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All eyes are on Coppola in Cannes. Looks familiar?

CANNES, France (AP) — Francis Ford Coppola will present at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday a film on which he risked everything, and which arrives overshadowed by rumors of production troubles. Looks familiar?

On Thursday, Coppola’s self-financed opus, “Megalopolis,” will make its highly anticipated premiere. Other films debut at Cannes with more fanfare and hype, but none have as much curiosity as “Megalopolis,” the 85-year-old filmmaker’s first film in 13 years. Coppola invested $120 million of his own money into it.

Forty-five years ago, something very similar happened when Coppola was hard at work editing “Apocalypse Now.” The film’s infamous Filipino production, which would be documented by Coppola’s late wife Eleanor, was already the stuff of legend. The release initially planned for December 1977 had taken place. Coppola himself had invested some $16 million of the $31 million budget for his Vietnam-set retelling of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.”

“I was terrified. On the one hand, I was personally responsible for the entire budget – that’s why I became the owner of it,” Coppola said in 2019. “Also, at that time, the interests were over 25.27% So it seemed, especially given the controversy and all the fake articles written about a film that no one knew anything about but predicted was “the predicted mess” of that year, it seemed that I was never going to get out of the danger I found myself in. I had children, I was young. I had no family fortune behind me. I was very afraid.

Gilles Jacob, general delegate of Cannes, went to Coppola, hoping to be able to encourage him to return to the festival where the director’s “The Conversation” had won the Palme d’Or in 1974. In his book “Citizen Cannes: The Man Behind the Cannes Film Festival,” Jacob said he found Coppola in the editing room “in financial trouble and struggling with 20 miles of film.”

By the spring of 1979, Coppola had assembled a montage that he screened in Los Angeles – much as he had recently done for “Megalopolis.” When Jacob caught wind of the screening, he set out to secure one for Cannes that year.

“Already considered an event before it even aired, ‘Apocalypse Now’ would be the crowning achievement of the festival,” Jacob wrote. He added: “Ultimately, I knew it was the setting of Cannes – more than a match for his own megalomania – that convinced him to come.

But Coppola wasn’t so sure. The film was unfinished, didn’t have credits yet, and he still wasn’t sure of the ending. But after some discussion and debate about whether “Apocalypse Now” would be screened in competition or out of competition, it was decided: it would be screened as a “work in progress” – in competition.

At the Cannes premiere, Coppola carried her daughter, Sofia, then 8, on her shoulders. Reaction to the film was not immediately overwhelming.

“‘Apocalypse Now,’ one of the most hyped films of the decade, received only a polite response at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday,” wrote the Herald Tribune.

At the press conference, Coppola appeared defensive about the bad press the film received and the attention paid to its budget.

“Why am I, the first to make a film about Vietnam, a film about morality, criticized so much when we can spend so much on a gorilla or a little idiot who flies in the sky?” asked Coppola.

But “Apocalypse Now” will ultimately remain one of the most legendary Cannes premieres. That year, the president of the jury, the French writer Françoise Sagan, preferred another text on the war: “The Drum”, Volker Schlondorff’s adaptation of the novel by Günter Grass. The jury, split between the two, awarded the Palme d’Or to both. .

“Megalopolis” will also premiere in competition on Thursday.

The day after the 1978 Cannes closing ceremony, Jacob remembers running into Coppola at the Carlton Hotel, just as he was leaving.

“A big black limousine was about to leave. “The back door opened and Francis came out,” Jacob wrote. “He came up to me, held out his hand and, while removing a large cigar from between his teeth, he said: ‘I only received half a Palme d’Or.’ ‘”

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