Francis Ford Coppola featured in OCCC Series

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Francis Ford Coppola featured in OCCC Series

By Bud Elder

These are scenes which have become, throughout all scenes in all movies, essential.
Against a backdrop of perhaps the largest American flag ever seen on film, an aristocratic military leader speaks to his troops, and us, regarding the harsh reality of war.

A once vicious and unrepentant New York crime boss is shattered, in front of our eyes, as he views the body of his son, machine gunned in a toll booth.

War as a circus, the night sky full of flares and fireballs as Captain Willard navigates water to strike out against his own demons.

American movies needed Francis Ford Coppola, just like they needed Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder and John Frankenheimer. As the ‘60s begat the ‘70s competent, craftsmen like directors, those who interpreted scripts not of their own creation, were pushed aside by a group of California film school upstarts such as Lucas, Milius, Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola, who served as the group’s official dean. These upstarts made conventional studio movies their way adding personal touches to every genre they tackled, be it in the form of a gangster movie, a sci fi spectacular or a classic monster film.

Coppola was the first of this band of brothers to receive major studio assignments, the first to have the Hollywood establishment shower his films with awards and the first to find true box office acceptance.
On October 20, at the Fine Arts Theater at Oklahoma City Community College, Coppola will join his longtime friend and producer Gray Frederickson onstage to discuss his life, his career and his vision for the next generation of filmmakers.

“Godfather” memories

As associate producer for Paramount studios’ “The Godfather” in the early 1970s, Frederickson knew immediately that his director, Coppola, was a talent not to be easily dismissed.

“There are stories upon stories about the problems between the studio and the production of ‘The Godfather,’ and most are in some way true, but those of us on the ground knew we were witnessing something special,” he said. “And we all worked hard to make sure that Francis was able to finish his vision of the movie.”

Due to the friendship and work relationship they had developed during the making of “The Godfather,” Coppola personally asked Frederickson to produce the sequel, two years after the original became a worldwide phenomenon.

“Compared to ‘The Godfather,’ ‘The Godfather Part II’ was a joy to film,” he said. “Although as no sequel had ever won an Academy Award, we never dreamed that it would even be nominated.”

“The Godfather Part II” would give Frederickson an Oscar for “Best Picture” and he and Coppola stood, in 1974 at the pinnacle of Hollywood entertainment.

Another blockbuster

For their next venture, Frederickson found a script by Coppola’s school friend John Milius, a project that would take almost three years, a lifetime in the film production business.
“I had two birthdays in the Philippines when we made ‘Apocalypse Now,’” he said.

After the media onslaught that was “Apocalypse Now,” Coppola and Frederickson did the highly anticipated, at the time, Las Vegas set musical “One From the Heart,” before returning to Frederickson’s roots in the Sooner State.

It was so wonderful to be able to bring my Hollywood friends back home to make “The Outsiders,” Frederickson said. “Francis and the whole crew loved working here so much that they stayed in Tulsa to make “Rumble Fish.”

In the mid-1980s, Frederickson moved to television, working on the series “Mike Hammer” and “Houston Knights” before returning to Tulsa to produce the “Weird Al” Yankovic cult classic “UHF.”

However, a reunion was in store for a film that, in the late 80s, the whole world waited with breathless anticipation.

“We all reunited for ‘The Godfather Part III,’ which filmed in Rome, New York and Sicily,” Frederickson said. “And, like both ‘Godfather’ films, it was nominated for Best Picture at the 1990 Oscars.

“Godfather III” was the last film, as of now, that Coppola and Frederickson collaborated. However, Coppola has kept up with Frederickson’s work with students at OCCC.

“Francis and I talk back and forth all the time about how times have changed and how our film work belongs to history,” he said. “I know he’ll be very impressed with our work here at OCCC.

Tickets are on sale to the public for the Oct. 20 event, which will benefit Frederickson’s Film and Video program at OCCC. Tickets can be purchased by calling 405-682-7576.

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