Why the production of Apocalypse Now was such a disaster

apocalypse now is one of the most viewed films of all time. Directed by The Godfather Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, written by Hollywood renegade John Milius and starring Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando, the film is a dark and hallucinatory journey upriver amidst the chaos of the Vietnam conflict. It’s a masterpiece that Coppola and co. went to great lengths to create.

It’s no secret that putting the film together was a nightmare; Filmmakers Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper and Eleanor Coppola even made a documentary about the troubled production entitled Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. Still, with so many top-notch cast and crew members, one can’t help but wonder what caused the whole dysfunction. From inclement weather to rampant drug use and everything in between, the production of the Vietnam War epic has been fraught with problems. In the following article, we will examine and break down all the main issues that played a role in the making of the film apocalypse now.

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A filmmaker’s apocalypse

Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now
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The production of apocalypse now was particularly hard for its director. Coppola invested nearly every dollar he had to get the film off the ground, risking complete financial ruin if the film didn’t do as well as intended. Additionally, much of the cast and crew used drugs during filming, and while Coppola steered clear of the LSD and speed that many of his peers indulged in, he experimented with marijuana. While he enjoyed the way it loosened his tongue to say what he really meant to people, it had the unsavory side effect of making him very paranoid.

This drug-induced paranoia did not match his financial stress and eventually led to him having an epileptic seizure on set. He also suffered a total nervous breakdown from which it took weeks to recover, and allegedly threatened suicide on several occasions. Similar to apocalypse nowAs the poor soldiers gradually lost their sanity the deeper they ventured into the jungles of Vietnam, the troubled production plunged Coppola into his own mouth of madness.

hostilities and heart attacks

Apocalypse Now (1979) Martin Sheen
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One of the biggest stressors for Coppola and his team on set apocalypse now was the fact that a real The civil war was raging not far from the location of the film. Most of the military equipment for the film was loaned to the production by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, who frequently moved his helicopters and equipment off the set to fight nearby communist insurgents. This resulted in numerous lengthy production delays and instilled fear among much of the crew on the set. Another scary event that led to a massive delay was when some of the cadaver props brought to the set turned out to be actually real human remains.

According to screen rant“This led to a police investigation during which the crew’s passports were temporarily confiscated and the bodies of soldiers were taken away.”

The production also had many problems with the main cast. The first big step was recasting the main character; For several weeks, Coppola shot footage starring Harvey Keitel in the role of Captain Willard. When Keitel Coppola didn’t give what he wanted, he was fired and replaced by Martin Sheen. Subsequent reshoots added to the film’s time and budget, and spelled the downfall of the rest of the production. Sheen’s problems with alcoholism made life difficult for him and those around him on set, and he later nearly died after suffering a heart attack on set. Besides Sheen, other cast and crew members also suffered from illnesses, drug addictions and various tropical diseases.

Another now-famous difficulty the production faced was the fact that Marlon Brando, the main villain and lead actor in the film’s final act, arrived on set drunk, overweight, and grossly underprepared. Coppola was forced to put production on hold for days while he reimagined the character of Colonel Kurtz and gave Brando all the information he should have already known.

Related: Apocalypse now used corpses provided by a grave robber as props until the police stepped in

Trouble with a typhoon

Apocalypse Now (1979) Final Cut
United artists

As if all of the above issues weren’t enough to make for a disastrous film production, the set of apocalypse now was once devastated by a typhoon. Typhoon Olga hit hard and destroyed much of the stage construction. This forced the filmmakers into a month-long hiatus, during which the production continued to go over schedule and under budget. The eventual return to the jungle was feared by all and the sets had to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Related Topics: Apocalypse Now Redux or Regular: Which is Better?

A rocking release (and reappraisal)

Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now
United artists

Though it was a nightmare to make apocalypse now finally made it. According to Collider“After shooting over 1,000,000 feet of film and completing principal photography, apocalypse now would spend nearly two years in post-production and the film’s budget would be $30 million.” That’s a significant increase over the original $12 million budget Coppola was granted, and post-production was with faced with a number of hurdles. When the film was finally finished, the first few screenings didn’t go well.

However, after a few more months of editing and fine-tuning, the film was released to critical acclaim. While there were many critics at the time of its publication in 1979, most of those critics have disappeared over time. Today the film is hailed as one of them, if not even The Ultimate Vietnam War Movie. Also, although it almost drove him to the edge and he certainly hated every moment on set, apocalypse now Widely considered one of Coppola’s finest films.

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