When I started With "Apocalypse Now," my intention was to create a broad, spectacular film of epic action-adventure scale that was also rich in theme and philosophic inquiry into the mythology of war.
But by the spring of 1979, we were terrified that the film was too long, too strange and didn't resolve itself in a kind of classic big battle at the end. We were threatened with financial disaster. I had mortgaged everything I owned to personally cover the $16 million overage. And the press kept asking, 'Apocalypse When?' So we shaped the film that we thought would work for the mainstream audience of its day, keeping them focused on the journey up river and making it as much a 'war' genre film as possible.
More than 20 years later, I happened to see the picture on television. What struck me was that the original film—which had been seen as so demanding, strange and adventurous when it first came out—now seemed relatively tame, as though the audience had caught up to it. This, coupled with calls I received over the years from people who had seen the original 4-hour plus assembly, encouraged me to go back and try a new version.
Over the course of six months, beginning in March 2000, we edited and remixed a new rendition of the movie from scratch. Rather than returning the 'lifts' taken out of the film during the original editing, we re-edited the film from the original unedited raw footage—the 'dailies.'
This time we weren't working out of anxiety, so we were able to think more about what the themes were, especially about issues related to morality in war. I feel any artist making a film about war by necessity will make an 'anti-war' film and all war films are usually that. My film is more of an 'anti-lie' film, in that the fact that a culture can lie about what's really going on in warfare, that people are being brutalized, tortured, maimed and killed, and somehow present this as moral is what horrifies me, and perpetuates the possibility of war. One line in John Milius' original script suggested this: "They teach the boys to drop fire on people, but won't let them write the word 'fuck' on their airplanes." In the words of Joseph Conrad: "I hate the stench of a lie."
This new, complete and definitive version extends this idea to all young people, boys and girls, who are sent out to function in an established immoral world expected to function in a moral way. The result is a film that has 49 minutes of never-before-seen footage; is more attentive to theme, and is sexier, funnier, more bizarre, more romantic and is more politically intriguing. The new material is spread throughout the film, and highlighted by the addition of the French plantation sequence, an expanded Playboy playmates sequence, new footage of the navy patrol boat near the start of its journey up river, and a new Brando scene—one that perhaps couldn't be shown twenty years ago as it provides clear facts as to how the American public was lied to.
Ultimately, my aim with "Apocalypse Now Redux" was to achieve a richer, fuller and more textured film experience that, as with the original, lets audiences feel what Vietnam was like: the immediacy, the insanity, the exhilaration, the horror, the sensuousness and the moral dilemma of America's most surreal and nightmarish war.
—Francis Ford Coppola, May 2001
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