Francis Ford Coppola Addresses Allegations of Inappropriate Behavior on ‘Megalopolis’ Set: ‘I’m Not Touchy-Feely’

Francis Ford Coppola has addressed the allegations that he made advances with actresses on the set of “Megalopolis.”

In a report last month by The Guardian, multiple anonymous crew members said Coppola behaved inappropriately amid production. Now, during an hour-long interview Coppola gave to Manohla Dargis of the The New York Times during the Cannes Film Festival, the filmmaker denied the allegations in a roundabout way. In part, Coppola pointed to how he was raised and the morals he learned from his mother, Italia Coppola.

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“My mother told me that if you make an advance toward a woman, it means you disrespect her, and the girls I had crushes on, I certainly didn’t disrespect them,” Coppola said.

As the New York Times wrote, “Pressed further, he added that there was a photo of one of the ‘girls’ he kissed on the cheek that had been taken by her father. ‘I knew her when she was 9,'” Coppola said.

A source confirmed to IndieWire the woman referred to worked as an extra on the “Megalopolis” set.

Coppola added to The New York Times, “I’m not touchy-feely. I’m too shy.”

The May 14 report in the The Guardian stated: “Several sources also felt that Coppola could be ‘old school’ in his behavior around women. He allegedly pulled women to sit on his lap, for example. And during one bacchanalian nightclub scene being shot for the film, witnesses say, Coppola came on to the set and tried to kiss some of the topless and scantily clad female extras. He apparently claimed he was ‘trying to get them in the mood.'”

When the allegations were made public ahead of the Cannes premiere of “Megalopolis,” “Megalopolis” first assistant director Mariela Comitini shared a statement with IndieWire.

“As a 1st AD with more than 35 films to my credit, I can say working alongside Francis Ford Coppola was an honor,” Comitini said. “I watched as Francis created a vibrant, professional and positive environment on set, and I wish I could be part of the celebration in Cannes. As one of the industry’s most well-respected master filmmakers, Francis was undaunted by the enormity of this undertaking, and he finished the film on time and on budget.”

Executive co-producer Darren Demetre also issued a statement refuting the claims and said he was “never aware of any complaints of harassment” during production.

“I have known and worked with Francis and his family for over 35 years. As one of the first assistant directors and an executive producer on his new epic, ‘Megalopolis,’ I helped oversee and advise the production and ran the second unit,” Demetre said. “Francis successfully produced and directed an enormous independent film, making all the difficult decisions to ensure it was delivered on time and on budget, while remaining true to his creative vision. There were two days when we shot a celebratory Studio 54-esque club scene where Francis walked around the set to establish the spirit of the scene by giving kind hugs and kisses on the cheek to the cast and background players. It was his way to help inspire and establish the club atmosphere, which was so important to the film. I was never aware of any complaints of harassment or ill behavior during the course of the project.”

This was not the only controversy from the “Megalopolis” production. Preproduction began in July 2022 and shooting started in November, but by December most of the visual effects and art teams left the project including VFX production supervisor Mark Russell, production designer Beth Mickle, and supervising art director David Scott. (A source told IndieWire that creative differences between Coppola and select crew members led to their respective departures that were either being fired or quitting.)

The creative overhaul prompted a statement from the Art Directors Guild that it would look into the situation to “ensure proper staffing and scheduling.” New production designer Bradley Rubin (“The Mandalorian,” “A Star Is Born”) came on board.

“Megalopolis” star Adam Driver defended the production process.

“All good here! Not sure what set you’re talking about! I don’t recognize that one! I’ve been on sets that were chaotic and this one is far from it,” Driver said in a statement to IndieWire. “The environment that’s being created by Francis, is one of focus and inspiration. As of now, we’re on schedule, making our days, and honestly, it’s been one of the best shooting experiences I’ve had. Our crew is fast and inventive, our costume department is on point, the actors are incredible and willing, and Francis is one of the most insightful and caring people to work with. I’m very proud to be making this movie with him, and them, and though I haven’t interviewed everyone, I can confidently say that that’s the general attitude on set.”

Driver later told Paste that “Megalopolis” was “one of the most exciting things that I’ve ever been a part of” and was “one of the best shooting experiences I’ve had.”

Writer/director Coppola said to Deadline in 2023 that while “Megalopolis” is a “big, difficult movie” to make, there were no issues in production.

“A rumor starts out; there was a report about chaos. But the source was no source,” Coppola said. “From my point of view, I was on schedule, which, on a big, difficult movie, is hard to do. I love my actors, and there is not one of them I would change. The movie has a style that went beyond my expectations. That’s sincerely how I feel.”

“Megalopolis,” which premiered at Cannes, does not have distribution. Coppola funded the film, which had a $125 million budget, himself.

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