During Francis Ford Coppola’s unorthodox presentation at Comic-Con Saturday for his new horror film, “Twixt,” the director moderated his own panel, distributed paper masks of Edgar Allan Poe and sang along with footage. It was Coppola’s first trip to Comic-Con in nearly 20 years, to show attendees some of his movie starring Val Kilmer as a D-list writer and Elle Fanning as a ghost named V. After emerging from the San Diego Convention Center’s Hall H, the director spoke with Hero Complex’s Rebecca Keegan about the experience, his plans for “Twixt” and his own fanboy sensibilities.
RK: How does this compare to your last trip to Comic-Con?
FFC: I was here for “Dracula” and all we did was get up and tell a little bit about the movie and left. But I guess they’ve gotten pretty complicated now. They have money to throw around, I guess. We don’t.
RK: “Twixt” is an original script of yours. Where did the story come from?
FFC: I try to read at night when I go to bed different things from whatever I’m working on. It’s like a little vacation. I decided to read all the Edgar Allan Poe. I was so intrigued with his life and the heartbreak of his life. I was pregnant with all that. One night I was in Istanbul looking for a possible city — I’ve made a film in Romania, I made a film in Argentina — I’m always looking for a place where the dollar conversion is good and where there’s a cultural tradition where you can find actors. So we were in Constantinople and I was meeting with a Turkish lawyer whose sister shows up at dinner and they start giving me this beverage called raki, which is very alcoholic, and I went home to my hotel, fell asleep and had this vivid dream. It was all this Edgar Allan Poe imagery and the scary forest and this little girl with braces saying, “You’re looking at my teeth! You’re looking at my teeth!” and children coming out of a grave in the floor, and then Edgar Allan Poe shows up and I was saying, “This is a gift. I’m being given a story” and I said to Poe, “Guide me.” It was like “The Divine Comedy” or something. And then all of a sudden out of the window I hear the call to prayer at 5 in the morning. I said “Oh no, I have to sleep. I have to get the ending” and so I dictated it into this little iPhone to remember it.
RK: How many bottles of Coppola wine paid for “Twixt”?
FFC: We’re a very big wine company. We’re two wine companies, in fact, but one of them is probably the 12thlargest in the country, making over a million and a half cases of wine, so it’s a good business. The difference between the wine business and the movie business is the wine business is a real business. In the movie biz you can do well and then you’re in terrible shape for six years. In the wine business you do well and usually you do better each year. It’s a reliable type of activity and I’m able to get to make movies, albeit low-budget movies, without having to go hat in hand.
RK: Is Edgar Allan Poe a character in the movie?
FFC: He starts out as a figment. But Poe’s story is heartbreaking and it’s interesting. The movie to me is about loss. Human beings know what that is. Poe starts as a part of [Val Kilmer’s character’s] dream but as it progresses, the idea is that maybe when you die you still grieve over the things that hurt you when you were alive.
RK: Did anyone collaborate with you on the script?
FFC: At my age I want to really write not only the script myself but also the story, mostly because what I really want to be a is a writer. All the things I do now I want to be original scripts and original stories too.
RK: What’s the significance of the all the number 7’s on your tie?
FFC: My lucky number. I knew today what we were doing was a dress rehearsal. We had so many mishaps the night before. At 12 o’clock last night when I went to bed it was all a mess and it wouldn’t work. The film wouldn’t show up in 3-D and the color was all screwed up. It turns out they had printed it in the wrong protocol. So late last night someone had to fly down with the new one. I went to bed not knowing what would happen. Theater. If you’re going to be in theater you should have butterflies in your stomach.
RK: Comic-Con is attended by alpha fans who know every detail about their favorite movie or TV show. Are you fannish about anything?
FFC: I’m a person who’s enthusiastic about things in general, about how beautiful everything is. I live in a beautiful place in the country and real animals wander around. We’ll see a lion.
RK: In Napa?
FFC: Yeah, I’ll show you. [Coppola pulls out his iPhone and shows a picture of a lion shot through a window]. This is totally on the level. This is right outside my bathroom window. It’s hard to look around and not be impressed by how beautiful life is. I admire people. As I get older I’m the only one I know who ever met Jack Warner or Sam Goldwyn, so I straddle the great period of movies when the names of the companies were really people. I’ve met wonderful filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa, Fellini, Jean Renoir, so I really enjoy the period that I am alive and got to see. And I’m very much a fan of the young directors, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s. I think they’re so talented and so good of heart, this crop of directors we have who are sticking to making these independent films rather than just being rich and making whatever the lucrative thing is to do, people like David Russell, Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, my daughter Sofia, Alexander Payne, Tamara Jenkins. They’re so sincere about wanting to make cinema. They recognize that it’s a beautiful, magical art form and shouldn’t just be used to do sequels and remakes of things, that you should make films about contemporary life.
RK: What’s next for “Twixt”?
FFC: We’re mixing it now. It’ll be a finished film on the 15thof August. It’s going to go to Toronto. They’re the only ones who’ve seen it.
RK: Will you distribute it through your company, American Zoetrope?
FFC: I’d rather not. Distribution is such a big, tough job. I would love someone to distribute it. It would make me happy if that would happen but you can never count on it. The film turned out enjoyable. It’s often funny but it’s also sort of heartbreaking, too, so I’m hopeful. Also the fact that it’s in a genre — scary films — it’s not like an obscure art film, which [distributors] don’t like.
RK: There are vampires.
FFC: There are vampires. And I love that little vampire.
RK: Is Elle Fanning’s character a vampire?
FFC: I shouldn’t say.
— Rebecca Keegan
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