola's screenplay earlier. He stated flatly that he would accept the part only if they used Coppola's script. "Scott is the one who resurrected my version," said Coppola.
The movie opens with Scott's rendering of Patton's famous military "Pep Talk" to members of the Third Army, set against a huge American flag. Coppola and North had to tone down Patton's actual language to avoid an R rating; in the opening monologue, the word "fornicating" replaced "fucking" when criticizing The Saturday Evening Post. Over the years, this opening monologue has become an iconic scene and has spawned parodies in numerous films, political cartoons, and television shows.
The release of The Godfather in 1972 was a cinematic milestone. The near three hour-long epic, a film treatment of Mario Puzo's New York Times-bestselling novel The Godfather, chronicling the saga of the Corleone family, received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and got Coppola the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, which he shared with Mario Puzo, as well as Golden Globe Awards for Best Director and Best Screenplay. However, Coppola faced several difficulties while filming. He was not Paramount's first choice to direct the movie; Italian director Sergio Leone was initially offered the job but declined in order to direct his own gangster opus, Once Upon a Time in America. Robert Evans wanted the picture to be directed by an Italian American to make the film "ethnic to the core". Evans' chief assistant Peter Bart suggested Coppola, as a director of Italian ancestry who would work for a low sum and budget after the poor reception of his latest film The Rain People. Coppola initially turned down the job because he found Puzo's novel sleazy and sensationalist, describing it as "pretty cheap stuff". At the time, Coppola's studio American Zoetrope owed over $400,000 to Warner Bros. for budget overruns in the film THX 1138 and, when coupled with his poor financial standing, along with advice from friends and family, Coppola reversed his initial decision and took the job. Coppola was officially announced as director of the film on September 28, 1970. He agreed to receive $125,000 and six percent of the gross rentals. Coppola later found a deeper theme for the material and decided it should be not just be a film about organized crime, but also a family chronicle and a metaphor for capitalism in America. There was disagreement between Paramount and Coppola on casting; Coppola wanted to cast Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, though Paramount wanted either Ernest Borgnine or Danny Thomas. At one point, Coppola was told by the then-president of Paramount that "Marlon Brando will never appear in this motion picture." After pleading with the executives, Coppola was allowed to cast Brando only if he appeared in the film for much less money than his previous films, would perform a screen test, and put up a bond saying that he would not cause a delay in the production (as he had done on previous film sets). Coppola chose Brando over Ernest Borgnine on the basis of Brando's screen test, which also won over the Paramount leadership. Brando later won an Academy Award for his portrayal, which he refused to accept. Coppola would later recollect:
After it was released, the film received widespread praise. It went on to win multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Coppola. The film routinely features at the top in various polls for the greatest movies ever. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, and was ranked third, behind Citizen Kane and Casablanca, on the initial AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list by the American Film Institute in 1997. It was moved up to second when the list was published again in 2007. Director Stanley Kubrick believed that The Godfather was possibly the greatest movie ever made and certainly the best-cast.
Coppola's next film, The Conversation, further cemented his position as one of the most talented auteurs of Hollywood. The movie was partly influenced by Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup (1966) and generated much interest when news leaked that the film utilized the very same surveillance and wire-tapping equipment that members of the Nixon administration used to spy on political opponents prior to the Watergate scandal. Coppola insisted that this was purely coincidental, as the script for The Conversation was completed in the mid-1960s (before the election of Richard Nixon) and the spying equipment used in the film was developed through research and use of technical advisers and not by newspaper stories about the Watergate break-in. However, the audience interpreted the film as a reaction to both the Watergate scandal and its fallout. The movie was a critical success and got Coppola his first Palme d'Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival.
During the filming of The Conversation, Coppola wrote the screenplay for The Great Gatsby. However, in the commentary track to the DVD of The Godfather, Coppola states, "I don't think that script was [actually] made."
Coppola shot The Godfather Part II in parallel to The Conversation. It was the last major American motion picture to be filmed in Technicolor. George Lucas commented on the film after its five-hour-long preview, telling Coppola, "You have two films. Take one away, it doesn't work," referring to the movie's portrayal of two parallel storylines, one of a young Vito Corleone and the other of his son Michael. In the director's commentary on the DVD edition of the film (released in 2002), Coppola states that this film was the first major motion picture to use "Part II" in its title. Paramount was initially opposed to his decision to name the movie The Godfather Part II. According to Coppola, the studio's objection stemmed from the belief that audiences would be reluctant to see a film with such a title, as the audience would supposedly believe that, having already seen The Godfather, there was little reason to see an addition to the original film. However, the success of The Godfather Part II began the Hollywood tradition of numbered sequels. The movie was released in 1974 and went on to receive tremendous critical acclaim, with many deeming it superior to its predecessor. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and received six Oscars, including three for Coppola: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director.
The Godfather Part II is ranked as the No. 1 greatest movie of all time in TV Guide's "50 Best Movies of All Time" and is ranked at No. 7 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the "100 Greatest Movies of All Time". The film is also featured on movie critic Leonard Maltin's list of the "100 Must-See Films of the 20th Century" as well as Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list. It was also featured on Sight & Sound's list of the ten greatest films of all time in 2002, ranking at No. 4.
Coppola was the third director to have two nominations for Best Picture in the same year. Victor Fleming was the first in 1939 with Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz; Alfred Hitchcock repeated the feat the next year with Foreign Correspondent and Rebecca. Since Coppola, two other directors have done the same: Herbert Ross in 1977 with The Goodbye Girl and The Turning Point, and Steven Soderbergh in 2000 with Erin Brockovich and Traffic. Coppola, however, is the only one to have produced the pictures nominated.
Following the success of The Godfather, The Conversation, and The Godfather Part II, Coppola began filming Apocalypse Now, an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness set in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Coppola himself briefly cameos as a TV news director. The production of the film was plagued by numerous problems, including typhoons, nervous breakdowns, the firing of Harvey Keitel, Martin Sheen's heart attack, and extras from the Philippine military and half of the supplied helicopters leaving in the middle of scenes to fight rebels. It was delayed so often it was nicknamed Apocalypse When? The 1991 documentary film Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, directed by Francis's wife, Eleanor Coppola, who was present through the production, Fax Bahr, and George Hickenlooper, chronicles the difficulties the crew went through making Apocalypse Now and features behind-the-scenes footage filmed by Eleanor. After filming Apocalypse Now, Coppola famously stated, "We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment and little by little, we went insane."
The film was overwhelmingly praised by critics when it finally released in 1979 and was selected for the 1979 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Palme d'Or along with The Tin Drum, directed by Volker Schlöndorff. When the film screened at Cannes, Coppola quipped, "My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam." Apocalypse Now's reputation has grown in time and it is now regarded by many as a masterpiece of the New Hollywood era and is frequently cited as one of the greatest movies ever made. Roger Ebert considered it to be the finest film on the Vietnam War and included it in his list for the 2002 Sight & Sound critics' poll of the greatest movies ever made.
In 2001 Coppola re-released Apocalypse Now as Apocalypse Now Redux, restoring several sequences lost from the original 1979 cut of the film, thereby expanding its length to 200 minutes. In 2019 Coppola re-released Apocalypse Now once more as Apocalypse Now (Final Cut), claiming that version to be his favorite.
Apocalypse Now marked the end of the 'golden phase' of Coppola's career. His 1982 musical fantasy One from the Heart, although pioneering the use of video-editing techniques that are standard practice in the film industry today, ended with a disastrous box-office gross of US$636,796 against a $26-million budget, and he was forced to sell the 23-acre Zoetrope Studio in 1983. He would spend the rest of the decade working to pay off his debts. Zoetrope Studios finally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990, after which its name was changed to American Zoetrope.
In 1983, he directed The Outsiders, a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton. Coppola credited his inspiration for making the film to a suggestion from middle school students who had read the novel. The Outsiders is notable for being the breakout film for a number of young actors who would go on to become major stars. These included major roles for Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, and C. Thomas Howell. Also in the cast were Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe (in his film debut), Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, and Tom Cruise. Matt Dillon and several others also starred in Coppola's related film Rumble Fish, which was also based on an S. E. Hinton novel and filmed at the same time as The Outsiders on-location in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Carmine Coppola wrote and edited the musical score, including the title song "Stay Gold", which was based upon a famous Robert Frost poem and performed for the movie by Stevie Wonder. The film was a moderate box-office success, grossing $25 million against a $10 million budget.
That same year, he directed Rumble Fish, based on the novel of the same name by S. E. Hinton, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Shot in black-and-white as an homage to German expressionist films, Rumble Fish centers on the relationship between a revered former gang leader (Mickey Rourke) and his younger brother, Rusty James (Matt Dillon). The film bombed at the box office, earning a meager $2.5 million against a $10 million budget and once again aggravating Coppola's financial troubles.
In 1984, Coppola directed the Robert Evans-produced The Cotton Club. The film was nominated for several awards, including the Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Picture (Drama) and Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Art-Direction. However, the film failed miserably at the box-office, earning only $25.9 million of the $47.9 million privately invested by brothers Fred and Ed Doumani.
The same year, he directed an episode of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre entitled "Rip Van Winkle" (based on the short story), where Harry Dean Stanton played the lead role.
In 1986, Coppola directed Captain EO, a 17-minute space fantasy for Disney theme parks executive produced by George Lucas, starring singer Michael Jackson.
Also in 1986, Coppola released the comedy Peggy Sue Got Married starring Kathleen Turner, Coppola's nephew Nicolas Cage, and Jim Carrey. Much like The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, Peggy Sue Got Married centered around teenage youth. The film earned Coppola positive feedback and provided Kathleen Turner her first and only Oscar nomination. It was Coppola's first box-office success since The Outsiders and the film ranked number 17 on Entertainment Weekly's list of "50 Best High School Movies".
The following year, Coppola re-teamed with James Caan for Gardens of Stone, but the film was overshadowed by the death of Coppola's eldest son Gian-Carlo during the film's production. The movie was not a critical success and underperformed commercially, earning only $5.6 million against a $13 million budget.
Coppola directed Tucker: The Man and His Dream the year after that. Being a biopic based on the life of Preston Tucker and his attempt to produce and market the Tucker '48, Coppola had originally conceived the project as a musical with Marlon Brando leading after the release of The Godfather Part II. Ultimately, it was Jeff Bridges who played the role of Preston Tucker. Budgeted at $24 million, the film received positive reviews and earned three nominations at the 62nd Academy Awards, but grossed a disappointing $19.65 million at the box office. It garnered two awards: Martin Landau won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and Dean Tavoularis took BAFTA's honors for Best Production Design.
In 1989, Coppola teamed up with fellow Oscar-winning directors Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen for an anthology film called New York Stories. Coppola directed the "Life Without Zoë" segment, starring his sister Talia Shire, and also co-wrote the film with his daughter Sofia. "Life Without Zoë" was mostly panned by critics and was generally considered to be the segment that brought the film's overall quality down. Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote a particularly scathing review, stating that "It's impossible to know what Francis Coppola's Life Without Zoë is. Co-written with his daughter Sofia, the film is a mystifying embarrassment; it's by far the director's worst work yet."
In 1990, he released the third and final chapter of The Godfather series: The Godfather Part III. Coppola felt that the first two films had told the complete Corleone saga. Coppola intended Part III to be an epilogue to the first two films. In his audio commentary for Part II, he stated that only a dire financial situation caused by the failure of One from the Heart (1982) compelled him to take up Paramount's long-standing offer to make a third installment. Coppola and Puzo preferred the title The Death of Michael Corleone, but Paramount Pictures found that unacceptable. While not as critically acclaimed as the first two films, it was still commercially successful, earning $136 million against a $54 million budget. Some reviewers criticized the casting of Coppola's daughter Sofia, who stepped into the leading role of Mary Corleone, which was abandoned by Winona Ryder just as filming began. Despite this, The Godfather Part III went on to gather 7 Academy Award nominations, including Best Director and Best Picture. The film failed to win any of these awards, which made it the only film in the trilogy to do so.
In September 2020, for the film's 30th anniversary, it was announced that a new cut of the film titled Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone would have a limited theatrical release in December 2020 followed by digital and Blu-ray. Coppola said the film is the version he and Puzo had originally envisioned, and it "vindicates" its status among the trilogy and his daughter Sofia's performance.
In 1992 Coppola directed and produced Bram Stoker's Dracula. Adapted from Bram Stoker's novel, it was intended to follow the book more closely than previous film adaptations. Coppola cast Gary Oldman as the titular role, with Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Anthony Hopkins in supporting roles. The movie became a box-office hit, grossing $82,522,790 domestically, making it the 15th highest-grossing film of the year. It fared even better out of the country, grossing $133,339,902 for a total worldwide gross of $215,862,692 against a budget of $40 million, making it the 9th highest-grossing film of the year worldwide. The film won Academy Awards for Costume Design, Makeup and Sound Editing.
Coppola's next project was Jack, which was released on August 9, 1996. It starred Robin Williams as Jack Powell, a ten-year-old boy whose cells are growing at four times the normal rate due to Werner syndrome, which makes him look like a 40-year-old man at the age of ten. With Diane Lane, Brian Kerwin, and Bill Cosby, Jack also featured Jennifer Lopez, Fran Drescher and Michael McKean in supporting roles. Although a moderate box-office success, grossing $58 million domestically on an estimated $45 million budget, it was panned by critics, many of whom disliked the film's abrupt contrast between actual comedy and tragic melodrama. It was also unfavorably compared with the 1988 film Big, in which Tom Hanks also played a child in a grown man's body. Most critics felt that the screenplay was poorly written, not funny, and had unconvincing and unbelievable drama. Other critics felt that Coppola was too talented to be making this type of film. Although ridiculed for making the film, Coppola has defended it, saying he is not ashamed of the final cut of the movie. He had been friends with Robin Williams for many years and had always wanted to work with him as an actor. When Williams was offered the screenplay for Jack, he said he would only agree to do it if Coppola agreed to sign on as director.
The last film Coppola directed in the 1990s, The Rainmaker, was based on the 1995 novel of the same name by John Grisham. An ensemble courtroom drama, the film was well received by critics, earning an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave The Rainmaker three stars out of four, remarking, "I have enjoyed several of the movies based on Grisham novels ... but I've usually seen the storyteller's craft rather than the novelist's art being reflected. By keeping all of the little people in focus, Coppola shows the variety of a young lawyer's life, where every client is necessary and most of them need a lot more than a lawyer." James Berardinelli also gave the film three stars out of four, saying that "the intelligence and subtlety of The Rainmaker took me by surprise" and that the film "stands above any other filmed Grisham adaptation." Grisham said of the film, "To me it's the best adaptation of any of [my books] ... I love the movie. It's so well done." The film grossed about $45 million domestically, more than the estimated production budget of $40 million, but a disappointment compared to previous films adapted from Grisham novels.
In the late 1980s, Coppola started considering concepts for a motion picture based upon the 19th-century Carlo Collodi novel The Adventures of Pinocchio, and in 1991, Coppola and Warner Bros. began discussing the project as well as two others, one involving the life of J. Edgar Hoover and the other based on the children's novel The Secret Garden. These discussions led to negotiations for Coppola to both produce and direct the Pinocchio project for Warner Bros. as well as The Secret Garden (which was made in 1993 and produced by American Zoetrope, but directed by Agnieszka Holland) and Hoover, which never came to fruition. (A film was eventually made by Clint Eastwood in 2011 titled J. Edgar, which was distributed by Warner Bros.)
However, in mid-1991, Coppola and Warner Bros. came to a disagreement over the compensation to Coppola for his directing services on Pinocchio. In 1994, Coppola later approached another studio, Columbia Pictures, to produce the film. Warner Brothers then wrote to Columbia, stating it had held the rights to Coppola's project, which led to Columbia later dropping the project. Coppola filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros, alleging they had wrongfully prevented Columbia Pictures from making the film.
The parties deferred this issue and a settlement was finally reached on July 3, 1998, when the jurors in the resultant court case awarded Coppola $20 million as compensation for losing the Pinocchio film project. On that same day, Warner Bros. stated it would appeal the decision. A week later, Coppola was awarded a further $60 million in punitive damages on top, stemming from his charges that Warner Bros. sabotaged his intended version. However, in October 1998, then-Superior Court Judge Madeleine Flier reversed the jury's $60 million award to Coppola. Warner Bros. and Coppola then appealed each other's ruling, in which Coppola sought to have his $60 million award restored. In March 2001, the California Court of Appeals decided against Coppola on both counts. In July 2001, the California Supreme Court refused to hear the appellate decision, bringing the litigation battle to a conclusive end.
During the filming of Contact on December 28, 1996, Coppola filed a lawsuit against Carl Sagan and Warner Bros. Sagan had died a week earlier, and Coppola claimed that Sagan's novel Contact was based on a story the pair had developed for a television special back in 1975 titled First Contact. Under their development agreement, Coppola and Sagan were to split proceeds from the project as well as any novel Sagan would write with American Zoetrope and Children's Television Workshop Productions. The television program was never produced, but in 1985, Simon & Schuster published Sagan's Contact and Warner Bros. moved forward with development of a film adaptation. Coppola sought at least $250,000 in compensatory damages and an injunction against production or distribution of the film. Even though Sagan was shown to have violated some of the terms of the agreement, the case was dismissed in February 1998 because Coppola had waited too long to file suit.
In August 1999, Coppola was brought in by MGM to supervise another re-editing of the film Supernova, costing $1 million at his American Zoetrope facility in Northern California. This work included digitally placing Angela Bassett's and James Spader's faces on the bodies of (a computer-tinted) Robin Tunney and Peter Facinelli so that their characters could have a love scene. However, Coppola's re-edited version had negative test screening and didn't get the PG-13 rating by the MPAA that the studio wanted. Creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos, whose special effects were mostly cut out from the film, said that Walter Hill wanted the film to be much more grotesque, strange, and disturbing, while MGM wanted to make it more of a hip, sexy film in space, and not with full-blown makeup effects. "I hope that my experience in the film industry has helped improve the picture and rectified some of the problems that losing a director caused", said Coppola. By October 1999, MGM decided to sell the film. The film was eventually released on January 17, 2000, almost two years later than planned.
After a 10-year hiatus, Coppola returned to directing with Youth Without Youth in 2007, based on the novella of the same name by Romanian author Mircea Eliade. The film was poorly reviewed, currently holding a 30% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was made for about $19 million and had a limited release, only managing $2,624,759 at the box-office. As a result, Coppola announced his plans to produce his own films in order to avoid the marketing input that goes into most films that try to make themselves appeal to too wide of an audience.
In 2009, Coppola released Tetro. It was "set in Argentina, with the reunion of two brothers. The story follows the rivalries born out of creative differences passed down through generations of an artistic Italian immigrant family." The film received generally positive reviews from critics. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average metascore of 63% based on 19 reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 70% of critics gave positive reviews, based on 105 reviews, with an average score of 6.3/10. Overall, the Rotten Tomatoes consensus was: "A complex meditation on family dynamics, Tetro's arresting visuals and emotional core compensate for its uneven narrative." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 stars, praising it for being "boldly operatic, involving family drama, secrets, generations at war, melodrama, romance and violence", Ebert also praised Vincent Gallo's performance and claimed that Alden Ehrenreich is "the new Leonardo DiCaprio". Todd McCarthy of Variety gave the film a B+, judging that "when Coppola finds creative nirvana, he frequently has trouble delivering the full goods". Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a mixed review, praising Ehrenreich's performance, but claiming Coppola "has made a movie in which plenty happens, but nothing rings true". The film made $2,636,774 worldwide, against a budget of $5,000,000.
Twixt, starring Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning, Joanne Whalley, and Bruce Dern, and narrated by Tom Waits, was released to film festivals in late 2011 and was released theatrically in early 2012. It received critical acclaim in France, but mostly negative reviews elsewhere.
In 2015, Coppola stated
Distant Vision is a semi-autobiographical unfinished live broadcast project created in real-time. Proof of concepts were tested before limited audiences at Oklahoma City Community College in June 2015 and UCLA School of Theater in July 2016.
In December 2020, a re-edit of Godfather III, The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone had a limited theatrical release, followed by digital and Blu-ray release in 2021. Coppola stated that The Godfather Part IV was never made because Mario Puzo died before they had a chance to write the film. Andy García has since claimed the film's script was nearly produced.
Coppola was the jury president at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival and he also took part as a special guest at the 17th Midnight Sun Film Festival in Sodankylä, Finland, and the 46th International Thessaloniki Film Festival in Thessaloniki, Greece.
In April 2019, Coppola announced that he plans to direct Megalopolis, which he had been developing for many years prior. Speaking to Deadline, he said: "I plan this year to begin my longstanding ambition to make a major work utilizing all I have learned during my long career, beginning at age 16 doing theater, and that will be an epic on a grand scale, which I've titled Megalopolis." He had planned to direct the movie, a story about the aftermath and reconstruction of New York City after a mega-disaster, but after the real-life disaster of the September 11 attacks, the project was seen as being too sensitive.
In August 2021, it was announced that Coppola had begun discussions with actors for the project and that he was aiming to begin principal photography in the fall of 2022. In April 2022, it was reported that filming was to take place from September 6, 2022, to February 2, 2023. In May 2022, the star cast was revealed: Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jon Voight, and Laurence Fishburne. In July, it was reported that filming would instead begin in November 2022 at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville, Georgia. In August, it was revealed that Aubrey Plaza, Talia Shire, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Schwartzman, Kathryn Hunter, James Remar, and Grace VanderWaal joined the cast. In early October, it was announced that Chloe Fineman, Dustin Hoffman, Bailey Ives, Isabelle Kusman, and D.B. Sweeney would also be joining the cast.