Which is better: “The Godfather” or “The Godfather II”? It is nearly impossible to say which is the greater masterpiece. However, one thing is certain; not even the most diehard devil’s advocate would argue for the relative merits of the third installment of the trilogy. Almost universally panned by critics when it was released in 1990, The “Godfather III” was a pale imitation of its far more distinguished predecessors. Most damningly, director Francis Ford Coppola was accused of nepotism, for his disastrous decision to cast his daughter, Sofia Coppola, in the prominent supporting role of “Mary Corleone”.
Julia Roberts was originally cast for the role, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Madonna subsequently expressed interest, but Coppola felt she was too old for the role. Rebecca Schaeffer was set to audition, but she was murdered. Winona Ryder subsequently accepted the part, only to drop out of the film at the last minute (supposedly due to illness, though other reports state that she was committed to “Edward Scissorhands”). Sofia was swiftly cast in the role of “Mary” following Ryder’s departure. Rumors regarding her acting chops — or lack thereof — began to swirl before she even shot a scene. Paramount begged Coppola to cast a known star, but he persisted, telling everyone that Sofia was the “actual embodiment” of “Mary Corleone.” Sadly for the untrained Sofia, her performance in the film exceeded even the lowest critical expectations. Critics had a field day savaging her (remarkably) monotonous and wooden performance, finding it “hopelessly amateurish” and unintentionally comical. Even her aquiline profile became fodder for ridicule, and in March 1991, the “Razzie Award” gave her the dubious distinction of “Worst Supporting Actress” as well as “Worst New Star.” OUCH!
Sofia initially retreated from Hollywood, entering the fine arts program at the California Institute of the Arts. There she began to nurture her interests in photography as well as costuming and experimented with video shorts. As their first post-graduate effort, she and some friends created the TV series High Octane, an offbeat news magazine on cable’s Comedy Central network. The show was discontinued in 1994 after just four episodes, and Coppola continued to work on her brother’s projects, primarily music videos. In 1999, Sofia shocked the socks off the critics with the release of her first feature film, “The Virgin Suicides”. It was actually REALLY GOOD! Like, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY GOOD! Her sophomore effort, “Lost in Translation” (2003), starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, became a critical smash hit and an impressive commercial success to boot. Her third effort, “Marie Antoinette,” while not quite the critical darling that “Translation” had been, definitely had its’ fair share of enthusiastic supporters. I think it is safe to say that Sofia Coppola will not be receiving any “Razzie” awards for her work on the other end of the camera…
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