Francis Ford Coppola celebrates 85th birthday at Atlanta's Plaza Theatre

Rodney Ho, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Entertainment News

ATLANTA — Acclaimed Oscar winning director and producer Francis Ford Coppola celebrated his 85th birthday at Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre this past weekend by holding a screening of his 1984 film “The Cotton Club” and taking questions from fans for more than 90 minutes.

Coppola has spent much of the past 18 months in metro Atlanta shooting and post-producing his self-financed sci-fi film “Megalopolis” starring Adam Driver, Giancarlo Esposito, Laurence Fishburne, Shia LeBeouf and Aubrey Plaza. He told the rapt sold-out crowd of 340 cinephiles and Coppola fans that he actually finished the final cut of the movie this past Sunday.

Two days later, the Cannes Film Festival in France committed to screening the movie on May 17.

The movie follows the rebuilding of a metropolis after an accidental destruction with an architect (Driver) competing with the mayor (Esposito).

Coppola has been working on this project on and off for more than 40 years. He sold off a portion of his wine empire to help finance the film, which The Hollywood Reporter said cost $120 million. “Megalopolis” is still seeking a distributor after a March 28 screening with potential buyers.

Before the screening of “The Cotton Club,” Coppola gave a 15-minute explanation on how he ended up doing the movie. The man behind the “Godfather” trilogy was cajoled to get involved by “The Godfather” producer Robert Evans, who needed Coppola’s name to get Orion Pictures to finance the movie. Coppola first helped to co-write the script but then ended up directing as well.


The film focuses on the famed Harlem club in the late 1920s and early 1930s and follows cornet musician Dixie Dwyer, played by Richard Gere, who accidentally ends up working for a cruel mobster (James Remar) and proceeds to fall for the mobster’s mistress (Diane Lane).

A secondary story revolves around charismatic Black tap-dancer Sandman Williams (Gregory Hines) chasing after a singer who could “pass” for white named Lila (Lonette McKee). At the time, only white people could be in the audience of the Cotton Club but the performers were all Black.

The movie was not a hit when it was released in late 1984, earning $28 million in the domestic box office on a $56 million budget.

“It was received OK,” said Coppola on stage. “This was considered one of my failures.”


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