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
We'll never know.
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