Francis Ford Coppola’s last film, tinged with science fiction Megalopolis, descended into chaos, according to several sources. The film, currently halfway through filming in Atlanta, lost key creative talent last week, including its production designer and supervising art director. That’s on top of losing the entire visual effects team in the first part of December.
For many insiders, the production gives serious Revelation now redux vibes, and it’s the one on which the iconoclastic 83-year-old director breaks a cardinal Hollywood rule: never spend your own money.
Megalopolis has been a passion project for decades for the filmmaker, who turned heads in the fall of 2021 when news broke that he would be self-financing the $120 million film, in part with the tens of millions he earned by selling its popular Northern California vineyards. The budget has since increased and the film is now halfway through its 80-90 day shoot, but a production source says it’s unclear if production can go ahead as planned.
Representatives for Coppola did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Coppola assembled a star-studded cast for the project, including Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel, Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne, Jon Voight, Talia Shire, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Schwartzman and Dustin Hoffman. The film centers on an architect who seeks to rebuild New York as a utopia after a disaster. Sources say Coppola initially used new virtual production technology similar to that used on The Mandalorian. But as the challenges and costs of this approach have grown, these sources say production is trying to pivot to a cheaper, more traditional green screen approach. “There’s no right answer here,” says a production manager. “[Coppola] going to spend a lot more money than expected. You can imagine how much he has already invested. It would be a very bitter pill not to finish it.
Sources say Coppola, who has never done a movie with much effects, fired nearly his entire visual effects team on Dec. 9, with the rest of that department following soon after. Mark Russell, a veteran whose credits include In the heights and the wolf of Wall Street, led the team as visual effects supervisor. (Coppola fired his visual effects department on Dracula 30 years ago.)
More recently, production designer Beth Mickle and supervising art director David Scott left. Between the layoffs and resignations, a source claims the film no longer has an art department. Russell, Mickle and Scott did not respond to requests for comment.
“The Art Directors Guild is supporting all art departments to ensure proper staffing and scheduling and is currently reviewing the situation with Megalopolis to determine next steps,” a spokesperson for the Art Directors Guild, which represents both art directors and production designers, said in a statement. “We have no further comment at this stage.”
A talent rep whose client was among those terminated said the layoff was a blessing in disguise. “It was absolute madness, being on set,” this person says.
Despite crew departures, Coppola is continuing, hiring new staff this week, sources say.
In March 2022, Coppola said The Hollywood Reporter he was putting his own money into the film, which has no distributor, in order to gain traction. Says Coppola: “There’s a certain way everyone thinks a movie should be, and it goes against the grain if you have another idea. People can be very reluctant, but sometimes the other idea represents what’s coming in the future. It deserves to be considered.
Coppola’s methods produced several films that critics consider among the greatest of all time, including The Godfather (1972) and its 1974 sequel, both of which won Best Picture at the Oscars. Still, he hasn’t had a hit since 1992 At Bram Stokers Dracula and last directed the 2011 feature murder mystery Twixt, which starred Val Kilmer and Bruce Dern and was largely a home entertainment piece.
The director has a long history of difficult productions. He self-financed the 1982 musical romance feature one of the heartwhich didn’t work, and followed it up with The cotton clubthe star crime drama of 1984. This film, also a bombshell, was notoriously known not only for a troubled setting – crew members said they were abruptly fired – but also for a revolving door of financiers.
But there hasn’t been a more calamitous Coppola production than Revelation now, a grueling shoot that mirrored its plot of a descent into madness and chaos. Nevertheless, the 1979 film won two Oscars and became a classic.
At the Cannes Film Festival that year, the filmmaker said, “We were in the jungle. We had access to too much money, too much material, and little by little we went crazy.
Katie Kilkenny and Borys Kit contributed to this report.