Except for the controversial director himself, no one was more under the gun during the making of Godfather III than Francis Ford Coppola’s 19-year-old daughter, Sofia. The elder Coppola handed the role of Mary, daughter of Michael Corleone, over to his offspring after original cast member Winona Ryder suddenly dropped out. It was a move that sparked a dispute with Paramount executives as well as with some cast and crew members who argued she was too inexperienced for the role. It also left the teen — who had almost never acted — with the painful decision of whether or not to accept the role.
”I didn’t realize how much pressure I would be under, but I went ahead and attacked it,” Coppola says in her powdery California accent. ”Because I was Francis’ daughter, people wanted to see me fall on my face. I had to prove I could do it, that I wasn’t just some bratty kid.”
Coppola says her father — who does not deny that he identifies with the film’s protaganist — based the part of Mary on his real-life daughter, making her a natural for the role. But the casting was not without its problems — her accent being one. ”I don’t know where I got this Valley-girl accent, but I worked with a speech coach to tone it down.” Coppola had to rerecord her lines with her newly schooled voice.
She is grateful to her father for her big break. ”It was easiest in a way to have a director know you so well,” says Coppola, whose character falls in love with her cousin Vincent, played by Andy Garcia. ”But it was hard to flirt with and kiss Andy in front of my father,” she says, ”That was hard to overcome.”