Cannes: Francis Ford Coppola’s Much-Discussed ‘Megalopolis’ Receives 10-Minute Standing Ovation

Francis Ford Coppola’s long-gestating and much-discussed sci-fi epic Megalopolis had its world premiere on Thursday night at the Cannes Film Festival, and was greeted with a 10-minute standing ovation inside the Grand Lumiere Theatre, as he gave a hug to each of his his principal stars — among them Nathalie Emmanuel, Adam Driver, Aubrey Plaza and Giancarlo Esposito — and threw his hat into the cheering crowd.

Coppola, who lost his wife Eleanor last month, eventually interrupted the applause to take a microphone and introduce the members of his family who were with him, including his son, Roman Coppola, and sister, Talia Shire, both of whom worked on the film. He then said of his other collaborators on the film: “They were all my family. And in fact, as [Driver’s character] Cesar says [in the film], ‘We are all one family.'”

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Added the filmmaker: “The most important thing we have, the most beautiful word I think in any language, is — speranza — hope! And that’s what I dedicate this movie to. Hope, and the children. Make the world for the children.”

Thursday’s build-up to the unveiling of the film was epic. First, Imax said that it would give Megalopolis a global theatrical release, with timing yet to be determined. Then, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” played as Coppola approached the Palais on his way to the premiere — an appropriate song given that the filmmaker made his latest film outside the Hollywood system, retaining complete control. That was followed by applause inside the theater as Coppola’s arrival was shown on the big screen. The anticipation increased further when the theme from The Godfather played — and people applauded — inside the cinema as Coppola was shown walking the red carpet with his cane. Then, Driver helped the Coppola up the steps of the Palais to greet festival boss Thierry Fremaux. And finally, there was a massive ovation as Coppola entered the theater.

Among the notables in attendance at the screening were Richard Gere, who is at the fest with the film Oh, Canada and gave Coppola a hug before the film started, as well as Challengers star Mike Faist and Hans Zimmer.

Coppola, 85, last had a film in competition at Cannes 45 years agoApocalypse Now, for which he was awarded the Palme d’Or for the second time, five years after The Conversation won it.

Like Apocalypse Now, Megalopolis came into the fest under a microscope: Coppola has been talking about the project for decades; poured a stunning $120 million of his own money into it; and had a VFX-heavy shoot in Atlanta that THR reported was chaotic in numerous ways.

Much is riding on the film’s reception at Cannes, especially in the aftermath of a March 28 private screening in L.A. from which potential buyers emerged skeptical about the film’s commercial prospects. This week at the fest, the film’s distribution rights for several European territories were sold. But it has yet to find a U.S. distributor.

No matter what happens, Coppola can say he did it his way. As The Hollywood Reporter chief film critic David Rooney opened his review to the film, “The character in Megalopolis played by Adam Driver with idealistic passion, Cesar Catilina, is a visionary genius intent on saving New York City by building a utopian future, dislodging the elite ruling class in the process. In many ways, Cesar’s mission, both noble and egomaniacal, seems a direct reflection of the dogged determination of Francis Ford Coppola to get this movie made at any cost.”

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