Francis Ford Coppola ‘fears’ studios are paying debts, not making great movies

Francis Ford Coppola has said that studios are trying to fulfil “debt obligations” rather than make good movies.

The director, 85 – known for The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, has debuted his latest epic project, the science fiction film Megalopolis, at the 77th Cannes Film Festival in France.

With a cast of Adam Driver, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf and Laurence Fishburne, the movie explores trying to control time in a futuristic world with Roman themes including a main character called Cesar.

77th Cannes Film Festival
(left to right) Grace Van der Waal, Giancarlo Esposito, Chloe Fineman, Nathalie Emmanuel, Francis Ford Coppola, Adam Driver and Aubrey Plaza (Doug Peters/PA)

Coppola told a press conference that he would “love to see” theatre from thousands of years ago and become “one with them as an audience”.

He added: “I fear that the film industry has become more a matter of people being hired to meet their debt obligations, because the studios are in great, great debt.

“And the job is not so much to make good movies, the job is to make sure that they pay their debt obligations.

“And obviously, new (streaming) companies like Amazon, and Apple and Microsoft, they have plenty of money. So it might be that the studios that we knew for so long, some wonderful ones are not to be here in the future anymore. I don’t know.”

77th Cannes Film Festival
(left to right) Giancarlo Esposito, Aubrey Plaza, Francis Ford Coppola, Romy Croquet Mars, Adam Driver and Nathalie Emmanuel (Doug Peters/PA)

Coppola said he has “no problems with the financial” responsibilities of making a movie, as he reportedly used 120 million US dollars (£94.8 million) from selling a slice of his winery to finance Megalopolis.

He also said that he did not make the movie in New York as he claimed the state subsidy requires you to “do certain things through New York studios and institutions, which are way overpriced”.

Coppola also said that it was a “beautiful feeling” receiving a standing ovation at Cannes on Thursday after the premiere.

He also said that the US is modelled on the Roman republic, and that inspired the film’s setting in a place called New Rome.

He added that he “had no idea that the politics of today” would make the Roman setting so “relevant”.

“What’s happening in America, in our republic, in our democracy is exactly how Rome lost their republic thousands of years ago,” he also said.

77th Cannes Film Festival
(left to right) Nathalie Emmanuel, Francis Ford Coppola, and Aubrey Plaza (Doug Peters/PA)

“Our politics have taken us to the point where we might lose (our) republic and so it’s not people who have become politicians, who are going to be the answer, I feel it’s the artists of America because the role of the artist is to illuminate contemporary life, to shine a light on it, to be the headlights.

“So, to make art that does not illuminate contemporary art is like making a hamburger that you eat that has no nutrition in it, which is also going on.”

When asked about the former US president Donald Trump, he responded saying: “Men like Donald Trump are not at the moment in charge, but there is a trend happening in the world… towards the more neo-right, even fascist division which is frightening because anyone who was alive during World War Two saw the horrors that took place, and we don’t want a repeat of that.

“Again, I think it’s the role of artists of films to shine a light on what’s happening in the world.”

Ford Coppola has won six Academy Awards including for best director in 1975 for The Godfather II, about Vito Corleone, the head of a mafia family, which also won best picture in the same year.