Coppola was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 7, 1939. His father, Carmine, was a concert flutist who played with Arturo Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra. His mother, Italia, was an actress who at one time had appeared in films. Coppola's younger sister Talia would later follow in her mother's footsteps into the world of film acting, changing her name to Talia Shire and starring in the film Rocky alongside Silvester Stallone. A few years after his birth, Coppola and his family moved to the suburbs around New York City, where he would spend most of his childhood.
All the Coppola children were driven to succeed in show business and the arts. Leading by example was Coppola's father, who had achieved success as a musician for hire but longed to compose scores of his own. Francis seemed the least likely to redeem his father's promise, however. He was an awkward, myopic child who did poorly at school. At age nine, he was stricken with polio. The illness forced him into bed for a year, a period during which he played with puppets, watched television, and became lost in an inner fantasy world. After his recovery, he began to make movies with an eight-millimeter camera and a tape recorder.