When it was announced that Francis Ford Coppola might finally make his long-gestating film Megalopolis, a jolt of electric excitement went through the bodies of cineastes around the world. Like the unrealized visions of Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune, it seemed as if it would only be screened in the imaginary multiplexes of cinephile’s dreams. Yet, against all odds, Coppola seems to be dusting off the director’s beret
A passion project that has existed since just after the days of Apocalypse Now, it’s an ensemble piece involving an architect rebuilding New York City after a financial crisis cripples the metropolitan hub. Coppola had tried to get the film off the ground back in 2001, as a way of returning to original screenplays. He shot second unit footage and was eyeing a cast that included Robert De Niro and Nicolas Cage. However, the September 11 attacks put the film on indefinite hold.
This week, Coppola announced that he’s ready to shoot the movie in fall 2022. He has been courting the likes of Oscar Isaac, Zendaya and Cate Blanchett to star alongside Godfather alumni James Caan. And he seems prepared to entirely self-finance the movie’s $100 to $120m budget with the money made from his winery.
In a time when franchise films dominate the screens, it’s invigorating to see one of the major auteurs of the 70s doing everything in his power to tell a story of this magnitude. This is especially evident given the current state of the studio system. Unless you’re Christopher Nolan, filmmakers are unlikely to make a $100m movie without adapting or continuing an intellectual property. Most of the original films that come from the studios are usually horrors, which tend to be made for less than $10m. While the streaming sites are more likely to dish out the big bucks, it’s usually for filmmakers that have had recent contemporary successes, such as Martin Scorsese or Michael Bay.
This is what makes Coppola’s venture so fascinating. Besides his experimental Live Cinema project, he has not made a film since 2011’s low budget, self-financed Twixt. And he hasn’t worked in Hollywood since 1997’s The Rainmaker. While Coppola has not officially confirmed whether he will entirely self-finance Megalopolis, he seems prepared to do so if necessary. At 82, he is willing to sacrifice his entire financial fortune just to express himself artistically without restrictions. It’s a bold move from a director who has consistently made risky financial and artistic decisions. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if he tries to distribute it without studio backing.
It’s unsurprising given that he has always wanted to exist outside of Hollywood. He was nearly fired from The Godfather over creative clashes with producer Robert Evans. He nearly sacrificed his entire livelihood to make Apocalypse Now. In the early 80s, he had hoped that his production company American Zoetrope could compete with the big studios, thereby freeing him from the shackles of Hollywood. He gambled Zoetrope’s fate on the success of his musical One from the Heart. Despite being one of Coppola’s finest efforts, its costly production and lack of box office success put that dream on hold, bankrupting the filmmaker. He continued to make films throughout the 80s and 90s that were unfairly prejudged as debt collections, before making a trio of smaller films in the late 2000s.
There will be much talk of whether an auteur, star-driven film with such a large budget is a commercially viable venture in today’s landscape, but even if the film fails, it’s unlikely Coppola will care. He reveres his failures as much as his successes.
In a candid interview from 1997, both Coppola and Scorsese talked about the state of the industry. It’s an extremely prophetic look at where Hollywood filmmaking has ended up. Their dissatisfaction of the treatment of independent filmmakers and the “sameness” of the commercial output feels even more relevant today. Even Coppola’s 80s and 90s films have far more of a distinct directorial voice, with many of them earning overdue reappraisals. By crafting a big budget film of this sort, it seems certain Coppola is trying to break away from the trends of studio filmmaking.
In that same interview, he discussed his biggest regret: “The film industry that we’re leaving to the next generation is not quite as good as the one we received.” Now nearing the end of his career, his hope is to rectify that. His vision of Megalopolis presents an optimistic future for the younger generations, paralleling his aspirations for cinema’s future. He said of the project that “no one wants to make a picture that really talks to young people in a hopeful way, that we are in a position to get together and solve any problem thrown at us. That is what I believe, and it is what the theme of the picture really is.” Megalopolis might be a precarious venture, but no one swings harder than Coppola.
BY .The Guardian
proc. by Movies