Decades ago, in his landmark “Biographical Dictionary of Film,” critic David Thomson said of filmmaking legend Francis Coppola: “No one retains so many jubilant traits of the kid moviemaker.” As Coppola approaches production on “Megalopolis,” his biggest, most creatively ambitious project of the 21st century, that description seems more apt than ever.
And a quick glance at the Variety archives vividly illustrates Coppola’s explosive emergence as a veritable force of nature while still enrolled as a film student at UCLA.
The wunderkind announced his arrival with his name blasted in a Variety page one headline as the winner of a student screenwriting competition. The story below goes on to note: “The $2,000 first prize in UCLA’s eighth annual Samuel Goldwyn Foundation Creative Writing contest was won by Francis Ford Coppola, grad student in the Theatre Arts for his screenplay, ‘Pilma Pilma.’
He is slated to go to Europe soon as assistant to producer Roger Corman on ‘The Young Racers,’ having worked with him previously as dialogue coach on ‘Tower of London.’”
Racking up production credits as one of indie legend Corman’s most notable protégés — on a list that includes James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Monte Hellman, Jonathan Demme and Gale Ann Hurd — he had his own directing credit on a Corman production, the horror thriller “Dementia 13,” within a year of his student award.
While still in his mid-20s, Coppola had moved beyond Corman’s low-budget indie genre fare and graduated to a helming gig on a studio picture.
The exuberant 1966 romantic comedy “You’re a Big Boy Now” not only marked his advancement out of the B movie world, but it also brought Coppola his first brush with awards glory when it competed for the Palme d’Or in Cannes, garnered three Golden Globe nominations — including best picture (comedy) — and a WGA writing nomination for Coppola. Geraldine Page scored a supporting actress Oscar nomination.