I remember working on The Godfather. There’s an account of that elsewhere in this blog. Since I’d lobbied so hard to get Marlon Brando to play the Godfather, I was the one in charge of making sure he got to the set on time and sober. I was the one in charge of directing him. I had no problem getting him to the set on time and sober. I don’t know how he got that reputation but Francis Ford Coppola was leery of working with a star of that magnitude. I think, Francis was a little intimidated. I, on the other hand, enjoyed Marlon Brando immensely and thought his attitude or work ethic were exemplary. Possibly Marlon had some run in with some director somewhere along the line and that got him a reputation of being hard to handle. Marlon was one of my top five favorite people, he was intuitive and gracious, very funny and in my opinion, a genius. The only problem I had was with his short-term memory loss. I’d run lines with him, and he truly could not remember. He would get so frustrated sometimes there would be tears in his eyes. So we worked together on cue cards and their placement. I had already worked with Marlon on part of the movie before Francis even showed up. He was working on another project. Francis showed up for this particular scene because it was outdoors and at night and he wanted to see how I would handle that. (I had been a ghost director on many films previous to this one, so Francis knew my work.) What I had decided on, was using an overhead projector to project the lines onto the stone wall that was on two sides of the parking area where the scene was taking place. We moved the projection around a few times so Marlon could change position, and it would look more natural. (All you have to do is say to someone, “I want to use an overhead projector for the cue cards. You’re going to need to find one, you might try asking schools if we can borrow one, and then put Mr. Brando’s lines on whatever it is an overhead projector uses.” And then it happens, just like that, just like magic.)
I hold a clipboard, like a teddy bear, when I’m directing. I remember standing, leaning against one of the cars in the lot, hugging my clipboard when Francis came over and leaned against the car with me. We chatted a bit, he asked how Marlon was doing: I told him – great. He asked why Marlon’s cheeks were so chubby, he was afraid perhaps Marlon was sick or something. I told him it was Marlon’s idea: he pictured the Godfather as jowly, so he had tried putting cotton in his cheeks and that just moved around and got soggy so I bought extra small tampons and soaked them in olive oil. We laughed. When there was a lull in the conversation, Francis asked me, “Seen any good movies lately?” I laughed. I thought a minute, then said, “Yeah, I saw a real good short film. It had a strange name with a bunch of numbers and letters that didn’t mean anything so I can’t remember the name, but I can remember it was written and directed by someone named George Lucas. I made it a point to remember his name – it was that good.”
Francis said he’d be interested in seeing it. “No, wait, I think I know him. George Lucas is his name, you said?” Then Francis told me the name of the movie and asked if that was the one. I said I didn’t know but it must be, it was a weird name like that and how many of those could there be?
“A lot. You’d be surprised at the names of some of those student films.” We laughed.
Then he said something like he may be meeting with George in a few days and he would size him up for me. I laughed. I didn’t think Francis was serious. A few days later Francis said that indeed the man he had a meeting with was George Lucas and he seemed like a real nice, smart guy, “And you want to meet him?”
I nodded, “Oh yes please, I’d love to meet him.”
“He wants to do two more movies and the studio is on the fence about it. I’ll tell them you believe in him and that might be enough. The one he’s working on now has the cast pretty well set, and besides, you’d have to shave your head and you don’t wanna do that. The first movie he wants to do after this one wraps, is one about teenagers graduating high school. I’m sure I can get you in on that. You think he’s a good director?”
“I think he’s a great director.”
“Well if you believe that strongly and him, I’ll see what I can do for him, and I’ll get it so you can work on his other movie as assistant director or one of the cast members or something.” He paused, stepped away from the car and turned to face me, “It’s really perfect for you. I’m gonna keep an eye on this guy, I don’t want you getting involved with any of these Hollywood types. Some of them are real sleazes.”
Coppola should know. The same man who helped to get us together, has been helping those who have kept us apart.
I should say at this point that Francis Ford Coppola knew that George had proposed when American Graffiti wrapped. He further knew that George Lucas had been told that I was dead. He also knew that Lucas found out I was alive when he hired me to help with figuring out how to make Luke Skywalker’s farm vehicle fly. Francis knew that after I was finished naming the Star Wars characters I was abducted from the Star Wars set in the desert at gunpoint. Coppola knew that George Lucas frantically tried everything in his power to find me. He knew all that and still, one day at a party they were both attending, Francis said that he introduced me to George and George couldn’t hold on to me – or something to that affect. That devastated, angered, bewildered and saddened Lucas to the point that he didn’t speak to Francis for at least three years. He couldn’t understand why Francis would be so callous and cruel. Undoubtedly, others at the party were in on the joke as well.
George Lucas is a trusting man; he trusted that Francis Ford Coppola was a good person for helping him launch his career. Francis Ford Coppola, on the other hand, was just a means for the studio to gain access to George Lucas. These vile people find it amusing when others suffer. I have to wonder if Francis knew what was going to happen before he told the studio I wanted that job. He certainly knew what happened when he made that horrible joke at Lucas’s expense.
Star Warriors, please link this blog to your site, that will help.
May the Force be with you. I started a new blog called the Force Awakens for any further insight into the movie. I have to get this blog back on track.