Marlon Brando And Dennis Hopper's Feud Was Worse Than You Think

"Apocalypse Now," the Francis Ford Coppola movie from the 1970s, is a tale of a soldier tasked to find and kill a missing Green Beret during the Vietnam War (via IMDb). The movie is a critically acclaimed war drama, but it had major issues from the very start of filming. After sickness swept through the crew, the original leading man was fired, and a typhoon halted production — and that was before actor Marlon Brando even showed up to the set, according to the Independent.

Marlon Brando clashed with the project from the start: He insisted on being paid $2 million, plus 10% of the movie's earnings, for just three weeks of shooting (per Life Magazine via Mary Ellen Mark). When he showed up for filming, he was completely unprepared. He hadn't lost weight for the project like he was supposed to, so Coppola made him wear black and shot him from creative angles to make him look like a muscular Green Beret. 

Then, Brando had trouble memorizing his lines and complained about the quality of the script, according to HuffPost. And, the famous actor was completely unfamiliar with the war story, because he hadn't read the novel on which the movie is based. Production came to a screeching halt for a full week as the 900-person crew waited for director Francis Ford Coppola to read the movie script to Brando (per the Independent).

Dennis Hopper's method acting

Despite being unprepared, Marlon Brando called Francis Ford Coppola's script "awful," and insisted on gathering the cast and crew for brainstorming sessions and rewrites (per HuffPost). Brando was a notoriously difficult person to get along with — and he had a particular bone to pick with actor Dennis Hopper during the filming of "Apocalypse Now."

Actor Dennis Hopper, on the other hand, had already been on the "Apocalypse Now," set for over a month before Brando showed up, doing physically exhausting training exercises like martial arts and tree climbing (via The Hollywood Reporter). Hopper had his own issues while filming — he was consistently high after ingesting huge amounts of cocaine, which added some pep to his photojournalist character (via Independent). Hopper also had a noticeable body odor issue, with fellow actors noting that he didn't seem to shower much, taking his "method acting" to the next level.

Dennis Hopper details the origins of his feud with Marlon Brando, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The actors were supposed to read the novel "Heart of Darkness," on which the movie "Apocalypse Now" is based. Dennis Hopper had also done additional research for his part — he was instructed to read a tiny red book from Green Berets detailing their special missions. 

Marlon Brando didn't do the reading

Dennis Hopper didn't know that Marlon Brando had neglected to do his own reading (per The Hollywood Reporter). Director Francis Ford Coppola had already berated Brando for not reading "Heart of Darkness" by the time filming started, so it was a sore spot for the actor.

Hopper and Brando were eating dinner together when Hopper joked about the small red book from the Green Berets, saying, "I bet you haven't read the book." But, Brando thought Hopper was talking about "Heart of Darkness," and he was sick of being told to read the novel. It was the straw that broke the camel's back — Brando exploded in anger, yelling at Hopper, "I don't have to listen to this! I don't have to take this! Why do I have to hear it from him? I have to hear it from this punk!" Furious, Brando left Hopper at the dinner table, leaving Hopper stunned and super offended.

The feud almost turns violent

The same night, Brando and Hopper attended a movie screening of "Seven Samurai," per The Hollywood Reporter. Unable to stay quiet, Hopper loudly said at one point, "There's an actor in here that said of a dead friend of mine (James Dean) that he wore his last year of Levis, drove his last year of motorcycle and did his last year of bongo drums, and I sure would like [to fight him]." He was referring to Brando. The only reason the two didn't physically fight is because Hopper left the theater and tumbled into a motorcycle and some bushes instead.

After that, Brando refused to film with Hopper at all. He and Coppola disappeared for two weeks to rework the script, and when Brando returned, he told Hopper that they could film their scenes separately to avoid interacting. The Independent reports that along with the tension from their fight, Brando was also annoyed at Hopper's love of drugs and alcohol. 

They started working alternate days, filming Brando's (mainly ad-libbed) lines one day, and Hopper's the next. Brando insisted to Coppola that he would not be on set at the same time as Hopper ever again (via The Hollywood Reporter). Despite the two actor's contentious relationship, the movie went on to be a huge success, earning more than $92 million worldwide and cementing its legacy as one of the most important movies about the Vietnam War ever created (via IMDb).