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Placencia, a fishing village in southern Belize, is the picture of a Caribbean idyll—lazy hammocks, coconut palms, lush tropical forests and, just off shore, the world’s second largest barrier reef. In other words, the perfect spot in which to set up an eco-resort. Less expected, perhaps, is the name of the person who’s tapped into the eco-tourism market here: Francis Ford Coppola.
The legendary filmmaker has been visiting Belize for 30 years. He has a little thatched seafront house here, around which he putters, barefoot and in khaki shorts, looking every bit the aging beach bum. “When I was making Apocalypse Now, I became infatuated with the jungle,” he says. “I read an article about Belize and learned it was filled with rain forest. I thought it would be great to take my kids there, and I might also find a quiet place to write.”
Coppola’s status as Belize’s most famous hotelier, as he tells it, came about by accident. His first resort, a Maya Mountains hideaway called Blancaneaux Lodge, was a response to the sheer volume of friends who used to visit him here. The second, Turtle Inn in Placencia, just sort of followed. “I did not go into the hotel business with determination,” he says.
In expanding his burgeoning hospitality mini-empire, meanwhile, Coppola may have opened himself up to new casting opportunities. “In Belize, you meet all sorts of characters who have washed up,” the director says. “When we first came to Placencia, a local guy with a ponytail and earrings asked if I needed help—he reminded me of a young Marlon Brando.” —COSTAS CHRIST
ILLUSTRATIONS BY PETER OUMANSKI