Gia Coppola Didn’t See ‘The Godfather’ Until James Franco Made Her Watch It

Ms. Coppola and Mr. Franco at last night's premiere of Palo Alto, part of the Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo: Getty)

Ms. Coppola and Mr. Franco at last night’s premiere of Palo Alto, part of the Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo: Getty)

The Godfather may be at the top of the list for many budding filmmakers when it comes to which films inspire them most. But newly minted director Gia Coppola spilled at last night’s premiere for her first feature, Palo Alto, that she hadn’t seen it until recently — even though her grandfather directed it.

The Observer asked Ms. Coppola if she takes any inspiration from the films of her grandfather, Francis Ford Coppola, or her aunt, Sofia Coppola, who directed The Bling RingThe Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette.

“I love my family’s films,” she said. “I just recently watched The Godfather for the first time with James [Franco]. He sat me down because I’d never seen it.”

Incredulous, we asked how it was possible she’d gone most of her 27-year-old life without having screened it at home.

“No one ever wanted to watch it with me,” the softspoken writer-director shrugged. “My family didn’t want to watch it with me. They’d seen it so many times. James really sat me down and we watched it and it was fun.”

She called the film “amazing,” adding that it’s “like a novel. It really functions like a novel, which you don’t come across often in cinema.”

She and Mr. Franco, upon whose short stories the film Palo Alto is based, started the lengthy film at 11 p.m. one night, she said.

“He was kind of hitting me to stay awake,” she added, “but it’s a great film.”

Ms. Coppola wrote and directed Palo Alto, an instant classic on teen angst that stars Mr. Franco, Emma Roberts, Zoe Levin, Nat Wolff and Jack Kilmer. It’s an ensemble film detailing the various indignities and few shining moments of a group of high school students — and one predatory soccer coach, played by Mr. Franco. It’s hyper-realistic, and will surely make viewers wince (in a good way) as they remember their own teenage antics.

Because he penned the short stories, Ms. Coppola called Mr. Franco for filmmaking advice more often than she called her aunt or grandfather, she said.

“I was really trying to figure it out on my own and learn from my own mistakes and grow as a person,” she said. “I admire my family’s films and occasionally I’d ask them for advice, but I had the great luxury of having James at my side so I could lean on him most of the time.”