Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

Synopsis: Documents the sensational events surrounding the making of Apocalypse Now (1979)' and Francis Ford Coppola's struggle with nature, governments, actors, and self-doubt. Includes footage and sound secretly recorded by Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis.
Genre: Documentary
Production: Showtime Network
  Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 6 wins & 5 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
96 min

My film is not a movie.

My film is not about Vietnam.

It is Vietnam.

It's what it was really like. It was crazy.

And the way we made it was very much

like the way

the Americans were in Vietnam.

We were in the jungle.

There were too many of us.

We had access to too much money,

too much equipment,

and little by little, we went insane.

This movie I'm making

is not in the tradition

of the great Max Ophuls

or David Lean even.

This movie was made in the tradition of

Irwin Allen.

I made the most vulgar, entertaining,

exciting, action-full, sensoramic,



have it everything, sex, violence, humor,

because I want people

to come and see it.

But the questions that I kept facing

or running into,

into the stupid script about

four guys going up to kill a guy...

But that was the story.

But the questions that that story

kept putting me, I couldn't answer.

Yet I knew that I had constructed

the film in such a way

that to not answer would be to fail.

The film Francis is making is

a metaphor for a journey into self.

He has made that journey

and is still making it.

It's scary to watch someone you love

go into the center of himself

and confront his fears,

fear of failure, fear of death,

fear of going insane.

You have to fail a little,

die a little, go insane a little,

to come out the other side.

The process is not over for Francis.

My greatest fear

is to make a really shitty,

embarrassing, pompous film

on an important subject,

and I am doing it.

I confront it. I acknowledge.

I will tell you right straight from

the most sincere depths of my heart,

the film will not be good.

It's like going to school.

You finish your term paper

and maybe you get a B instead

of an A+ that you wanted,

so you got a B.

But I'm gonna get an F.

This film is a $20-million disaster.

Why won't anyone believe me?

I am thinking of shooting myself!

Good evening.

This is Orson Welles

inviting you to listen now

to The Heart of Darkness

by Joseph Conrad.

Imagine the feelings of a skipper

of a fine frigate or a bark.

A civilized man

at the very end of the world.

He'd land in a swamp,

march through the woods,

and in some inland post

feel the savagery,

the utter savagery that stirs

in the forests and the jungles

in the hearts of wild men.

In 1939, Orson Welles planned

to make Heart of Darkness

as his first motion picture.

Heart of Darkness is the story

of a ship captain's journey

up the Congo River

to find Mr. Kurtz, an ivory trader

stationed deep in the jungle.

A brilliant man of high ideals,

Kurtz intends to enlighten the natives.

Instead, he succumbs

to the primal temptations

of the jungle and goes insane.

Screen tests were done

with Welles as Kurtz

and sets were designed,

but the studio backed away

from the project,

fearing the elaborate production

would go over budget.

Welles made Citizen Kane instead.

Heart of Darkness was abandoned

in pre-production.

In 1969, Francis founded

American Zoetrope,

a company dedicated to filmmaking

outside of the Hollywood system.

One of their first projects

was Apocalypse Now,

a Vietnam War story based loosely

on Heart of Darkness.

Apocalypse Now concerns

a Captain Willard on his mission

to assassinate

a Green Beret colonel named Kurtz.

Kurtz has gone insane

and is conducting the war

on his own terms deep in Cambodia.

George Lucas was to direct

John Milius' screenplay.

Francis said that Heart of Darkness,

which was one of my favorite things

I'd ever read,

he said it had been tried

and no one could lick it.

He said that Orson Welles tried it

and he couldn't lick it.

Richard Brooks, I think,

or somebody else...

That's the best thing

to tell a young writing student,

you know, say,

"No one could possibly write this."

That was the first thing I tried.

The war was raging then,

and everybody was either

getting set to go or to get out of it

or whatever they were going to do.

And we prepared a method of

doing this whole thing in Vietnam.

We were going to do it

in 16 millimeter in Vietnam.

That was John's idea.

That was John's idea.

I was the one that was gonna

have to go over and do it.

John is very good at being grand.

We would have been there right in time

for Tet, probably and whatever.

And all these people

that were in school with me

who'd done terrible things

or were planning to go to Canada,

do something as drastic

as getting married to avoid the war,

they were willing to go to Vietnam.

They didn't care.

They wanted to carry lights

and sound equipment over minefields.

And I think that Warner Brothers

finally backed off on it

because they figured

most of us would probably be killed

because we were so stupid.

We then tried to take Apocalypse

around to all the other studios.

Nobody wanted to have anything to do

with it and they just... "No way."


Because it was during the war

and there was a lot of...

I don't know whether it was pressure

or just fear or whatever,

but the studios would not finance a film

about the Vietnam War.

People were so bitter

about the war, you know,

that there were riots.

Remember, we were living at a time

when there really were riots

on the streets.

People were spitting on soldiers.

And studio executives,

they're the last people

who are gonna get

in the middle of that thing.

Studio executives are not noted

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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