Set during the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now follows the story of a US Army captain on a mission to capure a former Army colonel named Walter E Kurtz. Kurtz was played by Marlon Brando, now widely regarded as one of the best actors of all time. During the 1970s, he was the highest paid actor in Hollywood and broke numerous Guinness World Records for his earnings.
Today, Apocalypse Now is considered one of the greatest war films ever made. Its production, however, was beset by problems right from the outset, largely due to Marlon Brando’s unwillingness to embrace the ideas of director Francis Ford Coppola. Brando showed up on set drastically overweight without having read the script or learnt any of his lines. Instead, he decided to improvise his own dialogue.
He also refused to work with several other leading members of the cast because he thought they negatively impacted his performance. The source text - Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness - Brando point black refused to read. He then insisted on changing his character’s name, despite much of the film already having been shot.
Brando’s performance as Kurtz is one of his most famous. He was often thought of as difficult, unpleasant and relentlessly egotistical. Francis Ford Copolla would later say he was the best actor he’d ever worked with.
By this rationale, Sarah Jones would also be entitled to a sizable ego. She has a CV that would make any aspiring drummer very envious, playing for a string of successful bands including Hot Chip, New Young Pony Club, Bloc Party and Bat For Lashes.
In my head I’d assumed she must be a ruthless session drummer turning up to auditions having studied music relentlessly at a series of prestigious musical institutions.
Sort of like how Soviet athletes were rumoured to be trained - taken out of mainstream society and just programmed to throw a javelin.
It was, in many ways, reassuring to find out this certainly wasn’t the case. What I did learn from meeting Sarah was that my perception of how people get gigs was seriously warped.
Essentially, you don’t have to act like Marlon Brando. Ultimately, embrace the power of the referral. Brando did not. His career sharply declined after Apocalypse Now and he spent more than a decade out of work. I like to think people like Sarah are testament to the fact that you can be very talented and still be a very nice person.
Copyright © The Drummer’s Journal 2014
The proprietors and contributors to The Drummer’s Journal have asserted their right under the Copyright Designs and Patens Act 1988 to be identified as the owners and authors of this work.