Francis Ford Coppola: No Truth To Apocalypse On ‘Megalopolis’

EXCLUSIVE: “I love my cast, I love what I’m getting each day, I am on schedule and on budget, and that’s what is important to me,” Francis Ford Coppola told Deadline from the Atlanta set of Megalopolis.

The iconic filmmaker disputed a trade report that conflated turnover in the visual effects and art departments to paint a picture of a runaway train, using words like “peril,” “ballooning budget,” “crew exodus” and “chaos.”

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Coppola acknowledged there has been some turnover, but he believes the high drama has been reserved for what he sees each day in dailies. He has seen budgets balloon on some of his past films, and he once famously replaced Harvey Keitel with Martin Sheen weeks into the production of Apocalypse Now. None of what is happening on Megalopolis meets that category. The elimination of the VFX department during production is something he engineered to keep the film on budget — Coppola is using experimental technology in filming, and decided it was more efficient to service most of those effects in postproduction. The art department left over creative differences involving personnel.

“It was basically about managing cost,” Coppola said. Bradley Rubin (The Mandalorian, Westworld) has been hired to be the film’s production designer, and he is handling all this. These kinds of things have long been part of Coppola’s creative process, to make changes on the fly when he feels things aren’t working. He replaced DP Haskell Wexler on The Conversation and production designer Dante Ferretti on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Aside from the changes, Coppola believes the $100 million Megalopolis has been relatively smooth sailing, considering cost and scale.

“I’ve never worked on a film where I was so happy with the cast,” Coppola said. “I am so happy with the look and that we are so on schedule. These reports never say who these sources are. To them, I say, ha, ha, just wait and see. Because this is a beautiful film and primarily so because the cast is so great. I’ve never enjoyed working with a cast who are so hardworking and so willing to go search for the unconventional, to come upon hidden solutions. It is a thrill to work with these actors and the photography is everything I could hope for. The dailies are great. So if we’re on schedule, and I love the actors and the look is great, I don’t know what anyone’s talking about here.”

The film stars Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel, Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Jon Voight, Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman and Dustin Hoffman.

Driver in particular was upset that the film is taking lumps based on rumors.

“I’d like to briefly respond to The Hollywood Reporter article published Monday, January 9th,” he said. “All good here! Not sure what set you’re talking about! I don’t recognize that one! I’ve been on sets that were chaotic and this one is far from it.

“The environment that’s being created by Francis, is one of focus and inspiration. As of now, we’re on schedule, making our days, and honestly, it’s been one of the best shooting experiences I’ve had. Our crew is fast and inventive, our costume department is on point, the actors are incredible and willing, and Francis is one of the most insightful and caring people to work with. I’m very proud to be making this movie with him, and them, and though I haven’t interviewed everyone, I can confidently say that that’s the general attitude on set.

“Yes, it is true that the art department resigned and VFX were let go. Not all departments find cohesion on films and rather than suffer through and making decisions that leave a lasting impression on the film, people quit, get fired, or part ways. It’s unfortunate when it happens, but this production is not out of pocket in comparison to other productions; especially to the point that it merits an article about us descending into chaos. That characterization is inaccurate.

“No one signed up for this movie expecting the process to be conventional. We were expecting the opposite in the pursuit of making something unique. The only madness I’ve observed is that more productions aren’t allowed to be as creatively wild and experimentally focused, precisely because someone else is paying for it. It’s an effort and risk by Francis that I feel should be applauded, not publicly mischaracterized as troubled.”

Coppola would know if he was presiding over an out-of-control film. He is personally bankrolling the majority of the production, himself. The rumors don’t bother him much because it won’t impact production. It’s only after he finishes and cuts the film that he will seek theatrical distribution, and by then the result will speak for itself.

“We’ll finish the film in spring of 2023, and we’re totally on schedule, which is hard to do on a big picture,” Coppola told Deadline. “I don’t know how many films can say that eight weeks in but we are and that’s a fact.”

Coppola said he’s not aiming for the fall festivals. He has been contemplating his Megalopolis film and its script for decades, and he’s got specific release aspirations. Not surprisingly, they are grand.

“I’m interested in a theatrical release in theaters, and Imax theaters and I am excited about the possibility that for the first time in history, a movie could open up on the same day everywhere in the world,” Coppola said. “And that’s what my goal is.”

Coppola previously told Deadline that his ambition on Megalopolis — a drama about the process of replacing a ravaged metropolis with a utopian rebuild — isn’t to put more Oscars on his mantel. He sold some of his winery holdings to get a credit line to cover the costs of this dream project, and his hope is to leave behind another film that continues to challenge viewers long after he passes away.

“My first goal was to make a love story with heart, but then you realize it’s about love and disloyalty and every aspect of human life,” he said. “It echoes many other aspects of human life, like our planet being in danger, but ultimately a very optimistic film that has faith in the human ability to heal any problem that is put before us.

“My cast is the most wonderful group of actors, who are doing beautiful work and there isn’t one case of where I wish I had cast another way,” Coppola said. “Every night I go see the dailies, and I understand why I am going through all of this. I love what I see, every night. The look of the film is exactly what I dreamed.”

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