To celebrate the three disc blu-ray release of Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ I have reproduced this extract from the official programme produced for the original theatrical screenings in 1979. It’s a log detailing the shooting of the movie, which in fact became a movie in its own right ‘Hearts of Darkness’ – included in the new release. The author is unknown.
March 20, 1976
First day of shooting. The crew on the navy PBR (Patrol Boat River) is filmed at a salt pond 2 ½ miles outside Manila. The Philippines were chosen because of similarity to Vietnam terrain and availability of US made surplus helicopters and other vital equipment which the US Defense Department refused to make available. Shooting falls behind due to difficulty of coordinating production elements including jets, helicopters, boats and dangerous special effects.
April 26, 1976
Martin Sheen, cast by Coppola after a chance meeting at LA airport, reports to the set in Baler, Luzon. It now becomes clear that that the original sixteen week shooting schedule will have to be extended.
May 15, 1976
Baler shooting is finished, including scenes of Robert Duvall led Air Cavalry attack on village and surfing sequence. A simulated napalm drop consumes 1,200 gallons of gasoline in 90 seconds. Company moves to Iba, near Subic Bay, planning for six weeks shooting.
May 18, 1976
Typhoon Didang destroys sets, equipment and forces evacuation of cast and crew to Manila. Damage is estimated to be at least $1.3 million not including production delays. Most of the company is sent back to the United States to wait while new location is set up in Pagsanjan.
July 27, 1976
Crew returns and relocates to Pagsanjan, a town two hours drive from Manila. New sets are built on high ground because of rainy season now underway. Sets include Intelligence Compound, Vietnamese village, Hau Phat (Playboy Bunny stage), Do Lung Bridge and Kurtz temple compound.
August 7, 1976
Shooting begins on Do Lung Bridge scene in which the 150 foot bridge is blown up by the Viet Cong. The bridge erected by the crew on piling of an old span that had been demolished in World War II, washed away in the typhoon and was reconstructed in order to be destroyed in the film. More than 500 smoke bombs, 100 phosphorus sticks, 1,200 gallons of gas, 50 water explosions of 35 sticks of dynamite each, 2,000 rockets, flares, tracers and 5,000 feet of detonating chord are used in the 1 ½ minute finale.
September 3, 1976
Marlon Brando arrives. He reads ‘Heart of Darkness’ and shaves his head for the Colonel Kurtz role. A tribe of 264 Ifugao Philippine aborigines is quartered at Pagsanjan to play the parts of Kurtz Montagnard followers. The sacrifice of the caribou, one of the films last scenes, is a real ritual slaughter by the Ifugao, caught on film.
December 3, 1976
More than a 1,000 Anglo extras are recruited from Manila and environs – students, businessmen, tourists – for filming of the Hau Phat USO Bunny sequence. The Bunnies, introduced by rock impresario Bill Graham, are Cyndi Wood (1974 Playmate of the Year), Linda Carpenter and Colleen Camp.
March 5, 1977
Martin Sheen is hospitalised in Manila as a result of heat exhaustion. Some shooting continues around him using doubles; even his brother is flown in from the US for specific scenes. Sheen, still under medical supervision, returns to work on April 19, 1977.
April 26, 1977
The puppy-sampan scene is shot using Southern Vietnamese refugees who have escaped their country by boat only two weeks previously.
May 21, 1977
The 238th and last shooting day in the Philippines. Coppola addresses the crew at day’s end. “I’ve never in my life seen so many people so happy to be unemployed”. Apocalypse Now, originally budgeted for $12 million is fast becoming a $30 million war epic.
The new release is available from Amazon