- Luzon, Philippines served as the main location for Apocalypse Now, with Baler Bay being used for airborne bombing scenes and other locations used to create the Vietnamese setting.
- Zambales Province, Philippines was also used for filming, but production was delayed due to Typhoon Olga, which destroyed sets and led to a production reconstruction.
- Napa Valley, California was adapted as a filming location during the production delay caused by Typhoon Olga, allowing the crew to make up for lost time and providing director Francis Ford Coppola with inspiration for the character of Colonel Kurtz.
1979’s Apocalypse Now would make use of numerous filming locations both in the United States and Southeast Asia. Directed and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now is set in the Vietnam War, with Captain Willard (Charlie Sheen) in pursuit of the deranged Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). In addition to Sheen and Brando, Apocalypse Now boasts a huge ensemble cast, including but not limited to Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, Harrison Ford, and Scott Glenn.
Apocalypse Now would become a big box office hit, standing as one of the most enduring war movies of all time and arguably the definitive Vietnam War movie, with Apocalypse Now even boasting four different cuts. Apocalypse Now would endure a very trouble production to get to achieve that distinction, though, with its location filming encountering some big hurdles that would set the film back and the movie’s production schedule stretching to a whopping 238 days. Here are the filming locations for Apocalypse Now and their role in Coppola’s war film.
For the movie’s battle scenes and primary setting in the Vietnam War, the island of Luzon, located in the Philippines, would serve as its main location. The island’s Baler Bay would be utilized as the filming location for the movie’s airborne bombing scenes, along with the shooting of other scenes. Meanwhile, other locations in Luzon would also be put to use to create the Vietnamese setting of Apocalypse Now, as well. Additionally, the movie’s surfing scenes would also be filmed in Luzon.
Zambales Province, Philippines
The Zambales Province of the Philippines would also serve as a filming location for Apocalypse Now, with the area specifically being used for the movie’s medevac sequence. Unfortunately, Apocalypse Now encountered some production issues with the onset of Typhoon Olga, which wreaked havoc on Iba municipality, where the movie’s Zambales scenes were filmed. Between 40 and 80 percent of the sets built in Iba were destroyed by Typhoon Olga, including the movie’s Playboy Playmate set.
This would lead to a production delay, with the wrecked sets having to be reconstructed and the movie’s cast returning to the U.S. until production was able to resume. This would also lead Coppola to not only make an insurance claim on the production but take out a hefty loan from the movie’s producing studio, United Artists. Accordingly, Coppola would have been on the hook to United Artists if Apocalypse Now did not surpass $40 million at the box office, but fortunately, the movie fared much better with its estimated $150 million haul.
Napa Valley, California
While the delayed production resulting from Typhoon Olga would greatly impact Apocalypse Now, Coppola managed to adapt to the situation in the United States. While sets in Iba were being reconstructed, Coppola elected to film some scenes in Napa Valley. This would ultimately allow the production to make up for some lost time as a result of the Typhoon.
The filming in Napa Valley would also prove advantageous for the story of Apocalypse Now in an unexpected way. While filming in Napa Valley during the pause in the Philippines shoot, Coppola would also read up on the famed warlord Ghengis Khan, which would give him a clearer perspective on the megalomania of Colonel Kurtz. In the end, the period between the initial shoot of Apocalypse Now and its Napa Valley period ended up being for the best.
Pagsanjan River, Philippines
Apocalypse Now would also use the Pagsanjan River in the Philippines as a key filming location, in place of the Magdapio River, which is part of the movie’s story. Among the scenes shown at the Pagsanjan River, filming at this location would also include the scenes taking place on the Do Long Bridge.
The Philippines’ capital city of Manila would also be used as a filming location for Apocalypse Now, with Coppola and the production crew residing in the city for most of the film’s production. One of the most significant scenes filmed in Manila would be the water buffalo ritual, while locals would also be used as extras for the Manila-based scenes filmed for the movie. In the end, Apocalypse Now would endure an apocalyptically bitter set of circumstances on its road to completion, with the movie’s struggles demonstrating just how challenging it really is to create a classic war movie.