Why Clint Eastwood Turned Down Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’

The Big Picture

  • Clint Eastwood turned down a part in
    Apocalypse Now
    due to his discomfort with the lengthy shooting time and becoming overseas for 14 months.
  • Harvey Keitel was hired for the part but was fired due to his alleged discomfort with the on-place shooting in the Philippines.
  • While Eastwood missed out on a excellent war image, his choice to reject
    Apocalypse Now
    permitted him to later direct hugely acclaimed films about war, without having the mental toll of the chaotic production.

Clint Eastwood, a man who desires no introduction, has gone by way of some distinct periods in his profession as an actor and filmmaker. Once a rough-and-challenging cowboy and later a no-nonsense rebel figure that represented a really distinct image of gristly masculinity, Eastwood has given that turned the majority of his cinematic focus towards his perform behind the camera. Still, there was a time when the man was ubiquitous in a variety of action films, cop flicks, and blood-splat Westerns. Given the magnitude of Eastwood’s presence — in particular throughout the ’70s, in which he was in higher demand — it really is unsurprising that the multi-talented star would turn down no compact quantity of projects, even though there is 1 Francis Ford Coppola project that would have undoubtedly looked neat on his resume.

The image was Apocalypse Now, 1 of Coppola’s most staggering achievements, whose production was infamously pretty much as hellish and bizarre as the film itself. A nightmare acid trip by way of the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now meshes Joseph Conrad‘s Heart of Darkness with the unfathomable hellscape of war. Its hyperbolic aesthetic shed most standard war film clichés in favor of a surreal, psychedelic method to the genre. Instead of featuring lavish scenes of patriotism-tinged combat, it focuses on the gargantuan horrors of war, painting the conflict in Vietnam as an absurd and futile fight against an overpowering enemy. Not only did it reimagine the war image, it spawned 1 of the most fascinating documentaries on filmmaking ever produced. Given the colossal cultural significance that Apocalypse Now has gathered given that its release, and thinking of that by 1979 Coppola was currently virtually swimming in Oscars, it appears like a preposterous move to reject the part. But Eastwood nonetheless did, and not without having an understandable explanation.

Why Did Clint Eastwood Turn Down ‘Apocalypse Now’?

Clint Eastwood’s tie to Apocalypse Now can in fact be partially attributed to actor Steve McQueen, who was initially slated to play Colonel Kurtz but whose requested salary of $3 million was also higher for the production. McQueen very first rejected the part of Willard in favor of Kurtz basically for the reason that the latter needed a shorter shooting time. According to Eastwood, director Francis Ford Coppola recommended the Dirty Harry star for the part to play alongside McQueen’s Kurtz.

Instead, neither actor ended up with their respective roles. Eastwood expressed that he did not “understand [it] too much,” which produced him unsure about starring in the film. He’d study Heart of Darkness and could figure out the path the film was headed, but there was apparently a thing about it that escaped him. This is understandable, offered the picture’s notoriously unconventional method to portraying war, showcasing it as a blood-soaked battleground for two soldiers’ souls and sanity rather than a genuine fight amongst nations.


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More critical, even though, was Eastwood’s discomfort in the lengthy shooting time that would take him overseas. He had just constructed a property and could not justify becoming abroad for 14 months. It’s an completely fair instance of a large-named actor turning down what could be 1 of the meatiest roles of their profession basically for the reason that their heart wasn’t in it. And it really is not like he actually necessary the perform, either. The preceding year saw the actor in 1 of his largest box workplace successes with Every Which Way But Loose, 1979 gave him the exceptional Escape From Alcatraz, and 1980 reunited him with his orangutan co-star in Any Which Way You Can. At this point, also, Eastwood’s directorial profession had currently taken off, with Play Misty For Me, High Plains Drifter, and The Outlaw Josey Wales all neatly below his belt.

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Like the time he rejected a part that subsequently went to Elvis Presley, Eastwood went with his gut on turning down a part, even though this time mainly for various factors. While old Eastwood is a amazing performer in his personal appropriate, Martin Sheen brought a disturbed complexity to the part that actually helped bring the character alive. Sheen let himself develop into totally unhinged in the image, and the completed item is arguably far better for it.

Harvey Keitel Was Hired (and Fired) From ‘Apocalypse Now’

After Clint Eastwood turned down the part of Willard and Steve McQueen left the film without having filming a single scene, an additional actor was hired for a brief although ahead of having canned from the production. That would be Harvey Keitel, who shot a fair quantity of footage of the film ahead of his departure. In reality, a scene exactly where Willard walks from his helicopter to the boat in fact functions a shot of Keitel in the part. According to Walter Murch for Web of Stories, 1 of the Oscar-winning editors on the film, it was “a big shot to get…the sunset was perfect.” It’s virtually not possible to catch, with the bloody sunset that beats like an exposed heart in the background taking up the complete focal point of the shot.

Retrospectively, it really is not tough to visualize Keitel in the part. I imply, just appear at his turn as the mentally depraved titular Lieutenant in Abel Ferrara‘s Bad Lieutenant. It’s fascinating to watch his full psychological unraveling, his descent into madness, and his moral decay as he embraces the savagery of his inner demons. Still, even though, the actor was apparently a poor match for the flick. According to Coppola’s account,Keitel, a rough-and-challenging New Yorker at heart, was allegedly uncomfortable with the lengthy, on-place shooting in the Philippines and was subsequently fired from the film by the director. The actor has denied that allegation, also citing that he’s “not upset with Coppola” more than the firing.

Why Clint Eastwood Passing on ‘Apocalypse Now’ Was a Good Thing

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Like the infamously damnedWarner Herzog image Fitzcarraldo, or the ’70s large cat masterpiece that left practically 100 people today with serious injuries, Apocalypse Now‘s production was notoriously plagued with troubles that would have driven even the most clear-minded into madness. For 1, Typhoon Olga of 1976 brought tropical chaos to the shoot and destroyed the set. There have been also troubles with the crew, such as a drug-addled Dennis Hopper not studying his lines, or Marlon Brando‘s outright refusal to listen to Coppola’s demands.

Francis Ford Coppola describing how the cast and crew gradually “went insane” pretty much sounds hyperbolic, but the film production, as chronicled in the documentary Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse actually was as hellish as the director suggests. Towards the finish, you can see the director, descending into a spiraling mental breakdown, brought to the edge of sanity by his film. Martin Sheen, who took Clint Eastwood’s proposed part, not only dealt with a comparable breakdown but also suffered a heart attack although producing the image.

So, perhaps Eastwood’s refusal to play Willard was even far more rational than the actor could have ever recognized. Sure, he missed out on 1 of the greatest war photographs ever produced, but he at some point went on to direct a masterful double function portraying two opposing sides of a war with Letters of Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers. Even if neither can match the raw, thoughts-bending practical experience of Apocalypse, they also certainly did not yank its cast and crew to the brink of mental collapse. In rejecting Apocalypse Now, Clint Eastwood missed out on the cinematic practical experience of a lifetime, but he also clearly escaped the burning, maddening inferno that was the film’s production.

Apocalypse Now is readily available to rent on Prime Video in the U.S.

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