Captain Benjamin L. Willard
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Quotes for
Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Character)
from Apocalypse Now (1979)

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Apocalypse Now (1979)
[first lines]
Willard: [voiceover] Saigon... shit; I'm still only in Saigon... Every time I think I'm gonna wake up back in the jungle.
Willard: When I was home after my first tour, it was worse.
[grabs at flying insect]
Willard: I'd wake up and there'd be nothing. I hardly said a word to my wife, until I said "yes" to a divorce. When I was here, I wanted to be there; when I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I'm here a week now... waiting for a mission... getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker, and every minute Charlie squats in the bush, he gets stronger. Each time I looked around the walls moved in a little tighter.

Willard: Could we, uh... talk to Colonel Kurtz?
Photojournalist: Hey, man, you don't talk to the Colonel. You listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet warrior in the classic sense. I mean sometimes he'll... uh... well, you'll say "hello" to him, right? And he'll just walk right by you. He won't even notice you. And suddenly he'll grab you, and he'll throw you in a corner, and he'll say, "Do you know that 'if' is the middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you"... I mean I'm... no, I can't... I'm a little man, I'm a little man, he's... he's a great man! I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas...

Willard: [voice-over] I was going to the worst place in the world and I didn't even know it yet. Weeks away and hundreds of miles up a river that snaked through the war like a main circuit cable plugged straight into Kurtz. It was no accident that I got to be the caretaker of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz's memory any more than being back in Saigon was an accident. There is no way to tell his story without telling my own. And if his story really is a confession, then so is mine.

Willard: [voice-over] How many people had I already killed? There were those six that I knew about for sure. Close enough to blow their last breath in my face. But this time, it was an American and an officer. That wasn't supposed to make any difference to me, but it did. Shit... charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do?

Willard: [voice-over] If that's how Kilgore fought the war, I began to wonder what they really had against Kurtz. It wasn't just insanity and murder; there was enough of that to go around for everyone.

Willard: [voice-over-] Oh man... the bullshit piled up so fast in Vietnam, you needed wings to stay above it.

Willard: [voice-over] No wonder Kurtz put a weed up Command's ass. The war was being run by a bunch of four star clowns who were gonna end up giving the whole circus away.

Willard: [voice-over] It's a way we had over here for living with ourselves. We cut 'em in half with a machine gun and give 'em a Band-Aid. It was a lie. And the more I saw them, the more I hated lies.

Willard: [voice-over] He was close, real close. I couldn't see him yet, but I could feel him, as if the boat were being sucked upriver and the water was flowing back into the jungle. Whatever was going to happen, it wasn't gonna be the way they call it back in Nha Trang.

Willard: [voice-over] The machinist, the one they called Chef, was from New Orleans. He was wrapped too tight for Vietnam; probably wrapped too tight for New Orleans. Lance, on the forward .50s, was a famous surfer from the beaches south of LA. One look at him and you wouldn't believe he ever fired a weapon in his whole life. Clean... Mr. Clean... was from some South Bronx shithole and the light and space of Vietnam really put the zap on his head. Then there was Phillips, the Chief. It might have been my mission, but it sure as shit was the Chief's boat!

Chief Quartermaster (QMC) Phillips: My orders say I'm not supposed to know where I'm taking this boat, so I don't! But one look at you, and I know it's gonna be hot!
Willard: We're going up river about 75 klicks above the Do Lung bridge.
Chief Quartermaster (QMC) Phillips: That's Cambodia, captain.
Willard: That's classified. We're not supposed to be in Cambodia, but that's where I'm going.

Willard: Are you crazy, Goddammit? Don't you think its a little risky for some R&R?
Kilgore: If I say its safe to surf this beach, Captain, then its safe to surf this beach! I mean, I'm not afraid to surf this place, I'll surf this whole fucking place!

Willard: Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.

Willard: [voice-over] "Never get out of the boat." Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin' all the way... Kurtz got off the boat. He split from the whole fuckin' program.

Willard: [voice-over] They were gonna make me a Major for this, and I wasn't even in their fuckin' army anymore.

Willard: [voice-over] Charlie didn't get much USO. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat. He had only two ways home: death, or victory.

Colonel Lucas: Your mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a Navy patrol boat. Pick up Colonel Kurtz's path at Nu Mung Ba, follow it and learn what you can along the way. When you find the Colonel, infiltrate his team by whatever means available and terminate the Colonel's command.
Willard: Terminate the Colonel?
General Corman: He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.
Civilian: Terminate with extreme prejudice.
Colonel Lucas: You understand, Captain, that this mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist...

Kurtz: Did they say why, Willard, why they want to terminate my command?
Willard: I was sent on a classified mission, sir.
Kurtz: It's no longer classified, is it? Did they tell you?
Willard: They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.
Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?
Willard: I don't see any method at all, sir.
Kurtz: I expected someone like you. What did you expect? Are you an assassin?
Willard: I'm a soldier.
Kurtz: You're neither. You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

Willard: [voice-over] On the river, I thought that the minute I looked at him, I'd know what to do, but it didn't happen. I was in there with him for days, not under guard; I was free, but he knew I wasn't going anywhere. He knew more about what I was going to do than I did. If the generals back in Nha Trang could see what I saw, would they still want me to kill him? More than ever, probably. And what would his people back home want if they ever learned just how far from them he'd really gone? He broke from them, and then he broke from himself. I'd never seen a man so broken up and ripped apart.

Willard: [voice-over] Everybody wanted me to do it, him most of all. I felt like he was up there, waiting for me to take the pain away. He just wanted to go out like a soldier, standing up, not like some poor, wasted, rag-assed renegade. Even the jungle wanted him dead, and that's who he really took his orders from anyway.

Willard: My mission is to make it up into Cambodia. There's a Green Beret Colonel up there who's gone insane. I'm supposed to kill him.
Chef: What? Oh, that's typical! Shit! Fuckin' Vietnam mission! I'm short, and we gotta go up there so you can kill one of our own guys? That's fuckin' great! That's just fuckin' great! Shit! That's fuckin' crazy! I thought you were going in there to blow up a bridge, or some fucking railroad tracks or something!
Willard: I'm sorry. Look, I'll cut you loose here and you can turn around and...
Chef: [interupting] No, no, we go together... on the boat! We came this far, so we go together. All the way! We'll take you up there, we'll go with you... but on the boat! Okay?

Willard: [voice-over] The crew were mostly kids; rock & rollers with one foot in their grave.

Willard: [voice-over] The First of the Ninth was a old calvary division that traded in their horses for helicopters and went tear-assing around 'Nam looking for the shit...

Willard: [voice-over] Part of me was afraid of what I would find and what I would do when I got there. I knew the risks, or imagined I knew. But the thing I felt the most, much stronger than fear, was the desire to confront him.

Roxanne: Do you know why you can never step into the same river twice?
Willard: Yeah, 'cause it's always moving.

Lt. Carlsen: I'm Lt. Carlsen. I was sent from Nha Trang with this message for you three days ago, sir. They expected you here a little sooner. This is mail for the boat's crew. You don't know how happy this makes me in delivering all this.
Willard: Why?
Lt. Carlsen: Because now I can get out of here... if I can find a way.
[an enemy artillery shell lands dangerously close by as Lt. Carlsen runs away]
Lt. Carlsen: You're in the asshole of the world, Captain!

Willard: Hey soldier, do you know who's in command here?
Soldier: Ain't you?

Willard: [voice-over] "Someday this war's gonna end". That'd be just fine with the boys on the boat. They weren't looking for anything more than a way home. Trouble is, I'd been back there, and I knew that it just didn't exist anymore.

[quoting Kurtz]
Willard: In a war there are many moments for compassion and tender action. There are many moments for ruthless action - what is often called ruthless - what may in many circumstances be only clarity, seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it, directly, quickly, awake, looking at it.

[quoting Kurtz]
Willard: As for the charges against me, I am unconcerned. I am beyond their timid lying morality, and so I am beyond caring.

[the redux version]
Willard: Who's in charge here?
Soldier: In charge? I don't know, man. I'm just doing what I'm told - I'm just a working girl.

Colonel Lucas: Your report specifies intelligence/counterintelligence with ComSec I-Corps.
Willard: I'm not presently disposed to discuss these operations, sir.
Colonel Lucas: Did you not work for the CIA in I-Corps?
Willard: No, sir.
Colonel Lucas: Did you not assassinate a government tax collector in Quang Tri province, June 19th, 1968? Captain?
Willard: Sir, I am unaware of any such activity or operation... nor would I be disposed to discuss such an operation if it did in fact exist, sir.

Photo Journalist: I wish I had words, man. I wish I had words... I can tell ya something like the other day he wanted to kill me. Somethin' like that...
Willard: Why'd he wanna kill you?
Photo Journalist: Because I took his picture. He said "If you take my picture again, I'm gonna kill you." And he *meant* it.

Willard: [about Colonel Kilgore] Well, he wasn't a bad officer, I guess. He loved his boys, and he felt safe with 'em. He was just one of those guys with that weird light around him. He just knew he wasn't gonna get so much as a scratch here.

Hubert: [rebuffing Willard's inquiry as to when his family might return home to France] You don't understand our mentality - the French officer mentality. At first, we lose in Second World War. I don't say that you Americans win, but we lose. In Dien Bien Phu, we lose. In Algeria, we lose. In Indochina, we lose! But here, we don't lose! This piece of earth, we keep it. We will never lose it, never!
Gaston de Marais: You Americans. In 1945, yeah, after the Japanese war, your president Roosevelt didn't want the French people to stay in Indochina. So, you Americans implant the Vietnam.
Willard: [to Hubert] What's he mean?
Hubert: Yeah, that's true. The Vietcong were invented by the Americans, sir.
Willard: The Americans?
Gaston de Marais: And now you take the French place. And the Vietnam fight you. And what can you do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Hubert: The Vietnamese are very intelligent. You never know what they think. The Russian ones who help them, "come and give us their money. We are all Communists. Chinese give us guns. We are all brothers."... They hate the Chinese! Maybe they hate the American less than the Russian and the Chinese. I mean, if tomorrow the Vietnamese are Communists they will be *Vietnamese* Communists. And this is something you never understood, you American.
Gaston de Marais: I don't know. Maybe in the future we can make something with the Vietnam.
Philippe de Marais: Don't you understand? The VC say, "go away, go away". That's finish for all the white people in Indochina. If you're French, American, that's all the same. "Go." They want to forget you. Look, Captain. Look, this is the truth. An egg.
[cracks it, draining the egg white]
Philippe de Marais: The white left, but the yellow stays.
[stomps off]

Chief Quartermaster (QMC) Phillips: [Redux version] Captain, are you giving away our fuel for a Playmate of the Month?
Willard: No, Playmate of the Year, Chief!
[Willard takes a swig from a beer bottle]

Willard: [incredulous] What are you talking about?
Chief Quartermaster (QMC) Phillips: We're taking her to some friendlies, Captain. She's wounded, she's not dead.
Willard: Get off there, Chef.
[Willard shoots the injured girl]
Chef: Fuck it!
Willard: [to Chief] I told you not to stop. Now let's go!

Chef: I was supposed to go to Paris, study at the Escoffier School. That's when I got my orders. Well, I joined the Navy. Heard they had better food. Cook school, that did it.
Willard: Oh yeah? How's that?
Chef: [mutters something] They lined us up in front of a hundred yards of prime rib. All of us, you know, lined up and looking at it. Magnificent meat! Really! Beautifully marbled... magnifique! Next thing, they're throwing the meat into these big cauldrons. All of it, boiling it. I looked inside, man, and it was turning gray. I couldn't fuckin' believe that one!

Kurtz: Where are you from, Willard?
Willard: I'm from Ohio, sir.
Kurtz: Were you born there?
Willard: Yes, sir.
Kurtz: Whereabouts?
Willard: Toledo, sir.
Kurtz: How far are you from the river?
Willard: The Ohio River, sir?
Kurtz: Uh-huh.
Willard: About 200 miles.
Kurtz: I went down that river once when I was a kid. There's a place in that river - I can't remember - must have been a gardenia plantation at one time. It's all wild and overgrown now, but about five miles, you'd think that heaven just fell on the earth in the form of gardenias. Have you considered any real freedoms? Freedoms from the opinions of others. Even the opinions of yourself.


Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)
Topper Harley: [narrating] Somebody once wrote, "Hell is the impossibility of reason." Well, that's what this place feels like - hell. I hate it already and it's only been a few hours. I'm so tired. We get up at four in the morning...
Capt. Benjamin L. Willard: [narrating] At first I thought they handed me the wrong dossier. I couldn't believe they wanted this man dead. Third Generation West Point, top of his class, Airbourne, Korea, about a thousand decorations, etc, etc...
Topper Harley, Capt. Benjamin L. Willard: [as their boats pass each other] I loved you in Wall Street.