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“I’m gonna be down there in a swamp”: Al Pacino Refused Marlon Brando Reunion in $85M War Movie to Avoid Extreme Working Conditions

"I'm gonna be down there in a swamp": Al Pacino Refused Marlon Brando Reunion in $85M War Movie to Avoid Extreme Working Conditions

Al Pacino is one of the greatest actors the world has produced. From Donnie Brasco to Scarface and The Godfather, his range is unmatched. Once upon a time, there was no dearth of projects for an actor of his caliber. As such, he has rejected his fair share of films, and then some more.

But what many don’t know is that he rejected a famous film by Francis Ford Coppola, the man who cast him in The Godfather. Turns out, he made the smartest decision possible by rejecting the movie where half of the crew was driven to madness and even Coppola thought about ending himself thrice.

Al Pacino Rejected A Hit Film By Francis Ford Coppola Due To Location Issues

Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando, and Al Pacino
Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando, and Al Pacino

There are plenty of famous films and characters Al Pacino has declined over the decades. But one of the most surprising ones is Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979). The film was inspired by the life and adventures of some real-life soldiers. It examined the mental damage done by the Vietnam War.

The movie received critical acclaim and, as per The Numbers, grossed $85 million globally. But Al Pacino, who was offered the role of Captain Benjamin L. Willard (ultimately played by Martin Sheen) declined to star in the film even though it could have been a mini Godfather reunion with Marlon Brando.

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Al Pacino
Al Pacino

As per The Atlantic Wire, he didn’t want to sit in a swamp for almost half a year. He had said:

“I know what this is going to be like. You’re [Francis Ford Coppola] going to be up there in a helicopter telling me what to do, and I’m gonna be down there in a swamp for five months.”

Turns out, he did take the right decision because almost everything that could go wrong with the movie, did go wrong. From getting dead bodies by grave robbers to alleged rampant drug use, the behind-the-scenes of the movie seemed to mirror its subject matter in a garish way.


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The Craziest Things That Happened On The Apocalypse Now Sets 

Still from Apocalypse Now
Still from Apocalypse Now

Filming of Apocalypse Now began in 1976 in the Philippines. Francis Ford Coppola had all the confidence in the world because he had directed The Godfather Part 2. But no one could have predicted that the film would go off the rails that soon and that badly. First of all, Coppola decided to not have a set script. So he often wrote scenes on the very day they were shot.

This wasn’t unexpected by the crew. In fact, the director expected everyone to come ready to improvise. But this wasn’t the worst of it. Allegedly Coppola told the production to give Dennis Hopper cocaine so that he remained in character and happy. Marlon Brando didn’t want to shoot any scenes with Hopper and the director had to film their scenes separately.

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Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now
Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now

One of the weirdest things to happen on the set was that one of the production designers who obtained the dead bodies to be used in the film found out that they weren’t from the medical examiner’s office. Actually, they were from an actual grave robber. Police got involved and there was an investigation to find out if the crew had murdered anyone (they didn’t).

One of the worst affected by the drama behind-the-scenes was Francis Ford Coppola himself. He had put his own money, amounting to millions in the film, and confessed that he had no idea what he was doing. The director suffered a nervous breakdown, lost about a hundred pounds, and had to be hospitalized for dehydration and malnutrition. But that’s not all.

Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now
Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now

He even threatened to end himself three times before shooting concluded. But the story doesn’t end here. Overall, six weeks of the shooting ballooned into 68, budgets exploded, the sets were torn by typhoons, the crew had dysentery, and more such problems plagued Apocalypse Now. It’s a miracle that the film turned out to be as good as it is.

Apocalypse Now is available on Amazon Prime Video.

Source: The Atlantic Wire


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Written by Ishita Chatterjee

A literature graduate who loves sharing her views on everything pop-culture and entertainment. Ishita especially loves dreaming about superheroes and comic books when she isn't day dreaming about them everyday either way.