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Francis Ford Coppola on ‘Megalopolis’ Critics, Cost

Francis Ford Coppola on ‘Megalopolis’ Critics, Cost

On Friday afternoon, at the most anticipated press conference of the 77th Cannes Film Festival, legendary filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola fielded questions about his latest work, Megalopolis, which had its world premiere at the fest in competition on Thursday night, deeply diving critics and audience members. The presser started more than half an hour late, a little unusual for Cannes, which unlike Hollywood events, generally run on time. But the filmmaker arrived in high spirits, stating that hearing applause at the premiere gave him feelings of “relief and joy.”

Coppola, 85, spent decades — and $120 million of his own money — trying to get the sci-fi epic across the finish line. The shoot was chaotic, THR reported in real time, with key creative talent quitting or being fired along the way; and this week The Guardian quoted sources from the set who suggested that Coppola made unwanted advances towards actresses.

Coppola was not forced to address some of these lingering questions at the presser.

Coppola brushed aside a question that suggested putting his own money into his film would hurt the financial legacy he leaves his children. Said the filmmaker: “My children without exception have wonderful careers without a fortune. We are fine. It doesn’t matter. All of you here: The money doesn’t matter. What is important are the friends. A friend will never let you down. The money may evaporate.”

Aubrey Plaza, Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancarlo Esposito, Laurence Fishburne, Jon Voight, Talia Shire and Roman Coppola flanked the director at the presser.

Esposito, who plays the mayor of New Rome in the feature, admitted that during the making of the film he often didn’t know “what was going to happen,” or where Coppola was going with the project. But watching it for the first time in Cannes, “all of a sudden I got it: I’m not supposed to know anything, I’m not supposed to know anything and neither is Francis.” Addressing Coppola he said “I have hope for our world be cause of you.”

Driver, who leads the film as Cesar, a genius intent on building a utopian city, was instrumental in the editing process. Coppola said Adam Driver was very influential on the editing of the movie. Driver said making the film “felt like experimental theatre, which made it feel rebellious and exciting.” Driver added he didn’t think “we will ever see something that imaginative on that scale again. I think it is a one-of-a-kind film…I think it will get richer and richer historically.”

The film has strong political undercurrents, with Shia Labeouf (who did not attend the presser), playing the scion of a wealthy family who ends up becoming a Donald Trump-style figure. Coppola sees parallels between modern America and the fall of Rome.

“Our politics has taken us to the point where we might lose our republic,” said the filmmaker. “It’s not the politicians who are going to be the answer. I feel it’s the artists of America. My dream, my hope is that it’s the artists of our country who are going to shine the light on.”

Coppola then addressed Voight, who is one of Hollywood’s more prominent conservative actors, asking him how he feels about the direction of the country, given that he has differing views than the filmmaker. Voight said he believes everyone is asking the same questions: how to help the world move in a better direction for the children of the world. Said the actor:  agree with this film, I agree that human beings are capable of solving every problem we get ourselves into.”

Megalopolis is still seeking U.S. distribution (but has sold certain territories in Europe). The filmmaker held a screening in late March attended by a number of American studio heads, but it emerged with no buyer. “The studios are in great great debt and their job is not so much to make movies as to pay their debt obligations” said Coppola at Cannes, with the director suggesting that tech companies like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft “with plenty of money” could be the future, and that the studios “might not be here in the future.”

Megalopolis comes to Cannes 45 years after Coppola’s last film that played in competition, Apocalypse Now. On Friday, the filmmaker recalled how long it’d been since those days, stating “When I came here for Apocalypse Now, I had [daughter] Sofia on my shoulders.” Like Megalopolis, that classic project also had a famously chaotic shoot that generated significant media coverage, and by the time Coppola arrived at the fest with it in “work-in-progress” form, he was on the defensive.

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The Apocalypse Now presser was held in a 2,000-seat theater that was filled to capacity. Coppola famously declared there, “My film is not a movie. My film is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam.” And he slammed the press for the way it covered the film’s production, declaring, to scattered boos, “American journalism is the most decadent, most unethical, most lying profession you can encounter. I learned it on this picture. There wasn’t a truthful thing written about it in four years.”

But at the official screening of Apocalypse Now, the film played through the roof, and wound up winning the Palme d’Or (in a tie with The Tin Drum), making it Coppola’s second film in six years to do so, after 1974’s The Conversation.

In the decades since, Coppola has been known for re-editing old films, something he says is possible because he has ownership rights of his work.

“I would never re-edit The Conversation, because I like it the way it is. I never re-edited The Godfather, though there’s a scene I might want to add someday,” said hte filmmaker. As for Megalopolis? He said he might go back and revisit the epic “in a few years” but that he has already moved on and is writing a script for a new project.

“When I die, I got to do this, I got to see my daughter (Sofia) win an Oscar, and I got to make wine and I got to make all the movies I wanted I wanted to make. And I’m going to be so busy thinking about what I got to do that when I die I won’t notice it.”

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