SA EXCLUSIVE: We spoke to 'Apocalypse Now' director Francis Ford Coppola on what makes a film timeless

2019-08-30 14:28
Director Francis Ford Coppola.

Cape Town – In honour of the 40th anniversary of Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece, Apocalypse Now, a never-before-seen newly restored version of the film has been released.

Apocalypse Now: Final Cut is the Academy-Award winning director's most complete version of the critically acclaimed film which stars Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Albert Hall, Laurence Fishburne and Harrison Ford.

In an exclusive interview with the director, he tells us more about the restoration of the film, his memories of filming in 1979 and whether he will do television in the future.

You have been very open about how miserable you were making the movie the first time around. What was it like revisiting the film 40 years later?

When it was decided to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Apocalypse Now, I was asked which version I wanted to show, the 1979 original or "Redux". I thought the original was too short and clipped and "Redux" too long, so I decided to show a modified version which became "Final Cut".

There were a lot of off-screen production issues. What was the toughest time you had while filming Apocalypse Now?

I suppose the toughest moment was hearing about Martin Sheen's heart attack and worrying for him personally, and then realising the film would survive only if he did.

What is your fondest memory working on the original film?

Watching my children grow up in the Philippines, seeing my sons enjoy themselves while participating in the film and my four-year-old daughter making clothes for her dolls with the wardrobe department and sharing the whole adventure with my wife.

What do you think makes the film still relevant in the time we are currently living in versus when it was made?

I imagine any honest examination of human behaviour at its worst makes the film timeless, especially in today's world of deception and moral confusion.

If there was one other film you could also remake, which would it be?

I wouldn't "remake" any of them, but re-edit is another story.

Do you think modern technology is doing the filming industry a service or disservice in the way we tell stories?

At any point when fundamental technology changes, the particular industry or culture it affects is disrupted and must adapt. It will take some time and distance to appreciate those changes.

What films do you watch and whose work do you enjoy?

Cinema, which is often reduced to the concept of "Ten Best" or some other inappropriate question like "Which is the best film ever made?", is blessed with thousands of masterpieces and many great artists. The list is too long for me to name. The silent era alone had hundreds of masterpieces and auteurs.

TV is experiencing its golden age, would you ever consider doing something for television?

With the limited time I have left on this Earth, I am more interested in the feature-length theatrical film format.


Apocalypse Now: Final Cut can be seen at the following cinemas:

30th August

The Labia (Cape Town)

Capitol Cinema (Pretoria)

6th September

Mall@Reds Epic (Centurion)

Epic Sun City

Epic North Ridge (Bloemfontein)

Compiled by Leandra Engelbrecht.

Read more on:    apocalypse now: final cut  |  movies

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.