Apocalypse Now, a 1979 epic about the Vietnam War, is a cultural titan. The two-and-a-half-hour movie, loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and starring some of the biggest names in Hollywood history, including Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, and Laurence Fishburne, gave birth to a number of war-movie clichés, including the soldier who only feels at home in combat and the rogue commando who goes too far and “goes native.” Here are five things you probably didn’t know about Apocalypse Now.
- Francis Ford Coppola sacrificed his body and his wallet to finish the movie. Coppola was so determined to make the movie that he mortgaged his house and his winery in Napa Valley to help fund the production. Robert Duvall’s canteen scene was based on an actual event. The scene is fictional and meant to show Kilgore’s bizarre priorities, but it’s partly based on a real event captured by conflict photographer Philip Jones Griffith.
- A lot of Martin Sheen’s scenes don’t have Martin Sheen. Coppola wasn’t the only one run ragged by the demanding production. Martin Sheen, who plays the film’s chief protagonist, Capt. Benjamin Willard also suffered a health scare during the shoot.
- Robert Duvall’s canteen scene was based on an actual event. The scene is fictional and meant to show Kilgore’s bizarre priorities, but it’s partly based on a real event captured by conflict photographer Philip Jones Griffith.
- Yes, they killed that buffalo. While the killing of Kurtz was staged, the killing of the animal was not.
- Coppola’s Vietnam masterpiece is far from perfect. According to the International Movie Database, despite regularly being ranked among the best movies of all time, Apocalypse Now currently holds the record for the most mistakes to ever appear in a movie.