Francis Ford Coppola is running out of things to do. The legendary director of the Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now doesn’t really direct very often anymore, having largely retired from commercial filmmaking after Youth Without Youth, Tetro, and Twixt so he could make wine and not have to talk to anyone about superhero movies, but it seems like he got the bug again last year when—having suddenly found himself with a summer of nothing but free time—he decided to recut and release The Godfather: Part III as Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death Of Michael Corleone. Now, with “make a good version of Godfather III” checked off on his bucket list, Coppola evidently just has one thing left to make: Megalopolis, the sci-fi epic of his dreams.
Coppola has been sitting on Megalopolis for decades, but he started putting together some early footage of New York skyscrapers (the film is a whole New York thing, we’ll get to it) in 2001… until 9/11 happened, and the idea of a movie that’s a whole New York thing became a little less viable. Now, though, Deadline says Coppola wants to get back to it, and he’s so eager to finally make Megalopolis that he’s willing to match “some outside financing” nearly “dollar for dollar.” He thinks the movie could cost $100 million, and that means he’s willing to put up a huge chunk of that cash himself.
So what the heck is Megalopolis? We covered it here at The A.V. Club over a decade ago in a 2008 piece about seemingly “lost” projects that we wanted to see in honor of the then-recent release of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy, but Coppola explains in that Deadline story that the movie is a “Roman epic” based on the classic Catiline Conspiracy but “set in modern times,” with New York sitting in as a fictional city called New Rome in the midst of a financial crisis and a feud between rich guy Catiline and “beleaguered mayor” Cicero. Casting hasn’t been officially finished yet, but Coppola wants Oscar Isaac to play Catiline and Forest Whitaker to play Cicero.
Thematically, Coppola says Megalopolis will be an “exciting change from the kinds of movies being offered to the public,” because it “puts forward a fundamental message that it’s time for us to consider that the society we live in isn’t the only alternative available to us.” He wants young people to realize that a “utopia” isn’t an experimental thing but a “discussion of people asking the right questions” about what kind of society they want to live in, and he hopes this movie will spark conversations about that. Basically, it’s exactly the kind of grand Hollywood epic that you’d expect a largely retired filmmaker to have been sitting on for a decade while he figures out how to raise $100 million.