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Scott Glenn got his Apocalypse Now role after saving Francis Ford Coppola’s life

Apocalypse Now
(Image credit: IMDb)

The casting process for a major movie is generally not super straightforward – but does it usually involve life or death situations? For Scott Glenn, who played Lt. Richard M. Colby in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 war epic Apocalypse Now, it did.

Glenn described the casting process for the movie in a recent interview with GQ, including how he went to an open call for the film among 50 other actors vying for various supporting roles. The movie follows a U.S. Army officer serving in Vietnam, who’s tasked with assassinating a renegade Special Forces Colonel who sees himself as a god.

“I got to the Philippines on a Friday. Almost everyone was going back to Manila to have their weekend, and I decided I would just stay on location,” Glenn continued. “That Friday evening, the worst typhoon to hit the Philippines since 1932 came in. Everyone thought we were dead.”

Although everyone survived, the sets were all destroyed. Coppola returned to the area a few days later on a boat with other members of the crew, and Glenn noticed that the edge of the stream they were on had become white water in the aftermath of the storm. He said he realised that because of how the boat was anchored with a rope, there was a chance it could be ripped apart at any moment – so he instantly cut the rope.

Coppola reportedly thanked Glenn for saving his life and promised to beef up his role, but he didn’t want that – instead, he requested if he could have a role in the final scene of the film, allowing him to share screen time with the likes of Marlon Brando. 

Meanwhile, in other Coppola news, the director’s cut of The Godfather 3 came out earlier this month. The final instalment in the trilogy has been re-titled The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone and it’s five minutes shorter than the original. 

If you’re a fan of Apocalypse Now, check out our list of the other best war movies of all time.

I’m an Entertainment Writer at GamesRadar+, covering everything film and TV-related across the Total Film and SFX sections – I help bring you all the latest news and the occasional feature, too. I’ve previously written for publications like HuffPost and i-D after getting my NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism.