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Apocalypse Now

Thirty Six years ago tomorrow, on May 10 1979, Apocalypse Now was finally screened to 

the world for the first time, during the Cannes Film Festival.

The film that took more than 16 months to shoot (Jaws eat your heart out) and almost 3 

years to edit.

Furthermore it was this film that severely damaged the friendship between George Lucas 

and Francis Ford Coppola (business partners in American Zoetrope at that time) to the 

point where the two men refused to speak to each other for years. 

Coppola, Michael Jackson and Lucas

(It wasn't until 1986 that the men worked together again on the 3D-Captain EO project.)

Originally slated to be directed by George Lucas (when developed at American Zoetrope

around 1971), George intended to make Apocalypse Now a documentary style feature, to 

be filmed during the actual war in Vietnam. Francis Ford Coppola tried to get the film made 

at Warner Bros, but the deal fell through and he went on to direct The Godfather, while 

George went on to make American Graffiti

Lucas directing Ron Howard

After these two films had come out, both Lucas and Coppola had become powerful enough 

to get Apocalypse Now made. However, a few alterations were needed, because it was no 

longer possible to film in an actual war-zone in Vietnam.

Marlon Brando receiving instructions from Coppola

George had planned on making the film right after his little SciFi film Star Wars, but when 

shooting that film took longer than anticipated (remember, even though Apocalypse Now

was released in 1979, it was filmed in 1976), Francis stepped in and took over the film, lost 

a lot of body weight (around 100 pounds) during the shoot, nearly lost one of his main stars 

(Martin Sheen) over a heart attack, saw a six week shoot turn into a sixteen month 


almost took his life a couple of times, had to mortgage his own house so he had 

enough money to complete the shoot, and got a 14 year old Laurence Fishburne hooked on 

heroine and a 14 year old Emilio Estevez almost killed in the swamps.

Francis Coppola and Volker Schlondorff sharing the Palme d'Or in CANNES 1979

The film did however walk away with the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and lots 

of other awards, including Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards.

Robert Duvall and Francis Coppola

But one question keeps nagging me: what would we have seen, had George been at the 

helm ?

We'll never know.


The Bearded Trio - The Site For Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and John Williams




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