A friend from the ACADEMY left a message, but FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA didn’t want to return the call.

“Well, I am always nervous when I get a phone call from folks where I am living,” explained the legendary director.

“(It’s a) ‘Why are they calling me?’ kind of thing and ‘Who’s sick?’ or ‘Who’s passed away?’ But it was happy news.”

Former ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS & SCIENCES president Sid Ganis was on the line to inform Mr. Coppola that he would be honoured with the IRVING G. THALBERG MEMORIAL AWARD, to be presented at the ACADEMY’S second annual GOVERNORS AWARDS on Saturday night in Hollywood.

“It is sort of the ultimate award for producing,” noted FRANCIS.

“I’ve been a writer, a director and I have gotten more than my share of those honours. The Thalberg award for me is kind of a trifecta.”

The ACADEMY has handed out five OSCARS to Mr. Coppola: for cowriting PATTON (1970), for cowriting THE GODFATHER (1972) and for cowriting, producing and directing THE GODFATHER PART II (1974).

The GOVERNORS AWARDS dinner will honor Mr. Coppola, as well as preservationist Kevin Brownlow, director Jean Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach — all of whom have some sort of Coppola connection.

Monsieur Godard did some shooting at FRANCIS’ ZOETROPE film studio in Hollywood, and “I knew (him) from Paris and got to hang out with him. He is a very intriguing man.”

After seeing Kevin Brownlow’s restoration of director Abel Gance’s 1927 silent epic NAPOLEON, FRANCIS arranged for a gala screening with musical accompaniment by a live orchestra, which resulted in a theatrical re release of the film. Oddly enough, Mr. Coppola and Kevin Brownlow never connected personally.

“I never got to work with him. I never met him.”

Veteran actor Eli Wallach played a key role in THE GODFATHER PART III (1990).

“He speaks Italian very well. He said when he first went to Italy, he asked where the bathroom was and they said ‘Laggiu’ (which sounds like “The Jew”). And he said (joking), ‘Don’t get personal. I am Jewish.’ Laggiu means ‘Down there.’ Lassu means ‘Up there,'” Mr. Coppola continued, laughing.

“He was a neat man.”

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA remains active. In addition to overseeing his Northern California wineries, he supervised the painstaking digital transfer and contributed hours of new bonus material for LIONS GATE’S recent Bluray release of APOCALYPSE NOW (1979).

He served as an executive producer on OSCAR winning daughter SOFIA COPPOLA’S upcoming feature SOMEWHERE. And he’s still passionate about making movies.

Mr. Coppola’s an exceptionally revered filmmaker. On Saturday he will be honoured as a producer.

But, he said, “My dream always was to be a writer who made films of the stories and the writing that I did.”

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