Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis is in trouble

Headshot of Wenlei Ma
Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Francis Ford Coppola.
Francis Ford Coppola. Credit: Kevork Djansezian/AP

Francis Ford Coppola was deep in production on the notoriously difficult shoot for Apocalypse Now when he first had the idea for Megalopolis. Now, more than four decades later, the many-many-years-in-the-making film is complete.

That doesn’t mean the public is going to see it anytime soon.

Coppola, 84, self-funded the $US120 million production budget for his epic and is now on the hunt for a studio to buy and release Megalopolis, and pony up the big bucks required for a mammoth marketing campaign, which could cost upwards of an additional $US100 million.

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And it’s not looking good for the filmmaker behind The Godfather. According to industry reports, studio bosses including Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Universal’s Donna Langley, 20th Century Studios’ David Greenbaum and Sony’s Tom Rothman and Warner Bros Discovery’s Pam Abdy were all in attendance at a special screening in late March.

At the time, industry newsletter Puck reported one unnamed “top attendee” described Megalopolis as “unflinching in how bats**t crazy it is” and that it had “zero commercial prospects”.

Master class: Francis Ford Coppola talks to Youth Without Youth star Tim Roth.
Francis Ford Coppola talks to Youth Without Youth star Tim Roth. Credit: Supplied

That assessment might been right on the money because in the week since that high-powered gathering, no deal has been struck. The Hollywood Reporter today wrote Disney and Universal are already out of the bidding, even though their specialty labels Searchlight and Focus are perfect fits for ambitious, auteur-led projects.

THR quoted multiple unnamed sources who expressed the view that Coppola’s film would be a hard sell. One said, “Everyone is rooting for Francis and feels nostalgic. But then there is the business side of things.”

Megalopolis was originally aiming for a May debut at the Cannes Film Festival but the filmmakers were adamant it would not set a premiere date until a distribution deal was inked.

VENICE, ITALY - AUGUST 31: Adam Driver attends the Netflix film "White Noise" and opening ceremony red carpet at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on August 31, 2022 in Venice, Italy.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Netflix)
Adam Driver is one of the leads of Megalopolis. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Netflix) Credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Netflix

Starring Adam Driver, Giancarlo Esposito and Nathalie Emmanuel, Megalopolis is set in modern day New York after its destruction with two competing visions – one conservative, one idealistic – of how it should be rebuilt. Inspired by tales and polemics from ancient Rome, the film also features Shia LaBeouf, Jason Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza and Jon Voigt.

In the four decades it’s taken Coppola to realise his grand vision, Megalopolis has taken on different forms. He started writing the script in 1983 and the film was even announced in 1990 as on his upcoming production slate. He made Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Jack and The Rainmaker instead.

In would be 2001 before actors started to become involved. Coppola held table reads with the likes of Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Gandolfini, Uma Thurman, Robert De Niro and his own nephew, Nicolas Cage.

At that time, the budget was pitched as no more than $US80 million. He shot second unit footage. But it didn’t take off. One of the reasons that’s been given is 9/11 made it “tough” to stage a film intrinsically tied to the hopes, dreams and fall of New York City.

After selling a portion of his lucrative wine business, partly to fund the production, Megalopolis was back on the cards in 2019 and by 2022, the cameras were finally rolling.

It’s been 27 years since The Rainmaker, Coppola’s last significant film. It looks like everyone will have to wait a bit longer for the next.

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