Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola has admitted he was out of cash and hope when an elementary school class’ letter brought him out of the depths and inspired him to make “The Outsiders,” he revealed while promoting a new 4k Ultra HD release of the movie.
In an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment “The Godfather” director, 82, vulnerably recounted just how bad a state he was in before a piece of mail pulled him out of his funk.
“I was very depressed at the time,” he told the publication of the period after his 1982 film “One From the Heart” proved a critical and financial failure. The $26 million flick, about a couple’s rocky Las Vegas anniversary getaway, grossed just $600,000 and Coppola pulled it from its limited theater run after just one week in hopes of giving it a wider release later but instead sent it directly to home video.
“So it was stupid of me to do, but nonetheless I was depressed and I had lost everything and I was facing a bankruptcy,” he said.
Director Francis Ford Coppola on set giving instruction to C Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio and Matt Dillon between scenes from the film “The Outsiders.”Getty ImagesWhile wallowing in the monetary and emotional fallout the movie left him with he received — as if by fate — fan mail from Fresno, California. A librarian at the city’s Lone Star Elementary School had asked the children there for their favorite book and flick-maker, and they’d voted on Coppola and S.E. Hinton’s 1967 coming-of-age classic “The Outsiders,” which they asked him to please make into a movie.
“These children had voted that I should take their favorite book and make it into a film,” Coppola said, recalling the contents of the package he received all those years ago from librarian Jo Ellen Misakian, containing some 10 to 15 pages of signatures from her seventh- and eighth-graders.
Coppola on the set of “The Outsiders.”Corbis via Getty Images“[The] fact that these kids had voted for me to do their film meant for sure I was going to [at least] read the book. … And I read it, and I was very touched by the book because it showed how young people really have such strong feelings. I was very moved by it.”
Coppola began shooting the flick later that year, and in 1983 “The Outsiders” hit theaters and became a profitable hit — now a cult classic.
Howell (left), Coppola and Rob Lowe on the set of “The Outsiders”. Nancy MoranToday, “I still get letters about ‘The Outsiders’ because it’s required reading in a lot of schools,” Coppola told the Guardian. “People tell me it’s their comfort film, or they have a Stay Gold tattoo, or they used the Robert Frost poem for their wedding vows. I get asked all the time what the poem means. I had no idea when I was 15 that it represents the circle of life. Even the two boys don’t understand what it means — they’re just sharing a moment — until one of them dies. The fans are crying and upset that [Ralph Macchio’s character] Johnny is dead, and then they contact me and they realize Ponyboy is now 54 — and they cry even harder.”