Branson’s giant-screen Imax is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Producer, Writer and Director Francis Ford Coppola’s critically acclaimed, award-winning classic “Apocalypse Now” by giving folks the chance to experience the Vietnam War epic with two special screenings of a new version of the film, which has been remixed and restored, called “Apocalypse Now Final Cut,” at 7 p.m. Thursday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18.

As part of this special event, the folks at the Imax have invited one of the film’s co-producers, Academy Award-winner Gray Frederickson, to intro the film, as well as participate in a Q & A before the Thursday night showing, which is the actual 40th anniversary of the film’s release.

“I’m looking forward to it because I haven’t seen the ‘Final Cut’ yet,” Frederickson said. “Plus I’ve never seen it on a big screen. Well, I mean I saw it in theaters when it came out, but those are nothing like the big screens we have today.”

Throughout Frederickson’s 50-year career, he’s received an Oscar for producing “The Godfather Part II,” alongside Coppola, and was nominated for an Academy Award for producing “Apocalypse Now.” In fact, those two films, as well as “The Godfather,” are listed on The American Film Institutes’s top 100 films.

“Those movies, when we were making them, were just regular movies, you know, like all the other movies I worked on,” he said. “You don’t know when you’re making a classic. 

“When ‘The Godfather’ came out, the reviews were maybe 50/50 good and bad, and with ‘Apocalypse,’ there were more bad than good. Through the years, they have taken on lives of their own, and now they’re classics, which is just amazing.”

His 20-year association with Coppola also saw him produce “One from the Heart” and  “The Outsiders,” as well as the co-producer of the Academy Award-nominated “The Godfather Part III.” 

In addition to films with Coppola, Frederickson also spearheaded many other projects, including coming up with the original story for the Twentieth Century Fox film “Bad Girls” starring Andie MacDowell, Drew Barrymore, and Madeline Stowe, as well as serving as Executive Producer on “UHF” starring Weird Al Yankovic.

“I can’t really pick a favorite movie, you know, it’s like picking a favorite child, but ‘UHF,’ that was a wonderful experience,” he said with a laugh. “The making was easy, fun, and everything was great. The only bad part about that movie was they put it out right after ‘Batman,’ and it just died at the theater, which was very disappointing.

“Over the years though, it has taken on a life of its own, and now it’s a huge cult classic, which I’m so glad to see.”

As far as “Apocalypse Now” goes, even though it has been hailed by many critics as one the greatest films of all time, the behind-the-scenes woes that came along with the production have also become that of legend. 

During the making of the film, Coppola’s wife Eleanor shot hundreds of hours of footage during the roughly 14 months of principal photography. 

Several years later, directors Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper assembled the footage and conducted interviews for a 1991 documentary that would become “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse.” 

The title refers to the fact Coppola based the story on the Joseph Conrad novel, Heart of Darkness.

According to Fredrickson, he enjoyed the documentary, even though all his bits ended up on the cutting room floor.

“I did a whole day of interviews with Hickenlooper and they cut every single thing I said,” he laughed. “And I told some great stories about ... some of the other crazy things that went on ... but they felt ... stories about Marlon Brando were better than mine, so I hit the cutting room floor.

“And it really is a shame, because I have some great stories.”

When asked if he’d be telling any of those stories Thursday, Fredrickson said “if they ask me to, I sure will.”

According to Branson Imax Entertainment Complex Marketing Director Tom Forester, Frederickson will participate in a Q & A, as well as introduce the film. 

As far as how the “Final Cut” of the film came about, Frederickson said Coppola has been thinking about it for quite some time.

“After ‘Apocalypse Now Redux’ (A 2001 version of the film which added 49 minutes of footage) came out, Francis said ‘Now I know why I cut out a bunch of those scenes, because they really slowed down the movie,” Fredrickson said. “So, he’s always said he wanted to go back and finally make it the way he wanted.”

According to a release, the film “has been restored from the original negative for the first time ever and digitally remastered for Imax with crystal clear images and powerful surround sound.”

“I’m enthusiastic about this version because I realized, well I wanted to make a version that I like,” Coppola said during a special promotional video released for the screenings. “It’s longer than the 1979 version, but shorter than ‘Apocalypse Now Redux,’ and it’s the one that I recommend to you as my favorite. It looks better than it ever looked. It sounds better than it ever sounded. 

“In truth, I’ve always wanted ‘Apocalypse Now’ to be exhibited in the grandest format of cinema conceivable, and now audiences will have a chance to experience ‘Final Cut’ in the most immersive format in existence.”

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Aug. 15, and 2 p.m. Aug. 18. Tickets are currently on sale at the box office.

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