How A Box Office Disaster Forced Francis Ford Coppola Into Bankruptcy

Betting on yourself has paid off for a number of stars, and they typically serve as inspiration for those looking to do the same. Just look at the praise Kevin Smith has received for kickstarting his own career with Clerks, or the way Rob McElhenney got It’s Always Sunny off the ground.

Unfortunately, betting on yourself doesn’t always work. Francis Ford Coppola, filmmaker extraordinaire, learned this the hard way during the 1980s when his musical failed. Because of this misfire, he had to file for bankruptcy, something many stars have had to do.


Let’s take a look at the filmmaker, and how things came crashing down in the early part of the ’80s.

Francis Ford Coppola Is A Legend

When it comes to the biggest and greatest filmmakers of all time, there aren’t many that can stack up to the celebrated Francis Ford Coppola. His name alone invokes thoughts of some of the greatest movies of all time, and his family tree has been responsible for entertaining millions of fans over the course of several decades.

Coppola got his start back in the 1960s, but things are really took off in the following decade. It was during the 1970s that the acclaimed filmmaker released movies like Patton, and The Godfather, the latter which is still considered one of the greatest films of all time.

The rest of the 1970s saw the beloved filmmaker releasing a solid slate of films, including The Godfather Part II and Apocalypse Now. That decade alone made him a legend, but he would spend the next few decades adding onto his legacy.

Francis Ford Coppola is still in the game, and he has indicated that he is still interested in filmmaking. He only has so much time left, meaning that we had better admire his genius while we still can.

Even though the filmmaker has been responsible for some of the greatest movies of all time, even he has not been immune from a misfire. Unfortunately, arguably his biggest mass of all time led him to a dark financial spot.

Related: How A Box Office Disaster Ruined Any Chance Of ‘Tron 3’ Happening

‘One From The Heart’ Was a Disaster

1982’s One From the Heart was a musical drama brought to life by Francis Ford Coppola, and this was something that the director clearly felt could be a huge hit.

Starring Frederic Forrest, Teri Garr, and the amazing Raul Julia, One From the Heart was a film that required Coppola to get some funding for.

“At the height of his career, Coppola had little trouble finding funding for a new film project. He easily got Chase Manhattan Bank and other parties to invest in the film. In all, he raised $27 million dollars for the film (making Zach Braff’s recent $3 million Kickstarter campaign seem like a joke),” Consumer Legal Service writes.

Now, you might be thinking the $27 million for a film by a major director isn’t a lot of money, but this was the early 80s. To make things worse, this was also a musical, which can be tricky to propel to box office success.

Unfortunately, this movie was a disaster for all involved.

Related: Gwyneth Paltrow Believes That This Movie She Did Was ‘A Disaster’

It Forced Him Into Bankruptcy

At the box office, One From the Heart pulled down virtually nothing in comparison to its budget. What this meant was that Coppola was suddenly on the hook for a fortune.

So, what did he do? Well, Coppola went the bankruptcy route.

“Coppola ended up with $98 million in liabilities and (only) $52 million in assets. As a result, he decided to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Filing for bankruptcy helped Coppola and his production companies – Zoetrope Corporation and Zoetrope Productions – repay their debt and have certain debt forgiven. In the bankruptcy, Hot Weather Films/Ponyboy was listed as the leading creditor. Coppola owed them $71 million,” Consumer Legal Services reports.

After some additional moving and shaking, the filmmaker was able to figure out a way to get his finances in order. This had to have been extremely difficult to deal with, especially when the public was able to follow along with the story.

Fortunately, Francis Ford Coppola was able to turn things around financially and critically. He would eventually spend the rest of his career turning out a mixed bag of films, some of which were incredibly successful and have gone on to stand the test of time.

Related: Did Mark Wahlberg Actually Sing In This Box Office Disaster?

Francis Ford Coppola getting into some dire straits after rolling the dice on himself should serve as a cautionary tale for those making a major gamble. It’s worked for others, but sometimes, it all blows up.

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