Coppola’s Hitchcock-inspired idea for this shot included a note: “Get this for the audience. Mist of blood.”
Coppola’s Hitchcock-inspired idea for this shot included a note: “Get this for the audience. Mist of blood.”
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures/Regan Arts

Inside Francis Ford Coppola's 'Godfather' Notebook: Never-Before-Seen Photos, Handwritten Notes

Forty-four years after the mob drama earned a place as one of the greatest American movies ever made, the director shares his original production diary.

In 1969, Paramount asked Francis Ford Coppola to make Mario Puzo's The Godfather into a film. "I intended to turn the project down," he writes in the introduction to his new book about the movie, which went on to gross $245 million and win three Oscars. "It was more commercial and salacious than my own taste." But the young father, then 30 and coming off Finian's Rainbow, ultimately needed a paycheck, and a second reading changed his mind about the book. "[It] fell away in my mind, revealing a story that was a metaphor for American capitalism in the tale of a great king with three sons."

To organize his thoughts, Coppola made a "prompt book," a theater trick he learned in college at Hofstra. Into a three-ring binder he stuffed his annotated copy of the novel, scene-by-scene breakdowns, notes on the times and setting, cliches to avoid and casting ideas. He put it together sitting at a corner table in a cafe in San Francisco's North Beach. "I was living a dream," he recalls. "There was lots of noise and Italian being spoken and cute girls walking through; it was La Boheme."

Now he's giving the public a peek into that creative process with The Godfather Notebook (Regan Arts, Nov. 15, $50), an exact reproduction of his original, right down to the handwriting, plus rarely seen photos. A signed $500 limited edition even comes in a replica three-ring binder. "The script was really an unnecessary document," Coppola said, "because I could've made the movie just from this notebook." — Andy Lewis

This story appeared in the Nov. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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