Is Megalopolis fizzling into a Megaflopolis?
That’s the buzz out of Hollywood around Francis Ford Coppola’s titanic new project, a science-fiction epic that seems ready to crash and burn like a flying zeppelin. According to Hollywood Reporter, the film is halfway shot in Atlanta—the city that General Sherman once torched—it’s already lost key members of its creative cadre, including its production designer, its supervising art director, and its entire visual effects team.
The 83-year-old director is no stranger to apocalypses, of course, but industry sources are saying the film has “descended into chaos,” says the Hollywood Reporter. Megalopolis has been on Coppola’s bucket list for decades, but observers fear the bucket will be kicked before its release.
Coppola announced in 2021 that he was financing the $120 million project on his own, bolstered by a large chunk of money he made when he sold off his Northern California wineries. Costs are mounting, though, and the word from the grapevine is that the vintage director has simply popped the wrong cork.
Not that Coppola’s palate was limited: he’d assembled a bouquet of stars for Megalopolis, including such names as Dustin Hoffman, Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel, Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Jon Voight, Talia Shire, Shia LaBeouf, and Jason Schwartzman. The film concerns a visionary architect who seeks to rebuild New York City as a post-apocalyptic paradise. But special effects do not come cheap, hence the worries that the movie will never see the light of a darkened movie house. It’s been reported that Coppola fired Mark Russell and the entire visual-effects team in early December, reminiscent of how he’d also fired a similar team working on his Decade flick some three decades ago. Maybe Coppola needs to conjure up a fairy godfather to set things right?
But Today, according to both Coppola and star Adam Driver, there is no chaos. Speaking with Deadline, Coppola acknowledged that there has been some turnover which has all been to do with economics, and none of it has caused any significant disruption:
“I’ve never worked on a film where I was so happy with the cast. I am so happy with the look and that we are so on schedule. These reports never say who these sources are. To them, I say, ha, ha, just wait and see.
Because this is a beautiful film and primarily so because the cast is so great. I’ve never enjoyed working with a cast who are so hardworking and so willing to go search for the unconventional, to come upon hidden solutions.
It is a thrill to work with these actors, and the photography is everything I could hope for. The dailies are great. So if we’re on schedule, and I love the actors, and the look is great, I don’t know what anyone’s talking about here.”
Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel, Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Jon Voight, Talia Shire, Jason Schwartzman and Dustin Hoffman star and Driver also spoke about the rumors: “I’d like to briefly respond to The Hollywood Reporter article published Monday, January 9th. All good here! Not sure what set you’re talking about! I don’t recognize that one! I’ve been on sets that were chaotic, and this one is far from it.
The environment that’s being created by Francis is one of focus and inspiration. As of now, we’re on schedule, making our days, and honestly, it’s been one of the best shooting experiences I’ve had.”
Driver acknowledges that the report’s original claims of the art department resigning and the VFX department being let go are true, but adds it’s part of the process and “this production is not out of pocket in comparison to other productions”. He adds that :
“No one signed up for this movie expecting the process to be conventional. We were expecting the opposite in the pursuit of making something unique. The only madness I’ve observed is that more productions aren’t allowed to be as creatively wild and experimentally focused, precisely because someone else is paying for it. It’s an effort and risk by Francis that I feel should be applauded, not publicly mischaracterized as troubled.”
Of course, Coppola has famously handled some of the most notoriously tough film productions in history like “Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” and managed to pull the film’s together just fine at the end, so it seemed like business as usual.