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The Brutal Life of Playing a Severed Head on ‘Apocalypse Now’

Apocalypse Now extras

Francis Ford Coppola’s follow-up to his two “Godfather” masterpieces is “Apocalypse Now.” But, if you’ve seen the behind-the-scenes documentary “Hearts of Darkness,” you know how much hell went on behind the scenes. From massive delays, harsh shooting conditions, and an uncooperative Marlon Brando, Coppola’s film was incredibly difficult to make. But being an extra was also a crazy amount of work. 

Check out this photo above to see what it was like to play a severed head on Coppola’s film. Yes, these extras were playing the role of “severed head” and it was a ton of work. 

These extras would be in boxes underground to simulate the effect of having no body. But for many of these extras, getting out in between takes would be too much work. They would have to readjust their makeup and then re-do their position and make it perfect for the shot. So, many of them would just stay buried between takes! 

Imagine shooting in the jungle and having to literally be buried for hours on end. That’s commitment. I’m always amazed by the work that goes unnoticed, and while you may have thought they were prop heads, these images below will show you they were very much real. 

“Apocalypse Now,” like many films of cinema history, has a complex legacy. In a time when PTSD was finally being diagnosed, “Apocalypse Now” tackled it head on, elevating the war drama into psychology. But conversely, the film has been under fire for its racist treatment of its Vietnamese characters. 

However you feel about the movie, one thing is certain: the extras deserve a lot more credit!