EXCLUSIVE: From 'Mozart' to 'Dreamland,' How Music Influences the Coppola Family

Getty Images

When it comes to the Coppola family, there’s no shortage of
talent. From composer and patriarch Carmine Coppola to his son, director
Francis Ford Coppola
, and various grandchildren, filmmakers Sofia and Roman
Coppola, Jason and Robert Schwartzman and actor Nicolas Cage (né Coppola), and
even the youngest generation, including musician Weston Coppola Cage and filmmaker
Gia Coppola. The family has earned over 20 Academy Award nominations and nine
wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Original
Screenplay and Best Original Score.  

While talent certainly bonds them, it’s the music in their
genes that unites them. “We come from a musical family,” Roman Coppola tells
ET, referring to his late grandfather, Carmine Coppola, an Oscar-winning
composer and flautist, and his great uncle, composer and conductor Anton
Coppola, who at 99 years old is actively preparing a new concert for March of
2017. “We have a rich history of music being a tradition in our family,” which
extends back to Italian musician Francesco Pennino, father to Carmine’s wife, Italia,
whose musical play “Senza Mamma” can be heard in a scene of Francis Ford
Coppola’s The Godfather Part II.

“That’s why I think music, for them,” Robert Schwartzman
says, referring to his mother, Talia Shire, and uncles August and Francis Ford
Coppola, “is a part of their lives and has played such a big role in their
movies. Growing up, we were exposed to a lot of different types of music. So
then the next generation picks up on that.” 

Orion Pictures

Schwartzman, who is the front man of Rooney, recently joined
the family business, making his directorial debut with Dreamland, about a pianist who turns to private tutoring in order
to fund his dream of opening a piano bar and falls into a torrid affair with an
older, wealthy femme fatale. When it came to making the film, he looked for
those parallels between his life as a musician and making a film. “There are a
lot of connections,” Schwartzman says. “I admire the craft of creating, shaping
music to compliment a story that’s on screen. It’s very different than

“I’m conscious of the way music plays its part in a film,” Schwartzman
adds -- a sentiment that’s not lost on his brother Jason, who in addition to
writing, acting and directing, was a drummer for Phantom Planet before creating
the indie solo act Coconut Records, or on his cousins Sofia and Roman. 

MORE: Bill Murray and George Clooney Perform a Christmas Classic in the Sofia Coppola-Directed Netflix Special

“In my opinion, music is one of the key components of a
movie,” Sofia Coppola said during the
Cannes Film Festival
in 2014, while promoting The Bling Ring. In addition to the accolades, her films have become
notable for their music, including the score for The Virgin Suicides composed by the French electronic duo Air and
the new wave-heavy soundtrack for Marie
. “It contributes to the atmosphere that we want to translate on
screen. I also listen to lots of music when I'm writing a script, and the music
in my films often comes to me at that time. So on the whole, it comes to me
very early in my creative process. It inspires me and influences my films. It
breathes soul into them.”

“It means something to us in terms of storytelling,” Roman Coppola
adds. For the filmmaker, who established himself as an influential music video
director in the ‘90s, that’s most apparent with the Golden Globe-winning Amazon
series Mozart in the Jungle, which he
developed and executive produces alongside his cousin, Jason Schwartzman.
Inspired by the memoir Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music,the show draws back the
curtain on the world of classical music. “The show is a little window, a little
way to get to know it and learn about it and be exposed to it,” he says,
acknowledging his own interest in (and limited knowledge about) classical
music, which “is such a broad term. But it’s something that I’m intrigued by.”


And the younger generation’s musical influence is not
limited to appreciation. In addition to the original music Schwartzman composed
for Dreamland, he also featured music
selections by Francesco Pennino, Carmine Coppola and Coconut Records. Recently,
a song by Weston Coppola Cage, who his father, Nicolas, says “is a very
talented man,” was featured in his father’s film Dog Eat Dog. Anton Coppola appeared as Anton Gallo on season two of
Mozart in the Jungle

Collaboration is very much part of the Coppola family’s
creative process, whether it’s drawing from musical inspiration or working
together to write, direct and produce films and TV shows. On Mozart, Coppola says Jason Schwartzman
serves as a wild card, who can “have a blank piece of paper and then 10 minutes
later, it’s 10 pages full of dialogue.” And there’s a balance to that
collaboration process. “He has this really wild imagination and I have a more
discerning eye,” Coppola adds. 

MORE: Why Casting Monica Bellucci on 'Mozart' Is a Full Circle Moment for Roman Coppola

Working together goes all the way back to their childhood,
when Roman would make costumes for Sofia. “It’s just a natural extension of
what was always done,” Coppola says. “It’s fun to work with people you have a
shorthand with.” 

And in Robert Schwartzman’s case, with Dreamland in particular, it was a very sentimental moment having
his mother and brother both appear in the film. “They’ve been doing this for so
long,” he says. “And the idea of having that collide with their lives
creatively was something I really wanted to find a way to do.” While Shire was
not a musician herself, she did encourage both of her sons to listen to
classical music and embrace the family heritage. “She was devoted to us,”
Schwartzman says. 

“I just enjoy the family stuff and you’re going to get
people who point the finger at it,” Schwartzman continues. “But at the end of
the day, I’d rather lead with who I am or that kind of connection.”