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Sofia Coppola in Godfather Part III
Sofia Coppola in Godfather Part III

Sofia Coppola says criticism of her ‘bad’ acting ‘didn’t destroy’ her

The director’s performance in her father’s 1990 film, Godfather Part III, was widely panned, but she says critics ‘made her stronger’

This weekend (December 5), Francis Ford Coppola will re-release the final part of his Godfather trilogy, with new edits and a new title – swapping Godfather Part III for The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.

The 1990 film, little-loved by fans of the franchise, was previously criticised for its convoluted plot, as well as for the performance of Sofia Coppola, who played protagonist Michael Corleone’s daughter Mary. Sofia’s acting was panned as “hopelessly amateurish”, and she was accused of coming “close to wrecking the movie”.

Now, in an interview with The New York Times, the father-daughter duo have reflected on Sofia’s casting and the subsequent criticism that followed. “I wasn’t taking things super seriously,” Sofia said of taking on the role. “I was at the age of trying anything. I just jumped into it without thinking much about it.”

Sofia was cast in the film after Winona Ryder withdrew due to illness. Coppola said that although “Paramount had a list of many fine actresses”, they were all “older than I felt the character should be”, adding that he “wanted a teenager” who had “the baby fat on her face”. This led to Coppola casting his daughter Sofia, who took the part as an act of goodwill.

“It seemed like he was under a lot of pressure and I was helping out,” Sofia told NYT. “There was this panic, and before I knew it, I was in a make-up chair in Cinecittà Studios in Rome having my hair dyed.”

Reflecting on the criticism of her acting following the film’s release, Sofia said: “It was embarrassing to be thrown out to the public in that kind of way. But it wasn’t my dream to be an actress, so I wasn’t crushed. I had other interests. It didn’t destroy me.”

“It taught me that as a creative person, you have to put your work out there,” continued Sofia. “It toughens you up. I know it’s a cliché, but it can make you stronger.”

Coppola saw the criticism as an attempt to scapegoat Sofia for the film’s shortcomings. “They wanted to attack the picture when, for some, it didn’t live up to its promise,” he explained. “And they came after this 18-year-old girl, who had only done it for me.”

Sofia isn’t so bothered. “I think it’s so funny that it lingers, all these years later. It’s fine.”