Forty years and $120m later: Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis to debut at Cannes

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After months shrouded in controversy – and 40 years in the making – Francis Ford Coppola’s feature Megalopolis will debut at Cannes film festival in May.

The film, a passion project, which the Godfather and Apocalypse Now director has funded with $120m of his own money, has been in development since 1983 when Coppola wrote the first version of the screenplay.

In the decades since, it has been announced, delayed and abandoned multiple times – with footage even shot then discarded in several instances.

Starring Adam Driver, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancarlo Esposito, Aubrey Plaza, Jon Voight, Shia LaBeouf, Laurence Fishburne and Dustin Hoffman, as well as Coppola’s sister Talia Shire and his nephew Jason Schwartzman, the film will finally premiere in a gala slot at Cannes on 17 May, Variety reports.

“I’ve known Francis since the centenary of cinema in 1995, and when I had my first year at Cannes, he came to present Apocalypse Now Redux,” Cannes director Thierry Frémaux told Variety. “Megalopolis is a project that he wanted to achieve for so long and he did it independently, in his own way, as an artist.”

Megalopolis wrapped production last year. Plot details remain vague, though it has long been considered a difficult beast to film: an epic that spans ancient history and a cataclysmic future, riddled with esoterica and tortuous concepts.

Megalopolis’s official logline describes it as a “story of political ambition, genius and conflicted love” where “the fate of Rome haunts a modern world unable to solve its own social problems”.

In March, the film screened for potential buyers – including Universal, Netflix and Sony – in an industry event hosted at Universal CityWalk Imax. According to the Hollywood Reporter, responses were mixed, ranging from a glowing commendation to one studio head putting it bluntly: “It’s so not good, and it was so sad watching it.”

No distributor is currently attached to the film.

Early last year, the Hollywood Reporter wrote of an anonymous source who said the Megalopolis set was “absolute madness” due to a high staff turnover, an escalating budget and visual effects issues.

Coppola and Driver both denied the allegations. “We’re on schedule,” Coppola told Deadline. “I love the actors and the look is great, I don’t know what anyone’s talking about here.”

Driver later wrote in a statement: “I’ve been on sets that were chaotic and this one is far from it.”

Cannes seems a natural fit for Coppola’s project: he premiered Apocalypse Now at the festival in 1979, which had a similarly beleaguered production process before its rise to acclaim after its Cannes appearance.

This year’s Cannes will run 14 to 25 May, with the full selection of films to be revealed on Thursday. Already locked in to debut outside of competition include George Miller’s Mad Max prequel Furiosa, as well as opening night feature The Second Act, starring Léa Seydoux and Vincent Lindon as actors in an absurdist meta-comedy directed by the popular French film-maker Quentin Dupieux.


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