GQ Responds to Francis Ford Coppola
In a Q&A entitled "The Conversation" in the November issue of GQ, currently on newsstands, Francis Ford Coppola spoke with staff writer Nate Penn about his new film, Youth Without Youth, and the vicissitudes of his remarkable career. Along the way he made some controversial remarks about three great stars with whom he has worked: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Jack Nicholson. Mr. Coppola said the three men, in their prosperous middle age, have lost interest in challenging themselves artistically. His comments about them made headlines around the world.
This past weekend, however, at the world premiere of Youth Without Youth in Rome, Mr. Coppola told reporters his remarks had been taken out of context. "I was astonished, because it wasn't true," the director said. "These are the three greatest actors in the world today and they are my friends. So I have nothing but affection for them." With all due respect to Mr. Coppola, whose work we admire immensely, we must point out that the audiotape of the interview shows that GQ did quote him accurately. Herewith the unedited transcript of Mr. Coppola's remarks on Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Jack Nicholson:
I wonder if you could comment, it seems like the sort of leading actors of your generation, the guys who—I think the three big ones, Pacino, De Niro, and Nicholson, you all worked with at one time or another and more than one time or another—and I wonder, do you think that their success has sort of altered them artistically? Certainly Pacino has never been as contained and as intense as he was for you. Maybe since Scent of a Woman, he's become sort of overbearing and a bit raving as an actor. De Niro is sort of returning again and again in this almost parodic way to the sort of menacing sociopathic character that he plays. And Nicholson is almost inseparable from the sort of comedians' impressions of him. What has happened to those guys? Do you have a sense?
Well, when I met them, they sort—you know, I met Pacino and De Niro both when they were really on the come. They were really young and insecure. Now, Pacino is very rich, maybe because he never spends any money; he just puts it in his mattress. De Niro, kind of, was very inspired by Zoetrope and created an empire and is very wealthy and powerful. Nicholson was a—when I met him and worked with him, he was always a kind of joker, you know. He's got a little bit of a mean streak. He's very intelligent and, you know, always wired in with the big guys and the big bosses of the studios and stuff. You know, he knew Brando and was influenced by kind of—well, I think, by Brando. He was always a unique kind of guy.
I think none of them—I don't know what any of them want anymore. I don't know that they want the same—I think in Pacino's—I don't know what he wants. Pacino always wanted to do theater. He wanted to do Peer Gynt. So he always wanted to do Shakespeare.
I don't know, I think if there was a role that De Niro really was hungry for, he would come after it. I don't think Jack would. I don't know, I think Jack has got money and influence and girls and I think he's sort of a little bit like Brando, except Brando went through some tough times, I think. I guess they don't want to do it anymore. But I think De Niro would. Maybe Pacino.
You know, even in those days, after The Godfather, I mean, I wanted—I didn't feel that those actors were ready to, "Let's do something else really ambitious. " Like a guy like Javier Bardem is really excited to do something really good, just really excited: "Let me do this," or "Let me do that," or "I'll put stuff in my mouth and I'll change—"you know, I don't feel that kind of passion to do a role and be really great, because if it was there, they would do it! [laughs] I mean, they're all in a position…
You know, maybe it all became—you know, like Pacino, he'll say, "Oh, I was raised in a—next to a furnace in New York and I'm never going to go to LA," and they all live in the fat of the land. I haven't seen, I want to, I wanted to see it on film, The Good Shepherd, and so I delayed seeing it on DVD. I'm going to get that print, because sometimes when someone has worked really hard on it, you really feel you want to watch it on screen. So I haven't seen it. But De Niro's not really in it very much, is he? I want to see it. He's very talented.
Photograph by Paul Jasmin
Pick up the November issue of GQ to read the complete interview.