While we were in the Soviet Union filming Dersu Uzala, the hotel restaurant was continually filled with the haunting strains of the theme music from The Godfather. Vodka glass in hand, Kurosawa would say, “That Coppola—what a director! I thought Part One of his Godfather series was perfect, and then he amazed me by surpassing it in Part Two. Usually the sequel is a poor imitation.” Seated in a restaurant in a foreign land, we spoke Coppola’s name with much admiration.
Coppola has said that before starting to shoot a movie, he often looks at Kurosawa’s movies for inspiration. Although he has many favorites, one that he singles out for admiration is The Bad Sleep Well, where he marvels at the directorial technique of letting the audience in on the entire setup right away, in the opening wedding scene.
While Coppola was editing Apocalypse Now, Kurosawa called at his Zoetrope Studios in San Francisco and was treated to a special screening of a small part of the film. An unassuming man, Coppola showed him the opening scene, remarking how intimidating it was to have Kurosawa view his work. To the sublime music of Wagner, helicopters flew in formation, filling the screen.
“Wonderful,” said Kurosawa. “You captured the scene well. It must not have been easy.”
Coppola got up and went over to the screen, pointing to the space beside it: “Actually there were a lot more helicopters in the air, here, and here, too. They didn’t get in the range of the camera.” He sounded rueful. Today, of course, with computer graphics the number of helicopters could be increased ad infinitum.
Coppola often traveled to Japan with his family, and always made a point of having dinner with Kurosawa. They remained close for a long time.
[ Teruyo Nogami, Waiting on the Weather: Making Movies With Akira Kurosawa ]