Where Was Apocalypse Now Filmed?

A few movies can capture the banality of evil and violence in the way that ‘Apocalypse Now’ does – for a generation reared under the looming threat of the Vietnam War, this is perhaps the most palpable depiction of the biblical apocalypse. Although Francis Ford Coppola has a repository of titles under his name, this 1979 epic psychological war movie is unarguably the director’s magnum opus, and it has come to define a brand of epic visual storytelling. Loosely based upon Joseph Conrad’s highly symbolic novella ‘Heart of Darkness,’ the story deports the audiences in the middle of a bizarre dystopia that goes down in history as the Vietnam War.

It also comes to mark a chapter in the American imagination. An ambivalent Willard is summoned to terminate one Colonel Kurtz, who has turned morally corrupt and formed something of a cult in the deep jungles. The journey becomes a glorious exploration of everything war stands for – vanity, bloodbath, suspicion, and chaos. For most parts, the movie is episodic and tied by an ominous boat journey through the Nùng River to Kurtz’s empire of darkness. Well, if you are asking where the movie was actually filmed, now that is a question to give some thought.

Apocalypse Now Filming Locations

‘Apocalypse Now’ was filmed mostly in the Philippines, with a few sequences shot in the US. On March 1, 1976, Coppola took his family to the Philippines hoping to commence filming, and production finally kickstarted on March 20, 1976. Well, the initial schedule entailed mere six weeks, but the director went all the way. After 238 days of filming and some accidents, the principal photography wrapped up on May 21, 1977. The director’s wife Eleanor Coppola captured the shoot in the documentary ‘Heart of Darkness.’

The cinematic story is supposed to be unfolding somewhere on the border of Vietnam and Cambodia, and Coppola initially thought of filming in Vietnam. However, weighing the dangers, the cast and crew filmed the majority of the sequences in the Philippines. The director came back with a lasting achievement of cinema. Art director Dean Tavoularis and his team got an Academy nomination for their impeccable work. Coppola lost around 100 pounds, and Martin Sheen had a heart attack while filming. Let us now take you to the specific locations where the movie was shot!

Luzon, Philippines

Filming was mostly carried out on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Coppola shot almost 200 hours of footage in a filming schedule that was nothing less than the nightmare depicted on the screen. The early helicopter bombing on the sleepy villages was filmed in Baler Bay, a bay located in the northeastern region of Luzon, in the province of Aurora. The early surfing scenes were filmed in the same area. The beach has come to be known as Charlie Beach after the famous line “Charlie don’t surf.”

The crew also visited Zambales, north of Subic Bay, which became the location of a U.S. Navy base. The memorable medevac scene, where the soldiers meet a group of women, was filmed in the region. It was specifically filmed on a beach near Iba, the capital of the Zambales Province, but Typhoon Olga gave the crew some hard time. Forty to eighty percent of the sets were destroyed and needed to be recreated. The Playboy Playmate set was pretty much wrecked and needed to be recreated.

The Pagsanjan River of the Philippines stood in for the Magdapio River that leads the party to Kurtz’s colony. The Do Long Bridge scenes were also constructed from scratch in the same river, in the Laguna province of the Philippines. Additionally, scenes were also filmed in Metro Manila, the national capital region of the Philippines. The local Ifugaos were cast to play extras and disembodied heads, and the final cathartic ritual involving the water buffalo was an age-old Ifugao tradition that the director managed to capture on camera.

Napa Valley, California

Some scenes were filmed on location in California. The director had to go back to California when the production got delayed, and he thought of filming a few sequences in the Napa Valley region of California. During his interval in California, the director read a book on Genghis Khan and got a better grip of the character of Kurtz.

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