This film would make an interesting companion to Lost in La Mancha. Both films deal in essence with the wheels coming off of film production. While Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote died a quick death from sudden blunt force trauma, Francis Ford Coppola’s troubled production of Apocalypse Now seems to suffer the slow death of a thousand cuts. Originally budgeted at $13 million with a shooting schedule of sixteen weeks, it took more than a year and cost more than twice as much. The story of how this production went so wrong yet resulted in a film regarded as an enduring masterpiece is almost more interesting than the movie’s actual story.
In the early seventies, producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind successfully translated Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers into a pair of films, shot together as one. Despite being sued by several of the performers demanding payment for two films instead of just one, the Salkinds must have thought it was successful enough to attempt repeating the experiment when they adapted Superman for the big screen later that decade.
Francis Ford Coppola’s feverish anti-war epic Apocalypse Now actually began its journey to screen in the late sixties when Über-macho filmmaker John Milius attempted to meet the challenge presented to him when he was informed that no one had successfully adapted Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, although several had tried, including luminaries such as Orson Welles. His original screenplay was true to Milius’s conservative, pro-military outlook, containing a great deal of praise for the warrior lifestyle and nothing but contempt for the hippies he saw protesting against the Vietnam War.