Instead, he’s after films that could establish him as a next-gen auteur in waiting. He made his first short after graduating from NYU’s film program, and it almost immediately caused a stir. Daddy portrays onetime Disney star Dylan Sprouse as a cross-dressing male escort, hired by a grieving widower who has recently lost his wife. Shot at the Plaza hotel in 2017, the posh setting and celeb casting spoke to Coppola’s social savviness (Sprouse is a friend from NYU), and the kinky frisson between Sprouse and co-star Ron Rifkin hinted at just which parts of the psyche Coppola was interested in exploring. When he released Daddy on Mubi in 2020, it made a small splash among Sprouse fans and short film fiends, and now has over 6 million views on YouTube. (The Buzzfeed review: “Dylan Sprouse making out with an 80-year-old man? Sign me up!”)
After filming Daddy, Coppola’s other body of work—his, uh, Instagram—began to take off. This wasn’t a concerted campaign on Coppola’s part so much as a natural side effect of the lifestyle available to well-connected and incredibly photogenic starlets who straddle the worlds of art, fashion, and cinema. These days, he has a quarter-of-a-million followers and the sophisticated disposition of a seasoned international bon vivant. With no permanent address, he can be found at a masked ball in Venice one week and a Saint Laurent show in Marrakech the next, often with a retinue of famous friends like Steve Lacy and Kiernan Shipka in tow. Coppola describes these jaunts as central to his creative process, experiments that inform the aesthetic and social universe he creates in his work. “This nomadic lifestyle that I’ve adopted can be incredibly exhausting sometimes,” he says, “but ultimately it helps me explore in a way that I don’t think I would be able to if I was tethered to just one thing. I’ve never felt comfortable in a box. I would much rather sort of be playing a game of musical chairs.”
Coppola’s next move is to step in front of the camera, in a trio of short films called The Danish Trilogy in which he is a triple threat: writer, director, and lead actor. Though the idea of starring in his own movies makes sense for a guy who has more clout than most actors he could hire for the role, Coppola was not in the original script. “Genuinely, I never thought that I would put myself in my films,” he says. But pandemic travel restrictions prevented his preferred lead from getting to Copenhagen for filming in the fall of 2020, so Coppola volunteered himself, despite his acting experience not extending much beyond a children’s theater production of Peter Pan. “I have noticed that whenever I’m making a project, if I’m not terrified, then it’s probably not worth doing,” Coppola says.