‘Megalopolis’ First Look: Francis Ford Coppola Says ‘I Must’ve Rewritten It 300 Times’ Before Self-Financing the $120 Million ‘Roman Epic’

Francis Ford Coppola revealed in a preview of “Megalopolis” in Vanity Fair that he rewrote the script around 300 times before self-financing the passion project for $120 million by selling part of his winery estate in Northern California. The epic is set to world premiere in competition at the Cannes FIlm Festival in May. A first look photo from “Megalopolis” has debuted featuring Adam Driver and Nathalie Emmanuel in their leading roles.

Inspired by H.G. Wells’ “Things to Come,” Coppola’s epic is set in a New York City-like metropolis in the aftermath of a catastrophic destruction. Driver plays an idealistic architect who wants to rebuild the city into something greater than what it was. Giancarlo Esposito is the city’s corrupt mayor hellbent on keeping things the way they were.

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Caught in the middle of these opposing forces is Emmanuel’s character, the socialist daughter of the mayor who becomes romantically drawn to Driver’s architect. The supporting cast includes Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Talia Shire and Jason Schwartzman.

“I wasn’t really working on this screenplay for 40 years as I often see written, but rather I was collecting notes and clippings for a scrapbook of things I found interesting for some future screenplay, or examples of political cartoons or different historical subjects,” Coppola told Vanity Fair about the project’s development. “Ultimately, after a lot of time, I settled on the idea of a Roman epic. And then later, a Roman epic set in modern America, so I really only began writing this script, on and off, in the last dozen years or so. Also, as I have made many films of many different subjects and in many different styles, I hoped for a project later in life when I might better understand what my personal style was.”

“Early on, I remember once I took 130 blank pages and put on a title page boldly announcing Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis, and under that, All Roads Lead to Rome. I pretended it wasn’t totally blank, weighing it in my hands so I could imagine what one day it would feel like, and believe one day it could exist. Then later, once I had a draft, I must have rewritten it 300 times, hoping each rewrite would improve it, if only a half percent better.”

“Megalopolis” wrapped production last year and, on March 28, screened for the first time before a star-studded guest list of studio heads, distributors and buyers at the Universal CityWalk IMAX Theater in L.A.

Last September, Coppola elaborated on how Rome inspired “Megalopolis,” writing on Instagram, “How often do I think of Ancient Rome? Quite a lot, as the Roman Republic served as the example for my country America and its institutions, and was the inspiration for my upcoming film ‘Megalopolis.’”

Coppola continued, “My fascination with the Roman Republic is based on the struggle between the political parties during which the interest of the Republic yielded to the ambitions of a few powerful men who espoused the aims of political parties to establish their own fortunes and authority by relying upon armed forces to achieve those ends, dealing the final blow to a constitution already tottering to its fall.”

“Megalopolis” will be seeking distribution out of Cannes. Variety recently reported the film was nearing a deal in France with Le Pacte.

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