|Francis Ford Coppola Director||previously directed The Godfather: Part II|
A modern adaptation of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," Apocalypse Now follows a crew of American soldiers in Vietnam, in search of the rogue colonel Kurtz. The subject of a nightmarish production, it is widely cited to have brought about the end of the Auteur movement, despite universal acclaim.
While filming, director Francis Ford Coppola lost 100 pounds22 More Trivia
|Francis Ford Coppola||screenplay|
|Marlon Brando||Colonel Walter E. Kurtz|
|Martin Sheen||Captain Benjamin L. Willard|
|Robert Duvall||Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore|
|Frederic Forrest||Jay 'Chef' Hicks|
|Sam Bottoms||Lance B. Johnson|
|Laurence Fishburne||Tyrone 'Clean' Miller|
|Albert Hall||Chief Phillips|
|Harrison Ford||Colonel Lucas|
|G.D. Spradlin||General Corman|
|See Full Credits|
The film opens with troubled Vietnam veteran, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) in his Saigon hotel room, waiting for a mission. He gets one, a journey up the Nung River into the Cambodian jungle to kill rogue Special Forces agent Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Willard accepts the mission, and joins the crew of a Navy Patrol Boat. The crew consists of Clean (Laurence Fishburne), surfer Lance Johnson (Sam Bottoms), French saucier Chef (Frederic Forrest), and boat commander Chief (Albert Hall).
Willard ignores the crew, and spends his time reading his mission dossier. He is stunned to see Kurtz's intimidating military pedigree. Him and the boat crew rendezvous with a notorious Air Calvary, lead by Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), and plan to be taken to the mouth of the Nung River. Out of the several access points Willard finds, Kilgore picks out a village with a perfect surfing spot, but heavily fortified by the Viet-Cong. Kilgore ignores this, and takes his helicopter Calvary, and the Navy Patrol Boat to the village. The helicopters come blazing through the village, with Wagner's "Ride of the Valkaries" playing. Kilgore's helicopter lands, and her gives his memorable "napalm" speech. The boat crew leaves the demolished village, and begin the long trip up the river.
As night arrives, Chef, joined by Willard, makes a trek into the jungle for mangoes. They spot a tiger, and frantically run back to the boat. The up river journey stops again, as the crew gets distracted with a USO Playboy show. Three Playboy Bunnies come out of a helicopter, dancing and flirting with the huge crowd of soldiers. The show turns to chaos, as several lovestruck soldiers get too close to the Bunnies. The next day, the boat crew encounters a civilian sampan, and investigate it. But Clean mistakenly fires his gun, causing Lance and Chef to shoot all the civilians on the boat. Willard steps in to shoot a civilian that survived the massacre. The massacre alienates the boat crew, and transitions into act II.
After the sampan incident, the boat crew stops at the Do Long Bridge, where Willard receives the last part of his dossier. He goes searching with Lance through the madness of the battle, but does not find the commanding officer he was looking for. The next day, the crew relaxes and reads mail, as Lance pops a purple smoke grenade. The smoke attracts attention, and the boat becomes under attack. The crew fires blindly into the jungle, as Clean gets killed, with his mother's audio tape still playing. As the boat becomes closer to Kurtz's compound, the boat gets attacked again with several toy arrows. Chief, Lance and Chef begin to fire at the children throwing the arrows, as Willard tries to stop them. Chief is hit in the chest with a large spear, and dies.
After several months, the crew arrives at Kurtz's compound. They are greeted by an overzealous Photojournalist (Dennis Hopper), who describes the greatness of Kurtz. The compound is full of Kurtz's soldiers, along with several dead bodies and decapitated heads. Willard and Lance plan to see Kurtz, and leave Chef behind on the boat, to call an airstrike in case of emergency. Willard and Lance are captured by Kurtz's soldiers, and Willard is taken in to see Kurtz. Kurtz shares his philosophies to Willard, as Willard sits silently. Later, Kurtz presents a tied up Willard with Chef's head. During a water buffalo slaughtering, which Lance gleefully participates in, Willard sneaks up on Kurtz with a machete in hand. Much like the water buffalo, Kurtz is slaughtered, as Lance and Willard walk throw the crowd of Kurtz's men, who all kneel before them, to the boat. The film ends with a haunting echo of Kurtz' last words "The horror...the horror."
Apocalypse Now is a loose adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which follows a man named Marlow on a steamboat ride downriver to retrieve businessman Kurtz from the jungle. An adaptation of Hearts of Darkness was supposed to be the directorial debut of Orson Welles, but the project was cancelled because of cost. Francis Ford Coppola gave screenwriter John Milius $15,000 to adapt Hearts of Darkness, and promised an additional $10,000 if the film got made. Milius wrote the film as a loose interpretation of the book, citing it as an allegory. Milius wrote ten drafts of the script, amounting to 1,000 pages. The title "Apocalypse Now" was inspired by a button hippies would wear that said Nirvana Now.
Coppola hoped to take his new film company, American Zoetrope, and spearhead Apocalypse Now as its first major film. Previously, they has produced a feature length adaptation of George Lucas' student film THX 1138. Warner Bros financed the film with Zoetrope as a joint venture. Warner was very displeased with the final product, and demanded Coppola give them back the $30,000 they lent his company. This almost bankrupt American Zoetrope.
In need of money, Coppola reluctantly took on the job of writing and directing an adaptation of The Godfather. The film was immensely popular, and gained Coppola much praise, many Oscars, and most importantly, the money to make Apocalypse Now.
After Milius finished the script, Lucas planned to direct. His plan was to shoot as a faux documentary, with a budget of $2 million. However, production was delayed after Lucas started production on American Graffiti. While making the Godfather: Part II, Coppola asked Milius and Lucas to direct, both denied. Determined, Coppola gathered money he made from the first two Godfather films, and started production in 1975. They planned to shoot in the Philippines, for a planned six weeks.
Originally, Steve McQueen was Francis Ford Coppola's choice to play Willard. He didn't want to leave America for so long, and denied. Al Pacino, James Caan, Jack Nicholson, and Robert Redford were all considered for the two lead roles, Kurtz and Willard. Coppola settled on Harvey Keitel for the role of Willard., based on his performance in Mean Streets. For the role of Kurtz, Coppola asked Marlon Brando, who ended up costing Coppola $3.5 million dollars for one month's work. At fourteen years old, Laurence Fishburne lied about his age to get cast as Clean. Two weeks into shooting, Coppola was not sure about whether Keitel was the right choice, and decided to go with Martin Sheen. Other cast members include Dennis Hopper, Sam Bottoms, Harrison Ford, Albert Hall and Robert Duvall.
Apocalypse Now went through a notoriously long and arduous filming process, spanning 16 months. Coppola says that he went through a journey, much like Willard does, through the filming. He was in a very emotional state, and threatened suicide several times. Filming began on March 1, 1976 after Coppola, accompanied by his wife Elanor, who shot a documentary on the filming disaster. With them, was Coppola's three children, the actors and large production crew. During filming, the crew encountered several adversities that caused the film's budget and production to grow larger than Coppola expected.
After Apocalypse Now finished production on May 21, 1977, Coppola had 200 hours of film to edit. The opening to The Doors "The End" came from Coppola finding the opening footage in a pile of film. Author Michael Herr was brought into the editing process to add narration. Herr, monitored closely by Coppola, spent a year writing Willard's voice over. The film was delayed several times until it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, to a positive reception and the coveted Palme d'Or. Apocalypse Now was finally released on August 15, 1979.
After years of delays, Apocalypse Now was released to several positive reviews. It earned rave reviews from Roger Ebert, who put it on his list of Great Movies, and Charles Champlin. Apocalypse Now holds a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the t he Critic's Consensus stating "Francis Ford Coppola's haunting, hallucinatory Vietnam war epic is cinema at its most audacious and visionary." It is still called one of the best films of all time and placed highly on American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movies list. It was chosen to be preserved by the National Fim Registry in 2000.
Apocalypse Now Redux is an extended version of the 1979 classic, with 49 extra minutes. Some extra scenes include an extended version of the helicopter attack, and a lengthy scene involving the boat crew, having just lost Clean, stopping by a French Plantation. Apocalypse Now Redux was released on August 3, 2001 to positive reviews. Ebert and Roper gave it two thumbs up, and Ebert commented that this would probably be the best movie to play in theaters all year. Some reviewers complained that the new scenes don't add much to an already lengthy movie.
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|US Release||Aug. 15, 1979|
|UK Release||Dec. 1, 1979|
|AUS Release||Nov. 15, 1979|