Clint Eastwood: Why He Turned Down the Title Character in ‘Apocalypse Now’

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Clint Eastwood, if he wasn’t against spending so much time away from home, could’ve been one of the stars in “Apocalypse Now.”

The movie is considered one of the best movies in American cinema history. How much different could it have been if Clint Eastwood played the lead rather than Martin Sheen?

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Eastwood said Francis Ford Coppola offered him the role. And Steve McQueen called to talk to him about it.

Clint Eastwood Turned Down Spot In All-Star Cast

The movie, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards, starred Marlon Brando, Sheen, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms and Dennis Hopper. The story is based on the novel “Heart of Darkness.” Coppola changed the war in the novel to Vietnam.

Coppola offered Clint Eastwood the chance to play Captain Benjamin L. Willard. The character was on a secret mission from the government. He was told to assassinate Marlon Brando’s character, Col Kurtz.

Clint Eastwood recalled: “Coppola called me up and asked me if I wanted to do the young guy I think later played by Martin Sheen. And (he) asked me if I wanted to play that. I said “gee, I don’t know, I don’t understand this show too much.” I did read Heart of Darkness when I was young. And so I kind of knew where it was going. But then I said no, I don’t think I can go off for that long a time.

Star Didn’t Want To Spend 4 Months Away From Home

“He was going to go 16 weeks in the Philippines. And then Steve McQueen called me and he says why don’t you come on and you come on and play this role? I said I thought you were going to play that role because I’d read somewhere that he was going to play.

Clint Eastwood continued: “He said no, no, he said I want to play the Kurtz role that Brando ended up playing. And I said well why do you want to play that? He says well, I get the same money, but I only have to work two weeks. I said well you’ve figured it out. I said I don’t know about going to the Philippines. And there’s a lot of unknown factors maybe over there. And I’d just gotten through building a house and everything and I thought no I don’t want to go away that long.”

Eastwood Says He’s Anti-War

Clint Eastwood played a lot of cowboys and celebrated anti-heroes in his career. He talked to the Hollywood Reporter during the run-up to American Sniper. Eastwood directed the movie, which was about the war in Iraq.

He said he considered himself “anti-war.”

“I’ve done war movies because they’re always loaded with drama and conflict.” Eastwood said. “But as far as actual participation … it’s one of those things that should be done with a lot of thought, if it needs to be done. Self-protection is a very important thing for nations, but I just don’t like to see it.”

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