Anatomy Of A Scene: Apocalypse Now

No one who's seen the 1979 movie Apocalypse Now can forget the epic scene in which U.S. military helicopters cleared a Vietnamese beach with artillery and napalm while blasting "The Ride of the Valkyries" over their loudspeakers. Empire has a slideshow of the original storyboard art, with each image accompanied by the remembrances from "helicopter wrangler" Doug Claybourne. Together they tell the story of the difficulties that were thrown at the crew every step of the way. For example, the U.S. military refused to loan out helicopters unless Donald Rumsfeld's demands for changes in the script were made. So the helicopters were borrowed from Ferdinand Marcos, who ran the Philippines at the time.

The problem was that Marcos was involved in a war of his own. The quelling of a revolt in the south of the country took precedence over Coppola’s needs. “We could never tell exactly how many Philippine Army helicopters were going to come,” remembers Claybourne. “They’d say there were going to send five and they’d send three. Then at the end of the day, they’d get a call on the radio and they’d have to leave because they’d need helicopters for the insurrection.” Usually the US army markings would be hastily painted over with Philippine Army livery before flying into combat, but as Claybourne remembers, the guerrillas would sometimes find themselves under attack from Hueys with the US star still painted on the side. “They’d take off with our markings on them,” he recalls. “That was a challenge.”

Read more about the difficulties of shooting the scene of dancing helicopters with no digital effects available at Empire. -via Open Culture

Continue reading to see the finished scene from the extended version of the movie. .


(YouTube link)


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