Apocalypse Now’s extremely fraught production is well documented, especially by Francis Ford Coppola himself: Harvey Keitel was fired in favor of Martin Sheen, and then Sheen had a heart attack during production, for starters. A typhoon hit the set, and Marlon Brando showed up weighing twice as much as the lean Green Beret warrior Coppola had envisioned. After a screening of Coppola’s newest cut of the movie at the Tribeca Film Festival Sunday night, Coppola was interviewed by Steven Soderbergh. With all the materials chronicling the movie’s production, Soderbergh asked, did Coppola set out to document the making of his movie? “I wasn’t archiving anything except my own misery,” Coppola said. “I was very, very frightened and very depressed.”
When Apocalypse Now screened for distributors, Coppola recalled, in singsong, a rhyme he sang to the crew: “A good screenplay, we haven’t got / a good movie, we haven’t got / a good director, we haven’t got / What’ve we got / we’ve got heaaaaaaaart! I really did this! I sang this song to them, and went back in there and cut out 12 minutes,” he said. “We barely opened. Actually, we didn’t even open the picture. There were so many press stories saying it was a disaster, that the film would never open. They were calling it Apocalypse When.” At least Coppola gets to laugh about it now.