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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

‘Godfather’ cinematographer Gordon Willis dies

Posted: 19 May 2014 03:05 AM PDT

The iconic cinematographer is known for his ground-breaking work with Francis Ford Coppola.

Gordon Willis, the cinematographer who worked on director Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather film series, has passed away. He was 82.

Willis was well respected in the film world for his work and has cast his magic on many of Hollywood's top films including Woody Allen's Annie Hall and Stardust Memories, Alan J. Pakula's All The President's Men and Klute, as well as Herbert Ross' Pennies From Heaven.

Born in New York in 1931, Willis made his debut as a cinematographer in 1970 with four movies. Two years later, his career received a big boost when he was chosen to work on Coppola's mafia classic and 1972's Best Picture Oscar winner, The Godfather.

Willis went on to work on the movie's two sequels, receiving an Oscar nomination for the third film in 1990. Unfortunately, Willis has never won any award for his top-billed work, although the Academy of Motion Picture, Arts and Sciences in the US did give him an honorary Lifetime Achievement award in 2009.

Willis' final work was Pakula's 1997 film The Devil's Own, which starred Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt. He retired soon after.

New generation Coppola tackles James Franco's teen tales

Posted: 17 May 2014 04:40 AM PDT

Family tradition: Although she trained to be a photographer, Gia Coppola (above) was compelled to carry on the family's filmmaking tradition, releasing her first cinematic feature Palo Alto, which she wrote and directed, basing her script on James Franco's collection of short stories of the same name. Franco appears in the movie (below), as a physical education teacher who has an affair with a student. He also helped produce the film.

Coppola's family has a history of exploring coming-of-age stories, from her grandfather's 1983 films The Outsiders and Rumble Fish to her aunt's 1999 feature film debut with The Virgin Suicides, all of which Coppola said she referenced during her own debut process.

The film features vivid cinematography influenced by the director's photography training, and follows four characters whom Coppola pulled together from the stories of Franco, who also appears in the film.

April, played by Roberts, is introverted and mysterious, the object of Teddy's (Kilmer) affections but who is seduced by her 35-year-old teacher, Mr B (Franco). Fred (Nat Wolff) is the dangerous rebel without a cause who woos the shy and quiet Emily (Zoe Levin), only for their relationship to take a dark turn.

While Franco's book is set in the 1990s, Coppola sets her film in the present, sprinkling cell phones in lightly, but she said she wanted the film to feel "timeless".

Teen boredom

Franco, 36, wrote Palo Alto as part of his Master of Fine Arts writing degree at Brooklyn College, and while he has delved into writing and directing films, he said he didn't want to adapt his own book as he felt too close to the material.

He chose Coppola, whom he met five years ago, to direct the adaptation after seeing her photography. "The photos seemed to have the sensibility that was similar to the one I was trying to capture with the book," he said.

"They looked like little glimpses at youth that was filled with dreaming, a bit of the mundane, a bit of skepticism about the world around them, but also engaging with the world with a creative spirit," Franco added.

Actress Emma Roberts in a scene from Gia Coppola's movie Palo Alto.

The actor was quick to emphasise that his own childhood growing up in Palo Alto, an affluent San Francisco Bay Area community, was a happy one, but he wanted to capture the boredom he and his peers suffered. "Even though I was in this great place and I was at a really good school and I had friends and people thought I was cute, I still remember feeling more like nothing works out," he said.

Despite Coppola's Hollywood ancestry, Franco said financing the film was difficult due to the darker premise of the teenagers' stories. He said he donated his own salary from a film project to make the movie for a budget of under US$1mil (RM3.23mil) with his production company Rabbit Bandini.

Playing physical education teacher Mr B wasn't easy for Franco, who made his own breakout in Judd Apatow's Freaks and Geeks television series as a brooding rebellious teen. The actor said he "hated" one particular scene in Palo Alto, which didn't make the final cut, in which he reprimands two teenage boys.

"I hated being on that side of things, because my alliance is with the kids in the book, all my feelings align with the kids, so I hated being the bad adult," he said with a laugh. – Reuters


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