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Giancarlo Esposito on ‘MaXXXine,’ ‘Megalopolis’ and Francis Ford Coppola

Giancarlo Esposito on ‘MaXXXine,’ ‘Megalopolis’ and Francis Ford Coppola

Giancarlo Esposito on ‘MaXXXine,’ ‘Megalopolis’ and Francis Ford Coppola

When he learned that Francis Ford Coppola‘s Megalopolis had secured a distribution deal with Lionsgate, Giancarlo Esposito was obviously stoked because it meant the highly-publicized passion project would have a chance to reach audiences beginning Sept. 27.

But he “specifically” was very excited for Coppola, who has shepherded the project since the 1970s and wound up putting a chunk of his personal fortune into the $120 million film to eventually make it happen (despite some challenges along the way). “He taught me how to be courageous,” Esposito told The Hollywood Reporter at the world premiere of MaXXXine on June 24. “He taught me to not ever give up, keep following through and put your money where your mouth is; have skin in the game.”

Megalopolis has been one of the most closely watched movies of the year, following a production that saw crew departures midway through, and a high-wattage screening for studio heads in March that left some executives perplexed. Eventually, Lionsgate came through, though Coppola will pay for the marketing of the movie himself.

Esposito stars in a stacked ensemble that includes Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Jason Schwartzman, Chloe Fineman, Dustin Hoffman and others. Megalopolis casts Driver as an ambitious architect intent on remaking New Rome (a city in similar size and scope to New York) in his vision following a devastating disaster. Esposito plays Mayor Franklyn Cicero, who clashes with Driver’s Cesar Catilina only to see his daughter, played by Emmanuel, fall in love with him.

“It is just a brilliant and beautiful film,” Esposito said of Megalopolis, which he first saw during its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May. “I don’t want to just qualify it as an art film because I think it’s a film that’s progressively different and will change the way [many] filmmakers look at filmmaking. The elements that he put in the film — like the live onstage moment that happens in interaction with the film — is something that is never been done before.”

He hopes that audiences receive the messages that Coppola is trying to convey with the story and the way it’s told. “I sat a seat away from Francis in Cannes and I had tears in my eyes at the end of the movie, because I feel like the film has a strong message. It says something about how we think and how we live, and it encourages people to open their brains to think progressively about our world. That large of a message, it’s visionary. As an actor, I work so deeply and do so much homework to be prepared, but I have to remember to let it go and play sometimes. I was reminded of that on this film.”

Giancarlo Esposito, Laurence Fishburne, Nathalie Emmanuel, Francis Ford Coppola, Adam Driver and Aubrey Plaza attend the Megalopolis photocall at the 77th Cannes Film Festival on May 17, 2024.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Turning attention to Ti West‘s MaXXXine, Esposito plays an agent in the adult film industry who represents Mia Goth‘s Maxine Minx. He said when he was initially approached by West for the final film in the trilogy, he was presented with another part. “I was really honest that the role was a decent role, but it wasn’t one that I felt like I hadn’t done before. I wanted to do something new and different,” he explained. “And I was not expecting that he would call me back for a different role, but he did.”

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Esposito, who next stars in Captain America: Brave New World and Don’t Feed the Children, the directorial debut of Destry Allyn Spielberg, praised West’s work both as a writer and auteur. “The investigation of Hollywood was really beautiful to me,” he continued. “And to be playing someone who is close to Maxine, who believed in her and supported her, meant a lot to me because that’s a big part of who I am as a human being. But I like [Ti West’s] filmmaking. He’s someone who is able to write, direct, edit and score their own movies and that means it’s personal to them. I like to work with people who make their work personal.”

Kevin Bacon, Halsey, Elizabeth Debicki, Moses Sumney, Mia Goth, Giancarlo Esposito, Lily Collins, Ti West and producer Jacob Jaffke at the MaXXXine premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 24, 2024.

Stewart Cook/Getty Images for A24

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