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

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.
Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 6 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Francis Ford Coppola ... Self (as Francis Coppola)
Eleanor Coppola ... Self
Orson Welles ... Self - from 1938 radio broadcast (voice) (archive footage)
John Milius ... Self
George Lucas ... Self
Tom Sternberg Tom Sternberg ... Self
Sam Bottoms ... Self
Albert Hall ... Self
Frederic Forrest ... Self (as Fred Forrest)
Laurence Fishburne ... Self (as Larry Fishburne)
Gian-Carlo Coppola ... Self (archive footage) (as Gio)
Roman Coppola ... Self (archive footage) (as Roman)
Sofia Coppola ... Self (archive footage) (as Sofia)
Dean Tavoularis ... Self
Fred Roos ... Self
Learn more

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Documents the sensational events surrounding the making of Apocalypse Now (1979)' and Francis Ford Coppola's struggle with nature, governments, actors, and self-doubt. Includes footage and sound secretly recorded by Eleanor 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:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Feature directorial debut for Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper. See more »


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


Francis Ford Coppola: If Marty dies, I wanna hear that everything's okay, until I say, "Marty is dead."
See more »

Alternate Versions

The DVD is missing a mention of Harvey Keitel as Willard and a scene of Coppola singing Anything Goes is watered down as well. See more »


Featured in Marlon Brando: The Wild One (1994) See more »


Son Andati
(from "La Boheme")
by Giacomo Puccini
Courtesy of James & Aster
See more »

User Reviews

This is a magnificent documentary detailing the making of the prestigious film during its prolonged shooting
29 March 2019 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

This fascinating , acclaimed documentary deals with the making of Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece and is largely based on original stock footage filmed by his wife Eleanor , along with Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper who shot recent interviews with cast and crew members . Originally scheduled to be shot over six weeks , ended up taking 16 months , resulting in a Coppola's 40 million dollar great epic vision of the Vietnam war . In 2001 was realized a ¨redux¨ , a new reediting adding footage , the episode of the playmates and the French people encounters , where there's a lot of nudism . This new edition is today considered to be the official version . Considered by some to be the ultimate flick in its overall depiction of chaos , horror , and bloodletting , by others definitively overwrought and unrealistic . This was a splendid film with awe-inspiring battles , stunning photography , effective musical score and compelling montage . The original picture concerned the disillusioned Army captain Willard (Martin Sheen) who tells the story , he is assigned for a special mission : Kill renegade colonel Kurtz (an elephantine Marlon Brando) , American general highly decorated who the army officers believe has gone murderer and nut . His trip is punctuated by surrealist and weird battles and horrifying descent into a land where human rationality seems to have slipped away . Willard joins a misfit crew (Albert Hall , Sam Bottons , Frederic Forest, Larry Fishburne) making a risked and dangerous journey upriver towards Cambodia . Along the way they participate at a superbly coreographed attack by helicopters to the music of ¨Ride of Valkyrie¨ . They'll encounter a mad marine captain , fond of surf (Robert Duvall who gives 10 excellent minutes as a battle-obsessed Major) , as well as playboy bunnies and French military and a civil group (Christian Marquand and Aurore Clement) living lonely at a plantation since Dien Bien Phu defeat (1954) . The travel is dangerously developed until the fateful meeting with Kurtz . Marlon Brando/Colonel Kurtz and Captain Willard /Martin Sheen attempts to assassinate him form the hub of the tale . The perilous journey is narrated as a bizarre odyssey leading to the dreadful and terrible final but when the protagonists meet General Kurtz the scenarios are darkest and gloomiest . As Kurtz cannot be despatched by a weapon bullet , but he has to be hacked to pieces with a machete to symbolise the simultaneous slaughter of a sacrificial bull .

It is a stunning , riveting and absorbing documentary that is based on the known film that was inspired by Joseph Conrad's novella : ¨The heart of the darkness¨ and it goes on to be subject of debate . At once anecdotal and revealing , this top-notch picture shows the catastrophes that beset this particular project , and by way of comparison describes exactly what American film has foregone since the seventies . Both Martin Sheen and Coppola suffered emotional breakdown during the overlong shooting , as Martin Sheen had a heart attack during the filming and some shots of Willard's back are of doubles , including Sheen's brother Joe Estevez who was flown out specially . The documentary lists a catalogue of disasters : Sheen's stroke , problems with weather , including thunderous thypoons , and the Filipino goverment ruled by dictator Ferdinand Marcos who took the helicopters to wage war the communist guerrilla , massive over-expenditure , the upsettling actors , specially : Sam Bottoms and Dennis Hopper , spaced out whatever drugs were availble and an overweight Marlon Brando refusing to perform a fat role . Regarding the movie Coppola told the following : ¨It was a crazy , we had access to too much money and too much equipment , and little by little we went insane¨. This documentary is entirely in agreement with this verdict . There are several interviews to actors and crew , as Martin Sheen , Albert Hall , Dennis Hopper , Frederic Forest 15-year-old Larry Fishburne , Production designer Dean Tavoularis , producer Fred Roos , the great photographer Vittorio Storaro , and the screenwriter John Milius himself who explains the movie tackles issues of ethics and morality and the horror war . And cameraman Vittorio Storaro who carried out a spellbound and breathtaking cinematography , he won an Oscar , a very well deserved Academy Award . The movie in spite of the passed time is still powerful and astounding . The documentary was perfectly directed by Eleanor Coppola , pacing with great sensitivity and artistic ambition . Coppola's wife along with Fax Bahr and George Wickenlooper assembled from later interviews from some 60 hours of footage filmed on location in the Philippines , much of it by Eleanor .

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Release Date:

6 December 1991 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

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

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$42,992, 1 December 1991

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

American Zoetrope See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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