Anisse Gross had a long, thoughtful conversation with Francis Ford Coppola. Two parts stuck out at me. The first comes here—after he’s had a huge success with The Godfather and its sequel, then gone hugely into debt with One from the Heart, then spent a decade (!) paying off that debt, and then finally:
Rumpus: When you returned, you developed a new set of rules for your filmmaking process – that they be based on your own original screenplays, involve a personal component, and be self-financed. How did you arrive at this set of rules and what have been its challenges and rewards?
Coppola: I wanted a clean slate so I decided to embark on a series of “student films” for myself to begin anew. I thought, “How do you be like a student?” Easy, you have no money. If you have no money to pay for everything, that’s when things get interesting. The films I make now have to be inexpensive enough that I can finance them myself. This was how I made a new beginning for myself. There’s a scene in a Kurosawa movie where they get this guy, and they practically kill him, and he’s in a box. He just has this knife, and these leaves are blowing, and he throws the knife and tries to get the knife to go through a leaf, and that’s how he builds himself up. I had to do that: be broken in a box and have a second life. To do that I needed to be a student. I thought I should try to make movies with nothing. No money, just whatever I have. [...]
The second part comes here, at the very end:
Rumpus: Are you afraid of dying?
Coppola: I have no fear of death whatsoever. I used to do a little experiment for the fun of it in my elevator here, when I go down to the first floor. I can control the elevator so when I go in, I shut out the lights and I’m in total darkness. I think, when I get to the first floor that I’m going to be dead. As I go down, I think, I had such an interesting life, I got to be a movie director, have a wife and children, had so much fun with them, got to be in the wine business, go through everything, and as I’m lost in all these interesting thoughts, the door opens on the first floor and I’m not dead. I walk out.
Sometimes I’ll do something similar with crosswalks. As I cross, I match my pace to the orange numbers counting down and I pretend that when they reach zero, when I reach the curb, I’ll die. I think this version might be even more potent than Coppola’s because you’re walking, not waiting—you move forward to confront the idea. But any sort of exercise like this can be really healthy and helpful, I think. It’s amazing how much you can realize about your own life, about what you care about and what you don’t, in 10 or 15 seconds.
There’s lots more in the interview. Well worth a read this weekend.