Movie fans can be easily duped when a well-known marquee actor is featured prominently on a movie poster or promotional material for an upcoming, highly anticipated project, only to find that said actor is barely in the movie. When Francis Ford Coppola released an all-new director's cut of his psychedelic war film "Apocalypse Now," billed famously as "Apocalypse Now Redux," Harrison Ford's name suddenly appeared on the poster as the fifth-billed actor right behind Dennis Hopper and Laurence Fishburne. Does anyone even remember Harrison Ford originally being in "Apocalypse Now?"
Another misdirect that comes to mind is the final poster for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." While Drew Struzan's artwork doesn't feature Luke, Mark Hamill's name is second-billed right between Ford's name and the illustrious Carrie Fisher. "Star Wars" fans all know how that one turned out. By the time "Apocalypse Now" arrived in theaters in 1979, Ford was already a household name throughout the galaxy after his instantly iconic turn as the roguish Han Solo. So, it wasn't exactly easy for him to blend in as an anxious soldier tasked with giving Martin Sheen's Captain Willard the order to "terminate" Colonel Kurtz in a quick but crucial scene.
In the informative book "Harrison Ford: The Films" by Brad Duke, the extensive cameo by Ford was a way for the actor to work with Coppola, who was obviously in the prime of his artistic abilities after reinventing the crime film with "The Godfather" and then improving upon it in the superior "The Godfather Part II." In a twist of fate, George Lucas was originally going to direct "Apocalypse Now," so it's fitting that Ford paid tribute to Lucas in a gesture so subtle that even the director himself didn't catch it.
'You Weren't Supposed To Recognize Me'
Looking closely, Harrison Ford's character name is clearly visible on an identification patch on his uniform. The name "Lucas" is stitched just under the right label of his army fatigues. According to Brad Duke's all-encompassing book, Ford had the wardrobe department add the homage, a loving nod that is much more obvious in the "Apocalypse Now Redux" given the higher picture quality. Funnily enough, when George Lucas originally watched Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam epic, he didn't even notice the reference. In fact, Lucas didn't even realize that Ford was playing Colonel Lucas until the scene was nearly half over.
Ford apparently responded proudly, saying "I'm an actor. You weren't supposed to recognize me." Maybe it was the glasses? Ford certainly isn't the center of attention in the mission briefing scene, with closeups of Sheen taking up most of the frame and actor G.D. Spradlin taking up most of the oxygen. The entirety of Ford's time on set of "Apocalypse Now" lasted only four days, although the newly in-demand actor was scheduled for nine full days. The performance is in a minor role, but watching it again, Ford really is convincing as a war-weary soldier forced to order Capt. Willard to hunt down and silence Marlon Brando's unhinged Colonel Kurtz.
It's up for argument whether or not the "Apocalypse Now Redux" is an improvement over the original, but the decision to re-insert a legendary lost plantation sequence with a French colonial family wound up being a textbook example for master filmmakers to know what to leave in or take out of the final edit. Maybe leave Harrison Ford's name off the poster next time though?
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