Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's epic Vietnam War film, was notoriously difficult for the director to complete. With major cost overruns, demolished sets, and the near death of one of the primary actors, the film serves as a metaphor for the war itself: a massive undertaking that spiralled out of control, with no clear end in sight.
Loosely adapted from Joseph Conrad's 1899 novella Heart of Darkness, the film tells the tale of U.S. Army Captain Willard, who is sent on a secret mission to infiltrate the encampment of renegade Special Forces Colonel Walter Kurtz, and assassinate him. Originally planned as a blockbuster action film, Coppola soon discovered that what he had on his hands was a surreal, psychedelic-influenced journey, that could not possibly be shot in the four months he had scheduled.
With a cast full of Hollywood stars and its tumultuous production and post-production process, Apocalypse Now has risen to legendary status, both for the film's incredible onscreen achievement, and for the endless rolling debacle of its creation. Along with its many awards and appearances on Best Film Ever lists, there is an endless trove of behind the scenes stories that continue to fascinate fans of cinema.
20. Forget Star Wars - George Lucas Was Going To Direct Apocalypse Now
It's hard to imagine what a Vietnam War film would look like with the director of Star Wars at the helm. That was almost the case with Apocalypse Now, as Lucas was originally slated to direct the film. Lucas was among those who encouraged screenwriter John Milius to write a screenplay about the war. Milius was working as an assistant to Francis Ford Coppola at the time, and Coppola offered Milius $15,000 to write the screenplay, which his film company American Zoetrope would produce, with Lucas directing.
The film spent years in pre-production, during which Lucas directed a flop in THX 1138, and a massive hit in American Graffiti. By the time Coppola wanted to make Apocalypse Now, Lucas was wrapped up in creating the first Star Wars film. Milius wasn't interested in directing, so Coppola decided to direct it himself.
If Lucas had directed Apocalypse Now, what would it have looked like? Would Colonel Kurtz have revealed himself to be Captain Willard's father? Probably not. According to Coppola, the vision Lucas had involved shooting the film in Northern California on 16mm film in a documentary style.