Apocalypse Now originally set to shoot in Australia

July 14, 2008 at 3:48 pm Leave a comment

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If the Australian Government had made a different decision, Apocalypse Now would have been shot in far North Queensland. Undoubtedly this would have changed the entire film, as shooting in the Philippines famously turned out to be a total disaster. The ending also would have been different, as Francis Ford Coppola only decided on the ending to the film while in the Philippines he saw a cow being butchered. This is from David Stratton’s autobiography I Peed on Fellini.

…An altogether larger project which was nearly made in Australia was Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Sometime in 1974, the year I screened the world premiere of Coppola’s magnificent film, The Conversation, at the SFF [Sydney Film Festival], I received a visit from Dean Tavoularis, who was the director’s production designer, and Fred Roos, one of his producers. They told me that Coppola was planning to make a screen version of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, updated to the conflict in Vietnam. They wanted to shoot the film in far north Queensland, and they were passing through Sydney touching base with local production companies that might be of assistance. It sounded like an enormously exciting project, but it hinged on the willingness of the Federal Government to make available to the production men and material, including helicopters, from the armed forces. This the Government was, as it turned out, unwilling to do, and so in the end Apocalypse Now was shot, with great difficulty, in the Philippines, where access to military hardware was easier but where the weather proved to be extremely treacherous. The film wasn’t completed until 1979. Over twenty years later, American director Terrence Malick was able to shoot The Thin Red Line, based on the James Jones book about the World War II battle for Guadalcanal, in North Queensland.

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