Highly-Anticipated Blockbuster Film In Historic Production Trouble

Francis Ford Coppola's Megalopolis is in trouble, with two key members of the production team leaving and the director firing most of the visual effects team.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

francis ford coppola
Francis Ford Coppola

Sci-fi fans have been eagerly anticipating the release of Megalopolis, the ambitious genre film by legendary film director Francis Ford Coppola. The director has paid for the movie’s budget (originally projected to be $120 million, but it has been ballooning ever since) out of his own pocket, clearly gambling that the movie would be a big success. Now, though, The Hollywood Reporter has reported that the film (which is only halfway through production in Atlanta) has lost its production designer and supervising art director, and their departures on top of Coppola firing almost the entire visual effects team in December have put the movie in serious danger of finishing production.

The plot of the film involves a world where New York has been mostly destroyed by a major disaster and now an architect wishes to rebuild the famous city as a kind of utopia. To bring the plot to life, Francis Ford Coppola has assembled a star-studded cast, including Adam Driver, Dustin Hoffman, Forrest Whitaker, Shia LaBeouf, Laurence Fishburne, and more. While the casting seems on point, it looks like the main challenge the director is facing is the simple fact that he’s never worked on a movie so reliant on special effects.

Even if the film production was going perfectly, it was obvious that Francis Ford Coppola would have to spend a small fortune to make it happen. Sources say that he was originally using the kind of production technology that makes The Mandalorian look so good. However, that show has the financial backing of Disney’s deep pockets, and Coppola had to dig into his profits from selling his California wineries to finance this troubled film, with sources claiming that even after those visual production costs, the film had to move back to the traditional use of a green screen.

A lack of familiarity with heavy special effects could have been mitigated by hiring the right effects team, but Coppola clearly wasn’t happy with their work. Back in December, Francis Ford Coppola fired almost all of the visual effects team. He did the same thing on Dracula 30 years ago, but that movie didn’t have the director’s personal fortune riding on its success or failure.

francis ford coppola
Gary Oldman in Dracula (1992)

Possibly due to all the headaches and drama, production designer Beth Mickle and supervising art director David Scott have now left the film altogether. In the absolute best-case scenario, this would significantly slow down production because so many key people will need to be replaced. But the larger concern is that Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t seem to know what he is doing and that the Godfather director may be sullying his own legacy.

However, fans of Francis Ford Coppola are quick to point out that we may still have reasons to be hopeful about Megalopolis. After all, these stories of the film’s production issues have prompted comparisons to Apocalpyse Now, another Coppola film that had an infamously troubled production in which everyone was slowly descending into madness on both sides of the camera. But that movie went on to earn two Oscars, so only time will tell if Coppola is a bit like Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kurtz: either a director who uses “unsound methods” to achieve success or one where nobody can see “any method at all.”