The news that legendary Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola has run into production issues on his latest epic, Megalopolis, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the iconic filmmaker’s past experience with chaotic sets.
Coppola and his star Adam Driver have both denied the report, published by The Hollywood Reporter, which claimed the ambitious sci-fi epic had hit choppy waters with creatives being fired, with budgets ballooning, and last minute VFX woes.
Here are some of Oscar-winner's most troubled productions to date.
Apocalypse Now | 1979
Coppola didn't have an easy ride making The Godfather but it put him on the map in Hollywood in 1972 winning Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars.
However his Vietnam classic Apocalypse Now, which came seven years later, is renowned as one of the most bonkers shoots in history – from firing initial lead actor Harvel Keitel and Martin Sheen having a heart attack on location, to a typhoon destroying the sets and Marlon Brando’s idiosyncratic performance. As Coppola himself said, “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.”
But you might not have heard this particular story, which actually happened at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival, where the movie was showing — controversially — as a work-in-progress.
Coppola was staying at The Carlton Hotel on the Croisette where the UK trade paper Screen International (SI) — which produced a daily magazine throughout the festival — was also based. Its production reporter was assigned to try and secure an interview with the director which he did, except he was told by Coppola it would have to be off the record.
The reporter returned to the SI offices with some excellent quotes about the film's travails. He was then told to ignore Coppola's wishes and write up the interview straightaway.
The magazine was published at 7a.m. the following morning, delivered outside the door of every major hotel room in Cannes. The front-page headline was: "Coppola's Concerns Over Apocalypse".
Less than an hour later, when most of the SI staff were already at their desks — including the reporter in question — Coppola himself burst into the 2nd floor office, stood in front of the reporter's desk and screamed at him about betrayal and treachery.
He clearly wanted to punch him but instead, while all the other writing staff desperately strove not to catch his eye, picked up some papers off the reporter's desk and threw them into the air.
At which point, the magazine's chief sub-editor (an old Fleet St hack and not a film man), whose desk was facing the other way, suddenly turned round because of the commotion, and said blithely, to a bearded, red-faced Coppola, “Sorry, who are you, love?”
Cue Coppola swiftly turning on his heel and exiting not just the office but, reportedly, the festival itself that very day.
One From The Heart | 1982
One of the reasons Coppola is seen as such an iconoclastic filmmaker is because he has tried to do things outside the Hollywood system and against the grain. But it came back to bite when he financed this ritzy musical starring Teri Garr and Frederic Forrest out of his own pocket.
The Las Vegas-set romance was a massive bomb, leaving Coppola in financial ruin. The filmmaker has said that with his marriage on the rocks, he initially envisioned the movie as part of a quadrilogy based on Goethe’s Elective Affinities.
What actually happened, he said, was a “shock”, as the debt he owed the bank following the film’s failure eventually forced him into bankruptcy in 1990.
The Cotton Club | 1984
Coppola only came on to direct this gangster caper at the last-minute because he was still in financial dire straits thanks to One From The Heart, and because he was asked as a favour by producer/frenemy Robert Evans.
The production was total chaos, lasting almost two years with constantly shifting scripts. As Coppola told author Peter Biskind, “I didn’t want to do The Cotton Club, it was a nightmare, it was already $25 million over budget, there was no script, I had Richard Gere in a gangster movie who didn’t want to play a gangster…”
The budget was a teetering mess and the crew didn’t always get paid on time, including Coppola. Meanwhile, an associate of Evans who had been involved in the financing, Roy Radin, was killed during pre-production in what became known as The Cotton Club Murder.
All this might have been worth it if the film had been both brilliant and a smash hit. It wasn’t either.
Tetro | 2009
This 2009 drama starred future Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich as a man trying to find his older brother (played by Vincent Gallo) in Buenos Aires.
Unfortunately, with Coppola in the Argentine city prepping to shoot, armed burglars broke into his office (thankfully he wasn’t there at the time) and stole computers and data, although rumours that they had also pinched the only script of Tetro was a little far-fetched.
“Anyone who's gotten robbed, it's always depressing and I did lose some data,” said Coppola. “I didn't lose the script. They said the script is gone, but I have other copies of the script.”
It wasn’t the only problem the movie’s production faced. Though the film’s spokesperson always denied it had impacted the schedule, or indeed that it had even happened, the Argentine Actors Assn. — aka the union — said it had shut down shooting over a contract dispute.
The problem was eventually sorted out. “The issue is resolved," union general secretary Norberto Gonzalo told Reuters.
"The lawyers for the producers presented the necessary documentation and recognized the errors that they had made. So now they are able to continue with production."
Watch a trailer for the restoration of The Godfather