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dreams of respectability — not least his cold-blooded sister Connie (Talia Shire, nee Coppola) and the heir to his throne Vincent (Andy Garcia), who is, appropriately enough, the illegitimate offspring of the bullet-ridden Sonny.
‘I tried to show Michael as a man who is very heavy with his sins and beginning to think of his death and the family name. and whether or not his children would be free,” Coppola reveals. “The tradition is that people steal and murder and then they get old and leave their money to charity and they become the Rockefellers and the other famous families ofthe world. I wanted the story to be like a tragedy and a personal story of a man trying to deal with his paranoia and hypocrisy and trying to adopt a more confessional tone and turn to the church for absolution.‘
Once again combining the epic and the intimate, Coppola says his intention was to make the conclusion of the trilogy as personal as possible. To this end. he not only cast his own daughter Sofia as Michael‘s daughter. but also embroidered incidents from his own life to serve as the meat ofthe fictional story.
‘In the third film I tried to make it as personal to myselfas I could. When I began to think ofthe story, Michael had two children — a boy and a girl — and I used my own children as the prototype. I lost my first son and he was very enthusiastic about being with me and doing movies with me and learning about me and my second s'on was much more into his own ideas, his own music and his own friends. When we lost his brother there was a tremendous pressure on him to fulfil the role of the kind of son he wasn’t and I knew it was painful for him. So I let that personal story suggest the idea ofa young son who has to tell his father “No. I don‘t want to go into your business. I don‘t want to be like you.“ And. as he goes offto be an opera singer, it also allowed me to
include the opera as a final section ofthe film.‘
As Coppola readily suggests, the third segment of any story is unlikely to surprise the audience with its originality, but what The Godfather [II lacks in freshness, it more than compensates for with the sheer bravura technique ofCoppola's filmmaking. The concluding half-hour is a brilliantly edited combination of images. music and storytelling that pulls together all the elements of Michael’s tragic destiny and also echoes the ending of the original Godfather as it juxtaposes a traditional social function with ritualistic violence.
‘The ending ofa film is usually the toughest part because you have to pay offeverything that comes before it. In Godfather lllthere was the added difficulty of not only ending the movie but the trilogy. Where I made
u I wanted it
*. , to he really painful,
.- like Rigolettoor Oedipus, where the man really pays for
Godfather 1 a straight continuity. then Godfather II had a double parallel, so I consciously made the structure of Godfather II] the same as Godfather I, so that the entire piece would be like a symphony. I did like the parallel of the ending, which reminds you a little of his father’s death, but I also wanted it to be really painful, like Rigoletto or Oedipus. where the man really pays for his sins.‘
During the making of the film last year, rumours abounded of dissent on the set. Madonna and Frank Sinatra were in and out of the cast. Robert Duvall refused to reprise his role because of an insulting salary offer of a mere $2 million. and the budget had ballooned to more than $50 million. However. with respectable box-office figures in America and seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, any
disharmony seems to have been forgotten in much the same kind of postscript that marked the completion of the first film. Coppola himselfdescribes the shoot as ‘pretty smooth and non-problematic‘, citing The Cotton Club as a film with ‘many more problems‘. Whether he is being disingenuous after the fact or not is hard to
tell, but it seems immaterial; the film has
restored him to solvency and also seems to have rekindled his enthusiasm for the whole process of filmmaking.
‘When I was in my late forties I got very depressed. I felt that my films went over very mixed and I wasn‘t welcome. but now that I‘m in my fifties I have much more enthusiasm for the ideas ofthe future and I
i hope my best work is still to come. I do
believe that we are going to be into an extraordinary new art form that will develop out ofthe cinema. When I watch CNN and
the GulfWar, I realise that it is like a
primitive indication ofwhat we can expect as we approach the year 2000, when art itself
: will be live around the globe and artists in
different continents will be collaborating
5 just as today a simple newscast is broadcast
throughout the world.‘
He cites gothic romance and science fiction as two genres in which he would like to work and recent reports have linked his name to Vampire, 3 new version of Dracula starring
- Winona Ryder and Daniel Day Lewis.
He refuses to be drawn, saying merely that ‘a filmmaker likes to take an audience by surprise and it’s terrible when people write about your secrets before you get to make them. It’s like someone knowing the birthday present that you got for them, so I’m not going to tell you what I‘m working on. But I’m going to continue trying to make bigger films, maybe in areas where I haven’t worked before, and also smaller films that will be more experimental than I’ve ever tried before.’
The Godfather [II has a wide release on Fri 8 March. The Godfather— The Epic, a three-tape video of Godfathers l and 1/ goes on sale the same day at£29. 99.
10The List8—21 March 1991