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Coppola Talks 'Apocalypse' to Film Students

17 Aug, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

Francis Ford Coppola at the DGA in Hollywood Aug. 15.

LOS ANGELES — Celebrating Paramount Home Entertainment's release of Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier, director Francis Ford Coppola joined fans for a screening of excerpts from the DVD set's new special features.

About 600 fans, many of them UCLA Film Students, alma mater to Coppola, packed the Directors Guild of America theater in Los Angeles Aug. 15 to interact with the director.

“We wanted to do something because this DVD was coming out,” Coppola said. “But I didn't want to show the movie, I don't know if I could sit through the movie again in my life,” he joked.

Fans got a look at excerpts from the nearly five hours of new extras, including bits from Coppola's audio commentaries on the new disc, which includes both Apocalypse Now and the extended version, Apocalypse Now Redux.

Coppola and his DVD producer, Kim Aubry, also screened selected moments from the discs' documentaries on the extensive editing and sound creation for the film.

One thing that isn't included in The Complete Dossier is the film Hearts of Darkness, a documentary based on footage Coppola's wife Eleanor shot during the arduous filming of the classic movie. It aired on Showtime and was released in theaters in 1991.

“My wife shot an ocean of footage with a camera that I gave her basically as a bribe to stay with me through the filming, “ he joked.

There would have been a load of logistics involved in order to add that film to the new DVD set, he said.

“Plus, there's stuff in there that I feel is … not true,” Coppola said, lightheartedly, then told the would-be filmmakers listening to make sure they have the right of approval for any documentary footage surrounding their movies.

Some Internet uber-fans have complained a bit about the name “Complete Dossier,” arguing that this release doesn't have everything, Aubry admitted.

“You have to wonder what they would consider ‘complete.’ he joked.

The film students in the audience eagerly peppered Coppola with questions looking back at Apocalypse Now. The director talked about working with Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen, his affection for the indigenous people of the Philippines — who served as a kind of living set dressing for much of the film — about what drug use might or might not have been going on on the set and the increasing financial pressure that weighed on the young director who had financed himself to the tune of $35 million to keep the project in his own hands.

“I was in a state of really a panic,” he recalled. “I was terrified.” Coppola said he carried a tattered copy of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness in his pocket throughout filming and used it as his filmmaking bible as the movie “changed before my eyes.”

Coppola is in post-production on his first film in 10 years, Youth Without Youth, based on a novella by Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade. Coppola also said he is determined to write an original, very personal screenplay even though he is plagued with doubts about his writing ability.

Still, he keeps going, and that's his advice to budding filmmakers. He also urged them to build on the people who came before, the filmmakers they admire.

“The lived so you can make use of what they did, and those who come after you will make use of you — that's immortality,” he said.

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