Francis Ford Coppola accused of trying to kiss extras on 'Megalopolis' set

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Francis Ford Coppola accused of trying to kiss extras on 'Megalopolis' set
Francis Ford Coppola in Napa, Calif., Nov. 20, 2020. (Mark Mahaney/The New York Times).

by Esther Zuckerman

NEW YORK, NY.- As anticipation for the premiere of “Megalopolis,” Francis Ford Coppola’s first film in more than a decade, built to a fever pitch at Cannes, the director faced accusations Tuesday that he tried to kiss extras during a nightclub sequence.

A report in The Guardian detailing the film’s chaotic production said that according to anonymous sources, Coppola pulled women to sit on his lap, and tried to kiss scantily clad extras.

In response, a representative for Coppola referred to a statement from executive producer Darren Demetre, published by The Hollywood Reporter, in which he said, “I was never aware of any complaints of harassment or ill behavior during the course of the project.” Demetre also noted in the statement that during two days of shooting a “celebratory Studio 54-esque club scene,” the director “walked around the set to establish the spirit of the scene by giving kind hugs and kisses on the cheek to the cast and background players. It was his way to help inspire and establish the club atmosphere, which was so important to the film.”

The article focused largely on the movie’s unusual production conditions and, citing an unnamed crew member, said that Coppola stayed in his trailer for hours at a time, delaying filming.

Mariela Comitini, a first assistant director on “Megalopolis,” told the Times through a representative, “I can say working alongside Francis Ford Coppola was an honor. I watched as Francis created a vibrant, professional and positive environment on set, and I wish I could be part of the celebration in Cannes. As one of the industry’s most well-respected master filmmakers, Francis was undaunted by the enormity of this undertaking, and he finished the film on time and on budget.”

The report was published in advance of the film’s Thursday premiere in the Cannes competition, where the stakes are high since the movie has yet to find U.S. distribution. (After an early screening for buyers, one source told Puck that it had zero commercial prospects but that that wasn’t a bad thing.) On Tuesday, Coppola, best known as the director of the “Godfather” trilogy, posted a teaser for the dystopian “Megalopolis” that reflected ancient Roman influences and featured hallucinatory special effects.

Coppola has been toying with the idea of making “Megalopolis” since the 1980s and eventually sold a portion of his wine estate to put up $120 million of his own money to get it made. The film stars Adam Driver as an architect who wants to rebuild a futuristic New York. The architect has the ability to stop time, and over the course of the film he comes into conflict with future New York’s mayor, played by Giancarlo Esposito, while also being romantically involved with the mayor’s daughter (Nathalie Emmanuel). The film also features Aubrey Plaza as a journalist named Wow Platinum, as well as Jon Voight and Shia LaBeouf.

Coppola told Vanity Fair that he began writing the script in earnest in the past dozen years, and imagined “a Roman epic set in modern America,” taking specific interest in a 63 B.C. incident known as the Catiline Conspiracy involving Cicero.

Of course, reports of tempestuous productions are nothing new for Coppola, who made “Apocalypse Now,” a troubled production that was chronicled in the documentary “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” featuring footage captured by his wife, Eleanor Coppola. She died last month at 87.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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