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Follow your creative instincts: It worked for Francis Ford Coppola

I’m all for listening to good advice, the value of critique groups, and feedback in general. But in the end, you must follow your own creative instincts.

Francis Ford Coppola, director of The Godfather, The Godfather II, and The Godfather III, as well as many other movies, had creative differences with movie studio Paramount Pictures during the making of The Godfather. For one thing, he disagreed with Paramount about casting the movie. Coppola wanted to cast Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, while Paramount wanted Ernest Borgnine or Danny Thomas.

At one point, Coppola was told by Paramount: “Marlon Brando will never appear in this motion picture.” After pushing back, Coppola was allowed to cast Brando, but only if he met certain conditions. Brando had to appear in the film for much less salary than his previous films and perform a screen-test, and put up a bond saying that he wouldn’t delay the production (as he had done on previous film sets), according to Wikipedia’s page about Frances Ford Coppola. Coppola chose Brando over Ernest Borgnine on the basis of Brando’s screen test, which also won over Paramount executives. Brando went on to win an Academy Award for his performance. According to Coppola:

“The Godfather was a very unappreciated movie when we were making it. They were very unhappy with it. They didn’t like the cast. They didn’t like the way I was shooting it. I was always on the verge of getting fired. So it was an extremely nightmarish experience. I had two little kids, and the third one was born during that. We lived in a little apartment, and I was basically frightened that they didn’t like it. They had as much as said that, so when it was all over I wasn’t at all confident that it was going to be successful, and that I’d ever get another job.”

The Godfather went on to win many awards, including:

  • Academy Award for Best Picture
  • Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
  • David di Donatello for Best Foreign Film
  • Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Achievement in Feature Film
  • Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay
  • Golden Screen at Golden Screen Awards, Germany
  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director
  • Writers Guild of America Award for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium
  • Nominated — Academy Award for Best Director

Director Stanley Kubrick believed that The Godfather was possibly the greatest movie ever made and had without question the best cast. Visit the Wikipedia page for Francis Ford Coppola for more information. The Godfather Collection (The Coppola Restoration) reveals more about the making of The Godfather movies.

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