Is “Megalopolis” Rising Again?
Its legend precedes it for a passion project with decades of development behind it; rumors of a movie epic with an outlook which has spanned potent eras of recent history have been reinvigorated with new updates on the financing and progress of the project, along with creating a new cast for a time in which movies are coming around to seeing their cherished re-opening dates reached.
By George Donovan
Dreaming is believing for Francis Ford Coppola, the world-renowned director of such groundbreaking movie legends as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. At 82, his unique, decades-in-the-making epic is ready to catch the wind of the resurgent world of new film visions returning to preparation, execution, and the celebration from audiences and critics across the planet.
The enormous and enigmatic project, Megalopolis, which has been hinted at many times through the years, is a retelling of Ancient Rome’s Catiline Conspiracy, which pit the patrician Catiline against Cicero in the former’s chance at overthrowing the Roman Republic, supercharged with the beating heart of a futuristic modern New York.
Following Apocalypse Now’s release in 1979, capping one of the greatest filmmaker’s runs of all time with 4 lifetime achievement-worthy movies to his name released in the decade, Coppola took a heavy hit in the early ‘80s with the troubles of his Zoetrope Studios project, and smaller movies followed through the years to come. But plans for Megalopolis picked up in the following decade, with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Jack, and The Rainmaker, three of his biggest hits in the 1990s, all produced to build a steady funding for the dream project in box office returns and studio persuasion. These developments came to a head in early 2001, with the announcement of Megalopolis at the Cannes film festival, floated by reports of dozens of hours of street sounds and Manhattan architecture already shot as second unit footage. Further hints, swirling around close friend and peer George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode I’s technology and filming techniques coming into Coppola’s hands for the heady production, promised an unparalleled movie experience.
“I think the big news here,” Coppola explained to Deadline last month, “is that I am still the same as I was 20 years ago or 40 years ago. I’m still willing to do the dream picture, even if I have to put up my own money, and I am capable of putting up $100 million if I have to here. I don’t want to, but I will do it if I have to”.
With Coppola spending his recent years re-releasing some of his most popular films, including new cuts and re-releases of his most famous movies, he’s hoping to put together a version of the new project that can be created at $100-125,000,000, a budget with which he’s committing to beginning principal photography next Fall with a cast for the 2020’s.
Among the actors being contacted and looking to sign onto the project include Forest Whitaker, Cate Blanchett, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jessica Lange, and even James Caan, who made history with Coppola in his Oscar-nominated role of Sonny Corleone in the original Godfather. Zendaya and Oscar Isaac, two other stars looking to make it into the cast, have been busy over the past few years with Dune, another ensemble epic with the word “masterpiece” being shared and passed around among early critics who attended the film’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival in early September. With the success of that movie, opening October 22nd, suggesting the draw of a big cast to return in upcoming projects, the updating casting efforts for Megalopolis are re-imagining the conflicts of the story and characters for a new generation.
Coppola’s confidence in funding for Megalopolis comes at a time where these dreams can come true, such as in the case of ‘70s peer Martin Scorcese, who’s own passion project, The Irishman, had swirled through drains of financial backing from different studios and production companies for years before finally settling to receive a funding and distribution from Netflix; The Irishman’s release in November 2019 was one of the platform’s biggest prestige movie hits, showing their support for the technology and scale which Scorcese’s visions demanded. But with the new positions for partnering private financiers, coupled with the sales in his vineyard holdings and winery outputs through the years, the beginning of a refurbished Megalopolis interest machine and one massive last hurrah for Francis Ford Coppola may pay off, and a legend will come to life to light up a rebounding industry, real and rolling at last.
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Ryan Ford '23,