Coppola. A name synonymous with Hollywood. The family boasts three generations of Oscar winners: five-time winner Francis Ford Coppola; his father, Carmine (who won for composing the music for his son's "The Godfather: Part II"); his daughter, Sofia (awarded Best Original Screenplay for "Lost in Translation"), and his nephew Nicolas Cage (Best Actor for "Leaving Las Vegas"). Other members of the clan have also staked out fruitful showbiz careers — Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola. And now we have one more name on the list: Gia Coppola, who makes her directorial debut with "Palo Alto."
Gia is the daughter of Francis's firstborn son, Gian-Carlo, who was killed in a boating accident at the age of 22. Gian-Carlo had appeared in several of his father's films and was an associate producer on "The Outsiders" and "Rumble Fish." Gia (whose full name, Gian-Carla, is in tribute to her father) was born seven months after his death.
Now 27, Gia is a first-time writer-director of a feature film based on a book of short stories by James Franco. Franco is a director in his own right, but he was looking for a fresh voice to bring his book to the screen, and he was familiar with Coppola from her photography and fashion videos.
And Coppola delivered, according to her collaborator.
She selected a few key episodes from Franco's book "Palo Alto: Stories" and weaved them together into a cohesive whole, a left-field move that impressed Franco. "If I had directed the film I'm sure I would have gone for the episodic structure," he said, "but now I can see that Gia's approach was better for the film version because it created more of an emotional arc that also had great tension."
Coppola cast Franco in the key role of Mr. B, a single dad and soccer coach who gets too close to a teenage girl on his team, played by Emma Roberts. Roberts is, of course, part of another famous family (her dad is Eric Roberts and her aunt is Julia). And the film marks the acting debut of another acting offspring, Jack Kilmer, son of Joanne Whalley and Val Kilmer (who also appears in "Palo Alto").
"Palo Alto" opens in limited release on May 9 and will later expand across the country.