More than 20 years in the making, Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis has set its star cast. Adam Driver, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones and Fast X), Jon Voight and Laurence Fishburne have been set for the main roles. Fishburne began his career with Coppola at the tender age of 14 in Apocalypse Now. Legend has it he was of legal age when the film got released.
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Coppola is directing the independently-financed film from his own script. Here’s how he is describing the contemporary drama: The fate of Rome haunts a modern world unable to solve its own social problems in this epic story of political ambition, genius, and conflicting interests. The budget will be just under $100 million, and production begins this fall. Distribution rights are being brokered by attorney Barry Hirsch.
Deadline has written often about Coppola’s final dream project, a struggle to create a utopia after an accident leaves a New York-like city in need of a rebuild. Coppola has won five Oscars for his work, and he believes that the films of his that stand up best over time, are the ones that seemed riskiest when he made them. This one he puts closest to Apocalypse Now, a film many believed would ruin him as he was making it. Coppola wound up owning it because nobody else would give him the money, and it has poured off a fortune over the years. The 83-year old filmmaker and wine entrepreneur has lofty aspirations for Megalopolis, but his goal is not profits or accolades, but rather something he can leave behind for future generations that reflect his optimism for the potential mankind has, even as social media, polarized politics and many other things have some fearing a kind of fall of the Roman Empire. He sold a piece of his wine empire to make it possible to get the credit line to do this.
Here is what Coppola told Deadline in a recent interview: “What would make me really happy? It’s not winning a lot of Oscars because I already have a lot and maybe more than I deserve. And it’s not that I make a lot of money, although I think over time it will make a lot of money because anything that the people keep looking at and finding new things, that makes money. So somewhere down the line, way after I’m gone, all I want is for them to discuss [Megalopolis] and, is the society we’re living in the only one available to us? How can we make it better? Education, mental health? What the movie really is proposing is that utopia is not a place. It’s how can we make everything better? Every year, come up with two, three or four ideas that make it better. I would be smiling in my grave if I thought something like that happened, because people talk about what movies really mean if you give them something. If you encouraged people to discuss marriage and education and health and justice and opportunities and freedom and all these wonderful things that human beings have conceived of. And ask the question, how can we make it even better? That would be great. Because I bet you they would make it better if they had that conversation.”
As for a financial risk most filmmakers would loath to take on themselves, Coppola has made and lost fortunes before, and between his moviemaking and wine businesses, he has a chip pile higher than most. So he is not as worried about losing some of that, as he would be if he left his dream project on a shelf.
Said Coppola: “What’s the worst that can happen to me? I’m going to die and be broke? I’m not going to be broke. My kids are all successful. They’re going to have this beautiful place…You’ve seen Inglenook. They’re going to have that. I’m confident that if you can make a film that people can keep getting something out of for 10, 20 or more years, you will not lose money. I look at my movies. They’re all being looked at 50 years later. The Outsiders, Dracula, they are still seen. My films, the more weird they are, the longer they seem to last. I don’t even know why.”
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