October 6, 2019: Francis Ford Coppola
The NYS Writers Institute welcomed legendary director Francis Ford Coppola to The Egg's Hart Theatre in Albany on Sunday, Oct. 6, for the regional premiere of "The Cotton Club Encore," a re-cut version of his 1984 film.
In his opening remarks, Writers Institute Director Paul Grondahl noted novelist and Writers Institute founder William Kennedy's connection to the film. "Bill is listed in 'The Cotton Club' credits as screenwriter and co-creator of the story." -- before introducing Coppola:
"We are extremely grateful to welcome to Albany one of the greatest American filmmakers. A man who won six Oscars by the time he was 36 years old for his work as producer, director, writer. His films include "The Godfather" trilogy, "Apocalypse Now," "The Outsiders," "Rumble Fish," "The Cotton Club" and dozens more. Please give a warm Albany welcome to Francis Ford Coppola."
The appreciative audience of more than 600 spontaneously rose to their feet to honor Coppola. Following the screening, longtime friends Coppola and Kenned shared stories of the screenwriting process, battles with producers and financiers, and the director's decision to invest $500,000 of his own money to re-cut the film and add several musical and dance scenes not seen in the original release.
Grondahl presented Coppola with the NYS Writers Institute's very first "Albany Film Festival Ironweed Award."
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Albany Film Festival, coming to the University at Albany in 2020.
The Cotton Club Encore
A benefit screening with a very special guest,
director Francis Ford Coppola
2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019
Hart Theatre in The Egg,
Empire State Plaza, Albany
Tickets, $25 per person, available at The Egg box office at the Empire State Plaza, theegg.org or by phone at 518-473-1845.
Proceeds will support the Writers Institute's inaugural Albany Film Festival at UAlbany on March 28, 2020.
The NYS Writers Institute welcomes legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola for the Albany premiere of THE COTTON CLUB ENCORE to be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 6, at The Hart Theatre in The Egg, Empire State Plaza in Albany.
A conversation with Coppola and Writers Institute founder William Kennedy, who co-wrote the original screenplay, will follow the screening.
Francis Ford Coppola's restored and re-edited film features 30 minutes of new footage with several high-energy musical and dance numbers cut from the 1984 COTTON CLUB movie.
The restorations expand the film’s dramatic line, especially the black characters’ story and performances. The new film, appearing 35 years after the original, represents a labor of love for Coppola, who spent half a million dollars of his own money re-editing it.
Classic Film Series
“We are elated that Francis Ford Coppola is coming to Albany to premier his new director’s cut, 'The Cotton Club Encore,' as a fundraiser to help the Writers Institute launch its inaugural Albany Film Festival at UAlbany in March , 2020,” Writers Institute director Paul Grondahl said.
“This is an amazing opportunity to hear a magical conversation between two old friends who share a lifelong love of cinema,” Grondahl said. “One of America’s greatest filmmakers will be on stage sharing stories with a great American novelist, Writers Institute founder William Kennedy, who co-wrote the script with Coppola.”
Coppola hired William Kennedy in 1983 -- the same year Kennedy founded the NYS Writers Institute -- to work on a script written by Mario Puzo. In a four-week span, 12 scripts were produced, including five during one 48-hour non-stop weekend. Kennedy estimates that between 30–40 scripts were turned out in all, according to a story published in the Toronto Globe and Mail in November, 1984.
The $47 million film made its world premiere at Albany's Palace Theatre in December 2, 1984.
In an interview with Associated Press, Coppola discussed his motivation for a retelling of his 1984 film:
"THE COTTON CLUB was sort of made on the battlefield between the various people who put up the money and the producer (Robert Evans). At the time, they looked at it and said, 'Oh, there’s too many black people in it. Can we cut out some of the tap dancing and put the emphasis less on the black people in the story?'
I happened to have a Betamax very rough copy of what the movie had been before all that happened... Much of the film had been lost, but through hook and crook, I was able to put it back together."
The all-star cast includes Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Laurence Fishburne, Gwen Verdon, Tom Waits and Fred Gwynne. The 1984 release was nominated for several awards, including Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Art-Direction and Golden Globes for Best Director and Best Picture (Drama).
Coppola directed, wrote scripts for and produced some of the greatest films in cinematic history. He won five Oscars in four years - one in 1971 for PATTON, one in 1973 for THE GODFATHER and three in 1975 for THE GODFATHER: PART II. He also won the Palme d'Or twice at the Cannes Film Festival, for THE CONVERSATION in 1974 and APOCALYPSE NOW in 1979.
Kennedy's connection with the film community continued after THE COTTON CLUB. The 1987 adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Ironweed was filmed in Albany and the local area. COTTON CLUB actors Waits and Gwynne would later have roles in Ironweed. Kennedy also brought Francis' brother, filmmaker and educator August Coppola, to the Writers Institute for a discussion of the history of film in May, 1986.
“We are extremely grateful for those who made this event possible, especially Lionsgate Films, Coppola and Kennedy," said Grondahl. "I covered the 1984 Albany premiere of 'The Cotton Club' at the Palace Theatre for the Times Union. Thirty-five years ago, that jazzy night had the city jumping with excitement. Help us make the 2019 premiere of 'The Cotton Club Encore' another exciting film event we’ll be talking about for years to come.”
“[The Cotton Club Encore] is as joyous a cinematic experience as I’ve ever had thanks to the vibrancy of its action and musical numbers...
The Cotton Club Encore not only ranks with Coppola’s best '80s work, it ranks with his best '70 work – which means it ranks with the best movies ever made by anybody, anywhere, anytime.”
-- Jim Hemphill, "Coppola Just Premiered The Cotton Club Encore — and It’s a Masterpiece"
Slideshow: Click photo to enlarge and view caption
View the trailer: The 1984 COTTON CLUB official trailer
About The Classic Film Series
The NYS Writers Institute’s Classic Film Series, presented with support from Marc Guggenheim, UAlbany Class of ‘92, features screenings of domestic and international films of distinction and film festivals devoted to the work of particular directors, producers, or screenwriters.
The series has included rare films culled from archives and private collections, pre-release screenings from major studios, contemporary international offerings, as well as classics made in the U.S. The Institute will launch the Albany Film Festival in March 2020.
Classic Film Series
Some of the filmmakers and screenwriters who have visited the Institute have included Hal Ashby, Hector Babenco, Costa-Gavras, Tomas Gutierrez-Alea, James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, Neil Jordan, Spike Lee, Albert Mayseles, Gordon Parks, Sr., Raoul Peck, D.A. Pennebacker and Chris Hegedus, Bob Rafelson, Phil Alden Robinson, Wallace Shawn, Ron Shelton, Christine Vachon, Agnes Varda, and Robert Wise, and Doug Wright.