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Francis Ford Coppola is one of the greatest film directors to ever walk the earth. As superlative as that statement is, it’s not very controversial. Most would agree with it. However, one can also agree that Coppola’s style of movie making doesn’t exactly fit with a lot of what Hollywood is producing these days. This is why we don’t see him much anymore, he has no interest in making the big budget commercial successes that studios are looking for.
Speaking with Yahoo Movies about the Blu-Ray release of his Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Coppola indicated that making the sorts of movies Hollywood wants requires a lot of effort and he’s simply not interested in working so hard for those sorts of films. He said:
That’s why I ended my career: I decided I didn’t want to make what you could call "factory movies" anymore. I would rather just experiment with the form, and see what I could do, and [make things] that came out of my own. And little by little, the commercial film industry went into the superhero business, and everything was on such a scale. The budgets were so big, because they wanted to make the big series of films where they could make two or three parts. I felt I was no longer interested enough to put in the extraordinary effort a film takes [nowadays].
While Coppola hasn’t left the movie game entirely, we haven’t seen much of him in several years. While a number of his films, like Apocalypse Now and The Godfather have become cinematic classics, there’s very little in his background that screams commercial. Dracula, or 1997’s The Rainmaker, based on a John Grisham novel, which in the 90’s were about as prevalent as Marvel superhero movies are today, may be his most commercial works. It may not be a coincidence then that it was following Rainmaker that we began to see less of Coppola as a director.
Certainly, if Coppola is looking to "experiment" then modern Hollywood is not going to be a particularly forgiving place. Between the superhero movies, sequels, and the film series based on novels about teenage dystopian futures, there’s little experimenting going on. Everything is based on some previously established property, which gives the studios the confidence that it’s a thing people will pay money to see in the theater. The smaller movies are out there, and Coppola has continued to make them, but as the commercial industry begins to rely more and more on the same blockbuster formula, there’s less money available for films that aren’t a sure thing.
As much as we may be fans of many of those commercially successful films, it’s more than a little sad to see a great creator, who inspired so many of today’s younger filmmakers, not wanting to still be involved. Hopefully he hasn’t given up entirely and we’ll still see a few of his films down the line.