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Francis Coppola Megalopolis First buyer Screening At CityWalk IMAX


EXCLUSIVE: Some 20 years after it was took root in the imagination of Francis Ford Coppola, Megalopolis screened this morning for the very first time. Held at the Universal CityWalk IMAX Theater, the epic film screened for buyers, and had every distributor in attendance. Also in tow were family friends and filmmakers, a list included Angelica Huston, Nicolas Cage, Andy Garcia, Spike Jonze, Al Pacino, Jon Favreau, Colleen Camp, Roger Corman, Darren Aronofsky, Cailee Spaeny and cast members Shia LaBeouf and Talia Shire.

I was there also, and what can I say about the movie when I promised Coppola I would not do anything approximating a review? Coppola’s new film is crackling with ideas that fuse the past with the future, with an epic and highly visual drama that plays perfectly on an IMAX screen. He covers complex themes in a remarkably brief two hours and 13 minutes, not including credits. The destruction of a New York City-like metropolis after an accident pits clashing visions of the future, with an ambitious architectural idealist Cesar (Adam Driver) on one side. On the other is his sworn enemy, city Mayor Frank Cisero (Giancarlo Esposito). The debate becomes whether to embrace the future and build a utopia with renewable materials, or take the business-as-usual rebuild strategy, replete with corruption and power brokering. In between their struggle is the mayor’s socialite daughter Julia (Nathalie Emmanuel), a restless young woman who grew up around power and is looking for meaning in her life.

It is not coincidental that the names come straight out of the Roman Empire. A filmmaker who as a child was stricken by polio, and watched the Jonas Salk vaccine eradicate that awful disease, Coppola delivers a big kiss to his possibilities of mankind’s ingenuity to adapt to and overcome most problems. He also injects a cautionary tale of what can happens when that rise to the occasion human spirit runs afoul of the greed, corruption and narcissism that helped topple the Roman Empire. The clash could not be more timely in an election year and a moment of heightened polarization and misinformation meant to spread agendas, sway the public and influence policy. The film’s illustrious cast also includes Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Chloe Fineman, Kathryn Hunter, Dustin Hoffman, D.B., Sweeney, Jason Schwartzman, Baily Ives, Grace Vanderwaal and James Remar. They are all remarkably good in bringing a complex tapestry to life.

Before the screening, Coppola delivered a mission statement of sorts which you can read if you expand the featured image above, or find it right here.

Dear Friends,

As heard from me before: “I believe in America.”

If I could leave you with one thought after you see my new film, it would be this: Our founders borrowed a Constitution, Roman Law, and Senate for their revolutionary government without a king, so American History could neither have taken place nor succeed as it did without classical learning to guide it.”

I visited Coppola on the Atlanta set of Megalopolis one night, and there was a similar appreciation as today for one of the greatest living filmmakers. That night, as Coppola emerged from his Silverfish trailer, the crowd around him parted like he was General Patton, the script that won him his first Oscar. There was magic in the chilly night air as he filmed scenes of anarchy, with Mike Figgis shooting a documentary about the making of the film. And, sitting there in shorts on a beach chair, was Jack Black., He was not in the film, but just showed up most nights to watch Coppola work. The crowd at CityWalk also massed in anticipation that this was somehow going to be a special film. Among those I spotted were Tom Rothman, Ted Sarandos, Pam Abdy, Mary Parent, Matt Greenstein, David Greenbaum, Donna Langley, Courtenay Valenti, Daria Cercek and Marc Weinstock, and Michael Barker.

All were effusive as they crowded around Coppola following the touching finale. Well wishers included his son, Roman Coppola (the film’s second united director), and his sister Talia Shire, who embraced her brother as the credits rolled and said simply, “You did it.”

Now it is up to Coppola’s longtime attorney Barry Hirsch to help Coppola find a distribution partner to bring the film to a wide theatrical audience. While Cannes and fall festivals like Venice, Telluride and Toronto are knocking, Coppola and Hirsch won’t make a final decision where to debut the film until that distribution partner is secured and a firm rollout plan is put in place.

In many ways, this replicates Apocalypse Now, which Coppola said has made a fortune over 50 years because of his ownership, something that happened because no one believed in the film the way he did. He financed the whole $120 million Megalopolis cost by securing a credit line when he sold part of his vineyard holdings. He likes owning his films and betting on himself. Coppola brought Apocalypse Now to Cannes as a work in progress, and his vision was validated when he shared the Palme d’Or and the film went on to become a classic. His hope for Megalopolis is that its themes resonate long after it leaves theaters, and that audiences will watch it over and over and get different things from it each time, as humanity grapples with an eroding planet and global warming.

He took the first step toward that goal today. If you look back at the prescience he has shown with his films, like the way his 1969 film The Rain People presaged the women’s liberation movement to tell the story of a pregnant woman who rejects marriage to takes control of her destiny, or the onset of living in a surveillance world in The Conversation, Coppola has in the past keyed on themes that grow in importance.

He also prepared long and hard for this journey, writing and re-writing this script, shelving it after 9/11, and then putting together the financing, and losing 75 pounds and keeping off the weight to help his stamina. Coppola, who is 84, also said this will not be his last film, telling me, “One way I knew Megalopolis was finished is that I’ve begun work on a new film.  It won’t be cheap by any means, but I don’t know it can be called ‘an epic film.’

Soon we will see how Megalopolis scored with distributors. Stay tuned.



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