That's right: Coppola's masterpiece, and two of the greatest films ever made, were the result of his taking on a project for cash.
Coppola originally wanted nothing to do with The Godfather. When they offered him the movie, he rejected it, saying he didn't want to be associated with a film that glorified sex and gang violence. He even attempted to read the book but couldn't make it past Page 50 without wanting to throw up; he dismissed it as a "pretty cheap" piece of disposable pulp, something beneath him and not worth his time. You see, Coppola wanted to do small, artistic films and felt that a conventional gangster flick like The Godfather would be a step back for his career.
"Where did I go wrong?"
But despite THX having flopped, the studio still wanted Coppola for The Godfather. Why, you ask? Because he was Italian. Robert Evans, head producer at Paramount, wanted as many authentic Italians in this film as possible; as he put it, he wanted the audience to "smell the spaghetti" when watching the movie.
Which is pretty much the level of subtlety you'd expect from a living cartoon.
Then Lucas, in one of his rare moments of lucidity, reminded Coppola of his crippling debt and that "survival is the key thing here." Coppola eventually caved in and took the money. After that, he was finally able to do the "small, artistic movies" he always wanted, including two sequels to The Godfather and, oh yeah, a $30 million war epic called Apocalypse Now.
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