Martin Sheen nearly died making Apocalypse Now

Earlier in 2022, Martin Sheen discussed his near-death experience on the set of Apocalypse Now including his fear of helicopters, and his wife saving him.

Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now

The behind-the-scenes stories of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic Vietnam war movie Apocalypse Now are as famous as the movie itself. So much happened, that the production became the subject of a 1991 documentary – Hearts of Darkness. One of the most notorious incidents is the fact that star Martin Sheen, who was only in his 30s at the time, had a heart attack while making the movie.

In an interview given to Yahoo earlier in 2022, Sheen said that one of the worst parts of the experience was having to get on a helicopter; “They had to fly me in on a helicopter. I hated getting in those helicopters because we had so many close calls, but this day, it was an emergency. I could either go to Manila in a bus, which would take about four or five hours, or I could be there in 15 minutes in a chopper. Under the circumstances, I took the chopper!”

Sheen wasn’t allowed to return to the film set for over a month. “As they were wheeling me down the corridor, this little face appeared and stayed there during the journey. And I realized it was Janet, my wife. She smiled, leaned down, whispered in my ear: ‘It’s only a movie, babe.’ And after that, I started to heal.”

Sheen certainly views Apocalypse Now as a learning experience; “I realized that I’d gone too far. I had bit off more than I could chew and I was choking on it. I’ve often said that if I had known going in that I’d have to endure what I did, I would’ve passed. But I have no regrets because it forced me to come to grips with parts of myself that I otherwise may never have embraced. I’m grateful to Francis for that.”

Francis Ford Coppola’s productions are always full of drama behind-the-scenes. The making of The Godfather was turned into mini-series The Offer in 2022, starring Dan Fogler as Coppola. Coppola, who is now 83 years old, is gearing up to make Megalopolis, a project that has been gestating for decades. It will star Adam Driver, Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Fishburne, Forest Whitaker, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Aubrey Plaza.

While we wait for Megalopolis, check out our guide to the best drama movies.