Francis Ford Coppola is taking a huge risk to make his latest giant movie, ‘Megalopolis’, one that he’s been trying to wrangle into production for two decades. He’s poured millions of his own money into the movie, and while he announced a cast and kicked off shooting late last year, it would appear that there are now big problems with the film.
‘Megalopolis’, in case it somehow escaped your attention, is an ambitious story with Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel, Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Jon Voight, Talia Shire, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Schwartzman and Dustin Hoffman starring.
The story is mostly a mystery, but reportedly focuses on an architect who seeks to rebuild New York City––or possibly a metropolis based on it––as a utopia after a disaster.
With Coppola stumping up the $120 million budget, the Hollywood Reporter has now heard from sources that it’s descending into costly chaos. As in, budget-inflating chaos.
A plan to shoot using ‘Mandalorian’-style volume techniques (virtual production, where backgrounds are projected onto giant LED screens) has apparently been abandoned in favor of less costly, more traditional greenscreen.
Several department heads, including the production designer and supervising art director, plus the entire effects team have left or been replaced. “It was absolute madness, being on set,” reports an agent for someone in the film who had visited the production.
‘Megalopolis’ is roughly halfway through an estimated 80-90-day shoot, and the director is reportedly pressing on, hiring new team members.
Sensing that the reports would negatively impact his film, Coppola has begun the damage control process, talking with rival trade site Deadline and seeking to assure that the production is continuing and that he’s confident in his work.
“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.”
“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 added. “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.”
Star Driver, meanwhile, was even more vehement that all was well.
“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.”
But wait! There’s more…
“Yes, it is true that the art department resigned and VFX were let go,” Driver continues. “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.”
The answer, most likely, is somewhere in between, but Coppola has had a history of chaotic shoot that––a little like James Cameron’s experiences with ‘Titanic’––resulted in classic movies. ‘Apocalypse Now’ was infamous for its tribulations, and there is an entire documentary, ‘Hearts of Darkness’ that chronicles its rollercoaster shoot.
It remains to be seen whether ‘Megalopolis’ ends up with similar status or even among the director’s best movies. Let’s not forget that this is also the man who made ‘The Godfather’ movies and ‘The Conversation’. He’s a multiple Oscar winner and no one would doubt that he knows what he’s doing when it comes to making films. It’s just that his passion has a habit of leading him down conflicting paths.
Either way, we’re hoping that someone has been filming behind the scenes on this one––it has the makings of another classic documentary.
‘Megalopolis’ has yet to score a release date and may well not hit theaters until next year. But now we’re even more eager to see it.