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Against the chugga-chugga thump of whirring blades, a Rabbit Head—emblazoned chopper descends from the night sky onto a brightly lit stage as hundreds of G. Soon enough, the soldiers rush the platform, forcing the performers to depart. Like the movie as a whole, the scene brilliantly captures a frightening aspect of humanity: the menace of men driven to extremes. In , when Coppola started to consider directing Apocalypse Now, pretty much everyone around him thought it was a bad idea. War movies were hopelessly uncool, especially ones about Vietnam, from which the U.
But Coppola decided to take on the project and headed into the jungles of the Philippines—then under martial law and in the middle of a bloody civil conflict—where he turned a script by John Milius into a hallucinogenic antiwar epic. The movie has more than endured; it has evolved.
Kim Aubry, a producer on Redux , found inspiration in the original Playmate segment. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original release, we present the never-before-told oral history of how the Playmate scenes came to be, as related by those who were involved.
As they approach from the river, they ought to see a glimpse of this place. On one trip, the day I arrived, Marty Sheen had a heart attack, so they shut down production for six weeks. Another time, I arrived just in time for what was probably the largest typhoon of the decade.
Take cover! We were trapped in an abandoned building in the jungle, far away from the set and the rest of the crew, with no way to communicate, no telephones. It was so loud. Here I am, 25 and pretty innocent, and all these grown men around me were scared to death that everybody was going to die. It was a major event; it destroyed the USO set, and we had to rebuild it. Fred Roos, co-producer of Apocalypse Now, came to visit that location in , and I met him there. Fast-forward to when he was casting Apocalypse Now. I met with Fred, Francis and producer Gray Frederickson, and at first I did not want to do any nudity.
But Cyndi Wood, who was Playmate of the Year, was a very close friend of mine. We worked together a lot. She was very critical of my going [to the Apocalypse Now set in the Philippines]; she thought it was too soon to make a movie like that, because it would take away from the war in a way. That kind of feeling was going around. I mean, it was very soon after the war ended. That little routine was nothing, but we shot for 16 hours straight and had to do it over and over again. So we cast Colleen Camp.
We had Cyndi Wood, Colleen Camp and Linda Carpenter—all beautiful, very nice young women—and they worked with the choreographer to work out a little routine. So I got cast. I stayed in the Philippines for almost two months in We did a lot of work to locate army installations and educational institutions. That was a big and difficult effort.
He was a remarkably wonderful person, Bill Graham. I was 23 years old. The sequence that we filmed was unbelievable. So that was the fun of it, as it were. And of course the challenge was that this unlikely show-business show should be deposited right there in the midst of antiquity. Obviously it was night, so the photographer had to figure out how the hell he would see it. He came up with this concept of these almost rafts with banks of lights on them, which were there to illuminate the scene. It was amazing. Here we are, in the middle of the Philippines.
We had to be really careful because of the helicopter blades, and the pilots were 18, 19 years old—they were very young. I remember we had to get out of the helicopter onto that little tiny strip and just start dancing. They had to get different angles, and they shot the audience, and they did this and that.
I collapsed on the stage from exhaustion. They brought in a doctor, and he gave me a couple of B12 injections. That was kind of intense. It was meant to be an incredible contradiction where the Americans had brought their whole culture into this ancient, primeval jungle.
Once we had it all together, we just shot through the night. The reason it took so many hours to shoot was it involved difficult stunts—when the helicopter flies up and there are still guys hanging on to it and they drop into the water. Colleen had a wonderful sense of humor on the set.
The guys were supposed to go nuts, which is absolutely believable, and start leaping onto the stage. If I had been Colleen or Cyndi or Linda, I think it would have been scary to have all these guys come jumping out. He was an incredible director. The point I was trying to make was that in a way the abuse of sending a year-old boy to Vietnam is as immoral as what is done to these young girls. Obviously, because Coppola was involved, I think we skipped that step. But they basically left us alone, and I was always very appreciative. During the Vietnam war, a group of guys in the rd Airborne Brigade pooled their money, and one of them, Jack Price, ordered a lifetime subscription.
They wanted a Playmate to deliver it, which was part of the deal. Long story short, Playmate of the Year Jo Collins went to the hospital in Vietnam where these men were and met them. I had no clue. Never in a million years did I think it was going to turn out the way it did. No girls ever went over there and jumped out of a helicopter and did a go-go dance or anything like that. We could have been blown up at any time. Scary, exciting—it was all those things. I visited as many bases and medical field centers as they allowed. I wish I could have worn attractive outfits, like the miniskirts and go-go boots [the Playmates wear in the movie].
However, that has never been substantiated. I know he was well aware that there were Playboy Playmates in Vietnam. I did not know of it. Those scenes were crucial to the subsequent scene. But the day I arrived in March , Martin Sheen had a heart attack, so the scenes we were shooting never had a setup. You might as well shoot.
So we all went during the typhoon, and the crew tried to put the set back together. The rain was coming down unbelievably. And that was put back in the Redux version. The point I was trying to make was that in a way the abuse of sending a year-old boy to Vietnam to drop napalm on people is as immoral as what is done to these young, beautiful girls at That was a symbol of abuse—what we do to the young men, we also do to the young girls in our so-called civilization. At the end of the day, it was a lesson. It was a very important thing to learn, and I was lucky to learn it at that age.
A lot of people said it was too long and too weird. Apocalypse Now: Final Cut has the Playmate show, of course, but it does not have the medevac scene. We were in a solid concrete building with no glass in the windows when the biggest typhoon hit. It was so loud, it was deafening, like at any moment the whole building would cave in. From the Summer Playboy.Apocalypse now sex scene
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Apocalypse Now: Final Cut