Filmed in the country at the height of Martial Law in 1976, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” is included in just about every major list of the greatest films of all time, alongside at least two of Coppola’s other masterpieces, “The Godfather” 1 and 2.
But for all the accolades it has received since its release in 1979, the Vietnam war saga is also notorious for its own apocalyptic production woes and huge budget overruns caused by a killer typhoon that destroyed its expensive sets, at least one major actor (Martin Sheen) suffering from a near fatal heart attack, and many other issues.
In many published accounts, including “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” the award-winning documentary on the making of the film, the Martial-Law era Philippines was blamed for much of the delay in production.
Not true, says Lope “Jun” Juban, Jr., head of Philippine Film Studios, Inc. that co-produces Hollywood films shot in the country, including “The Bourne Legacy” and, yes, “Apocalypse Now”.
In a 2011 interview with this writer for Uno, a popular men’s magazine in Guam (no relation to UNO Philippines), Juban corrected many misconceptions about the Marcos government’s role in the many misfortunes that befell “Apocalypse Now”. Excerpts of that article called “Apocalypse Then” are incorporated into this piece with the magazine’s permission.
The 51-year-old Jun actually belongs to the latest generation of Jubans whose involvement in the film industry began as suppliers of movie guns and blank-firing firearms for most local and foreign productions.
Back in 1976, Jun Juban was just a 15-year-old high school student who wanted to make some extra dough through a summer job for his elder brother, who had landed a gig as the military liaison officer for a high-profile Vietnam war epic from Coppola, who was coming off the astounding success of “The Godfather Part II”.
“I was actually in the payroll of my brother Dennis, who became the Philippine Coordinator for the film. I’m not in the film credits because I was one of his assistants. So I guess you could say I was the assistant to the assistant,” Juban recalled.
As for his own job description, Juban says it was all sorts of odd jobs—anything his brother asked. “I would drive him, Coppola and producer Gray Frederickson where they want to go,” he admitted.
“When I was in Manila, I did the immigration run for them, worked for the extensions of visas for the cast and the crew, which was necessary since many of them were here longer than they intended to be.”
More importantly, Juban’s main job was to take care of the pilots. “I made sure they were fed, were given allowances and were happy every time they were on the set. They were, after all, the stars of the show and were needed for key scenes in the movie, particularly the Ride of the Valkyries sequence.”
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