Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Coppola criticises De Niro, Pacino and Nicholson as 'lazy'

Al Pacino, Robert de Niro and Jack Nicholson should watch out: the godfather of celluloid has spoken, and his words are not flattering for the Hollywood giants.

The Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola has taken a swipe at the trio, saying they have become lazy, stopped taking risks and are "living off the fat of the land".



Pacino and de Niro made their names as mobsters in Coppola's hard-hitting Godfather films, but now their former director believes they have sold out to the blockbuster buck.



"I met Pacino and De Niro when they were really on the come", the director said in an interview with GQ magazine. "They were young and insecure. Now Pacino is very rich, maybe because he never spends any money; he just puts it in his mattress. De Niro was deeply inspired by Zoetrope [Coppola's studio] and created an empire and is wealthy and powerful".



According to the director, their talents had been put into the shadows by the efforts of younger up and coming actors. "Even in those days, after The Godfather, I didn't feel that those actors were ready to say, 'Let's do something else really ambitious'.



"A guy like Javier Bardem [a Spanish actor] is excited to do something good: 'Let me do this' or 'I'll put stuff in my mouth, change my appearance.' I don't feel that kind of passion to do a role and be great coming from those guys because if it was there, they would do it! I mean, they're all in a position to do it."



Coppola said that the pair had lost their ambition for serious projects because of the temptation of wealth. Singling out Pacino for particular criticism, he said: "Pacino always wanted to do theatre. He wanted to do Peer Gynt. He wanted to do Shakespeare... [He] will say, 'Oh, I was raised next to a furnace in New York, and I'm never going to go to Los Angeles', but they all live off the fat of the land."



And the criticism did not stop there. Jack Nicholson also came under fire from the multi-award winner, who said the actor had been waylaid from serious filmmaking by the lure of the Hollywood lifestyle.



"I think if there was a role that De Niro was hungry for, he would come after it. I don't think Jack would", he said. "Jack has money and influence and girls, and I think he's a little bit like Brando, except Brando went through some tough times".



"Nicholson was – when I met him and worked with him – he was always kind of a joker. He's got a little bit of a mean streak. He's intelligent, always wired in with the big guys and the big bosses of the studios. I don't know what any of them want anymore."



De Niro has taken on several lucrative mainstream projects in recent years, such as Meet The Parents and Analyze This, which seem to have lowered him in Coppola's estimations.



But Coppola, who also directed the Vietnam war epic Apocalypse Now, has not been shirking from the good life either. Since completing the Godfather trilogy in 1990, he has worked on very few notable films, and has not had a direction credit for a decade.



Despite winning five Academy Awards, and critical acclaim for his 1970s classics, including American Graffiti and the Godfather trilogy, his recent workload has been light: mostly revolving around executive producing roles on his daughter Sofia's films.



His new film, Youth Without Youth, will be released later this year, but this is still an interesting moment for the legendary filmmaker to be launching an attack on others' cinematic careers. The director has let his own languish in recent years, while he turned his attention to a range of pasta sauces, a Californian vineyard, a luxury resort in Belize and a San Francisco restaurant.



Meanwhile Pacino and De Niro, who also worked together on the Michael Mann thriller Heat, have announced that they will collaborate on a project that could well put a stop to the Coppola diatribe. They plan to return to the screen together next year in a gritty look at New York detectives on the trail of a serial killer.

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