HEARTS OF DARKNESS REDUX
I walked into the Filmmaker office yesterday and Ben Crossley-Marra and Jason Guerrasio were bent over a computer monitor, excited to come across the news that Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper and Eleanor Coppola’s documentary Hearts of Darkness is set for a DVD release from Paramount Home Entertainment. As our post didn’t include the studio and director Hickenlooper is a friend of Jeff Wells and a regular poster at Hollywood Elsewhere, Wells posted a skeptical post about the release, wondering why he hadn’t heard it about from George first.
Hickenlooper posts in the comments thread below Wells’s piece the news that he hadn’t heard of the DVD release until yesterday when he spotted the press release on the internet too.
Here are his comments, which I’m taking the liberty of quoting in full. Head over to the thread on Wells’s site at the link above for the full and evolving story including Hickenlooper’s plans for some possible theatrical screenings of the pic.
Uhm, guys, I only found out about this the same way Jeff did. Last night while surfing the net. I haven’t talked to Fax, but I am really surprised by this development. The only thing I know is that it is coming out on Paramount. I am also frankly bummed that I wasn’t asked to do a commentary. The promotion of this film was always frustrtating to me, even back in ’91. Eleanor did very little to ever mention Fax or my name when she promoted the picture. When she went on the TV talk show circuit, understandably everyone wanted to talk to her, but she never once mentioned Fax or me. YES, of course, she narrates the film and she shot the raw footage in the Phillipines. But the fact that she narrates the story is only because of a huge fight I had with the producers and Showtime. My father bought me Eleanor’s book “Notes” on my sixteenth birthday and I loved it. It’s how I fell in love with “Apocalypse Now.” When I was invited to write and direct “Hearts of Darkness,” Showtime’s plan was to make a one hour TV special called “Apocalypse Now Revisited.” My editors Michael Greer, Jay Miracle and I saw that the film had much larger potential. I saw it because of her diary and we all saw it because of these audio tapes my assistant editor Shana Hagan found in a box up at Francis’ vinyard. Anyway, to make a long story short I had to fight and fight to get Steve Hewitt and George Zaloom and even Fax to some extent to allow Eleanor’s diary to be the narraative thru line. On top of that Fax and I clearly cut the picture together and made a story out of all this crazy footage that had lingered in storage for thirteen years before we got involved. Eleanor never had a clue what to do with it and to be fair to her she was wonderful in allowing us to tell the story as we saw fit. And to Francis’ credit he signed off on the picture. I was amazed that a man so powerful would have the courage to let us portray him without any interference whatsoever. It is a testament to the greatness of his character and spirit. And I say that sincerely. What irks me is that when the film came out Eleanor became a bit of a credit hog. And now with the release of the DVD and not even being asked to do a commentary is kind of a slap in the face from my point of view. It also saddens me that I spent many hours of time and energy talking to the folks at Criterion who are dying to put it out. I even flew myself to Denver to have lunch with Francis to talk him into it. That was three years ago. He said he’d get back to me but I guess he’s been to busy. So here we are. I found out about it last night and it’s coming out on Paramount DVD. I only hope that it has it’s 1.33 aspect ratio. A lot of theaters mistakenly projected it at 1.85 and cut off some of the titles and images. Maybe someday Criterion will be able to get it and I’ll be able to do the commentary and tell all these hilarious stories about my encounter with Denis Jacob who stole the negative when Francis was in post. About how the all the footage we were cutting was almost lost in the Universal backlot fire and that our editing trailers were only saved because the “Back to the Future” clocktower absorbed the flames as a kind of firewall. There’s also some funny stories about my meeting with Harvey Keitel and Sean Penn while they were working out and trying to convince Harvey to sign off on allowing us to use his likeness and to do an interview. It was certainly a moment to remember. Harvey is the best.