In 1979, film-making legend Francis Ford Coppola released one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time, Apocalypse Now. The story follows Capt. Willard (as played by Martin Sheen), a man tasked with the dangerous mission of traveling deep into the jungles of Cambodia to assassinate a rogue colonel who military intelligence believes has gone insane.
Immediately, the film captivated audiences around the globe. In fact, you can still find screenings of this film in movie theaters throughout the country today. It’s a masterclass in stunning scenery and epic metaphor.
Although this film holds a well-documented place in cinematic history, there are a few things you probably didn’t know about the Vietnam-era classic.
No major movie studio wanted to produce the film
At the time, movie studios were still bitter about the realities of the Vietnam War. Because of this, George Lucas (who worked on the early stages of the film’s development) and John Millius took the script to several studios and were repeatedly turned down.
As a result, the film was put on indefinite hold. Coppola, in the interim, went on to direct a couple of small movies you may have heard of — The Godfather, parts I and II.
After that overwhelming success, Coppola decided to produce his passion project without the help of studios, putting up million of his own money.
A rare film print of Harvey Keitel sharing a laugh with Robert Duvall.
Coppola fired his leading man
Originally, talented actor Harvey Keitel was cast to play the role of Capt. Willard. But, soon after filming started, he was fired and replaced with Martin Sheen, who had his own reservations about taking on the role.
Brando wanted some big bucks to play the role of Kurtz
Coppola convinced Marlon Brando to play the iconic role, one that would become one of his most famous characters. However, Brando wanted a million dollars per week to play the insane colonel. After the production agreed to his request, he was scheduled for three weeks of work. Coppola handed over one million smackeroos as an advance.
After a few weeks of shooting, production began running late. Brando’s people threatened to drop out and keep the million-dollar advance due to rescheduling.
Coppola wasn’t happy but, eventually, everything worked out. The acclaimed director got his villain to deliver an epic performance.
The helicopters that were used in filming were constantly being called away to fight the rebels
At the time of shooting, the Phillipines was in the midst of a rebellion. The pilots that were used during the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” scene kept getting ordered away to fight against rebel forces that were reportedly just 10 miles away from Coppola’s production.
Maybe they really did smell napalm that morning.