In this excerpt from Rob Lowe’s autobiography, Stories I Only Tell My Friends ©2011, a teenage Rob Lowe finds himself alone with Francis Ford Coppola and brings up the obvious:
“Francis, I’m sure you hear this a lot, but Godfather was on in the hotel and we all watched it for the hundredth time. What an unbelievable movie.”
“You know, Rob, to me The Godfather is like that lamp,” he says, pointing. “It exists. It’s right there. People have opinions about it,” he continues mildly. “The real Godfather, for me, is the experience I had making it.”
It would be many years and many projects before I fully understood what he meant. If you are fortunate enough to be part of a hit, particularly a transcendent one, all emotional ownership is transferred to the audience. They judge it and embrace it; project their own hopes, dreams, and fears onto it; take their personal meaning from its themes, and with those investments it becomes theirs. The significance of your participation pales in comparison to the significance the project has on their imaginations. And so, you are left outside the phenomenon. Just as Paul McCartney can never experience the Beatles, Francis Ford Coppola can never experience The Godfather. It becomes a lamp.
I like this book a lot more than I expected to. I’m not a huge Rob Lowe fan, although I did enjoy him in Parks and Recreation, but it turns out you don’t have to be to enjoy his anecdotes and stories.