Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)

R  |   |  Documentary  |  6 December 1991 (UK)
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Documentary that chronicles how Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) was plagued by extraordinary script, shooting, budget, and casting problems--nearly destroying the life and career of the celebrated director.

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Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 5 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Himself (as Francis Coppola)
Eleanor Coppola ...
Himself - from 1938 radio broadcast (voice) (archive footage)
Tom Sternberg ...
Himself (as Fred Forrest)
Himself (as Larry Fishburne)
Herself (as Gia)
Himself (as Roman)
Herself (as Sofia)
Dean Tavoularis ...
Fred Roos ...


Documents the sensational events surrounding the making of 'Apocalypse Now' and Francis Ford Coppola's struggle with nature, governments, actors, and self-doubt. Includes footage and sound secretly recorded by Elanor Coppola, wife of Francis. Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@cs.uq.oz.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The magic and madness of making "Apocalypse Now"



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

6 December 1991 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Aux coeurs des ténèbres - l'apocalypse d'un metteur en scène  »

Box Office


$1,318,449 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Marlon Brando allegedly refused to be interviewed because he claimed Francis Ford Coppola still owed him $2 million. See more »


In the end credits for musical listings under the Doors song The End, Elektra (Records) is misspelled (as "Electra.") See more »


[last lines]
Francis Ford Coppola: To me, the great hope is that now these little 8mm video recorders and stuff have come out, and some... just people who normally wouldn't make movies are going to be making them. And you know, suddenly, one day some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart, you know, and make a beautiful film with her little father's camera recorder. And for once, the so-called professionalism about movies will be destroyed, forever. And it will really become an art form. That's my ...
See more »


Referenced in Clerks (1994) See more »


O Mimi, Tu Piu Non Torni
by Giacomo Puccini
See more »

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User Reviews

Travel deep inside the mind of Coppola & the craft of filmmaking
18 April 2001 | by (Chicago) – See all my reviews

How lucky can a master filmmaker get when the tide is against you smacking you & your new movie deliberately in the face? Legendary director Francis Ford Coppola certainly knows. This documentary, probably one of the most fascinating & insightful examinations into the craft of filmmaking and the creation of art, chronicles Coppola's three year odyssey filming the surreal Vietnam War epic "Apocalypse Now". Directed & narrated by his wife Eleanor, who accompanied her husband throughout the entire shooting of the film, this is THE most splendid "making-of" documentary I've ever seen. The finished version of "Apocalypse Now" that we've come to know is a strange, mystical journey - which probably evolved out of Coppola's own bizarre experiences while making the film.

Most of these strange occurrences on the set of "Apocalypse Now" served to hinder the completion of the film. The fact that such a brilliant film was even salvaged from the wreckage that was Coppola's life at the time is a miracle, but the film also serves as a testament to the genius of Coppola that was already established with the massive success of the first two "Godfather" films. Plagued by constant typhoons, a mercurial Marlon Brando, an unreliable Phillipine army, a cast of actors whacked out on drugs & alcohol (especially the maniacal Dennis Hopper), endless financial woes, and Coppola's own self-doubt & inner demons ("I don't have the movie yet!"), there is no surprise in the eventual photo shown of an exhausted Coppola standing on the set of his film in a damp raincoat, pointing a revolver at his own head. This may be an experience other directors have experienced (many David Lean films were logistical nightmares), but how many directors can testify to enduring these types of repeated misadventures for three years, and still manage to find the light at the end of the tunnel?

The entire cast is interviewed (years afterward) about the making of the film - except, of course, for Marlon Brando (Larry Fishburne doesn't get much screen time in the documentary, but his character was relatively small anyway). Martin Sheen, Dennis Hopper, and Frederic Forrest provide the most insight. Sheen & Hopper seem particularly direct at disclosing the grim nature of their excessive drinking at the time. Actors Robert Duvall, Sam Bottoms, Albert Hall, co-screenwriter John Milius, and the Coppolas themselves also reflect back on the construction of the film. The film is loaded with deleted scenes, extended takes, and much behind-the-scenes footage (Coppola angrily berates a stoned Dennis Hopper for forgetting his lines). Eleanor Coppola must really love her husband, because it takes a strong person to document - on film, nonetheless - three years worth of strife & turmoil as you watch your spouse in their craft, fearful they are creating the genesis of their own demise as an artist. A powerful, absorbing documentary on the creation of one of the greatest films ever made.

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