What Is “Megalopolis” About? Everything to Know About Francis Ford Coppola’s $120 Million Project

From the plot to the star-studded cast — including Shia Labeouf and Adam Driver — here’s what we know so far about 'Megalopolis'

<p>Francis Ford Coppola/American Zoetrope</p> Adam Driver in

Francis Ford Coppola/American Zoetrope

Adam Driver in 'Megalopolis'.

Francis Ford Coppola started working on his next film over 40 years ago.

The iconic director began research on his Roman-inspired science fiction movie Megalopolis in the late 1970s after he finished Apocalypse Now. After many delays and false starts — including 300 script rewrites — Coppola’s dystopian film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2024.

With an all-star cast including Adam Driver, Giancarlo Esposito, Nathalie Emmanuel, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight and Laurence Fishburne, fans and critics have eagerly awaited Coppola’s first film after 13 years.

Megalopolis is even a family affair with Coppola’s sister Talia Shire, nephew Jason Schwartzman and granddaughter Romy Mars all appearing.

The highly-anticipated movie, premiering in Fall 2024, was born from Coppola’s desire to make a movie about a collapsing empire based on a moment from Roman history called the Catilinarian Conspiracy, in which Lucius Sergius Catilina was said to have planned a coup to overthrow Marcus Tullius Cicero, failed and then been publicly shamed.

Megalopolis takes pieces from this story, which has been highly contested throughout history, and places it in a glamorous, old-timey version of New York City.

“I wasn’t really working on this screenplay for 40 years as I often see written, but rather I was collecting notes and clippings for a scrapbook of things I found interesting,”  Coppola told Vanity Fair in May 2024. “Ultimately, after a lot of time, I settled on the idea of a Roman epic. And then later, a Roman epic set in modern America.”

The director added that he wants viewers to leave the film wondering, “Is the society in which we live the only one available to us?”

Here’s everything to know about Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis.

What is Megalopolis about?

<p>Francis Ford Coppola/American Zoetrope</p> Aubrey Plaza in 'Megalopolis'.

Francis Ford Coppola/American Zoetrope

Aubrey Plaza in 'Megalopolis'.

Coppola’s passion project follows three main characters as they fight for power in a declining empire, called New Rome.

Cesar Catalina (Driver) is an optimistic architect who has the power to control and stop time. He desires to create a better society while his opposition, Mayor Franklyn Cicero (Esposito), wants to maintain power by keeping the city’s government corrupt.

The politician’s daughter Julia (Emmanuel), on the other hand, isn’t sure how to feel or what to believe amid the strife. These dynamics play out over the two hour and eighteen minute film which leans heavily on the science fiction genre and a strong historical influence.

In 2000, when he was working on the film’s script, Coppola shared some insight on Megalopolis’ plot.

“This script takes the position that modern New York, which is to say modern America, is amazingly the counterpart of Republican Rome,” the director told Scenario. “I’ve taken a very famous and very mysterious incident in Roman history from the period of the Republic, not the Empire, called the Catiline Conspiracy.”

Coppola has said he found inspiration in this fraught moment in Roman history.

He continued, “What it’s really about are the different factions of the city … it takes the premise that the future, the shape of things to come, is being determined today, by the interests that are vying for control. The future, in other words, is now.”

Who is in the Megalopolis cast?

<p>Monica Schipper/Getty ; Mike Marsland/WireImage ; Michael Buckner/Deadline/Getty</p> Adam Driver attends the White Noise New York Film Festival Opening Night Screening on September 30, 2022. ; Shia LaBeouf attends the "Megalopolis" Red Carpet at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2024. ; Aubrey Plaza at the Deadline Disruptors on the Croisette Party during the 77th Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2024.

Megalopolis features an ensemble cast of high-profile actors hailing from a variety of genres.

Beyond the main characters played by Driver, Esposito and Emmaneul, Plaza plays a TV presenter named Wow Platinum, LaBeouf makes his return to the big screen after four years as Catalina’s cousin Clodio Pulcher and Voight plays Hamilton Crassus III, Catalina’s uncle and head of a national bank.

Other notable cast members include Fishburne as both the narrator and Catalina’s driver, Coppola’s sister, Shire, as the architect’s mother and Schwartzman as a member of the corrupt mayor’s crew.

Poor Things actress Kathryn Hunter, America’s Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal, Saturday Night Live’s Chloe Fineman and Hoffman also have roles in the film. Coppola’s granddaughter Mars even makes an appearance in Megalopolis as a reporter.

The Godfather director has given the cast a lot of credit for bringing his story to life. “We made it together — I didn’t make the film,” he said during a Cannes press conference, per The New York Times. “When you make a film like this, I didn’t know how to do it, let’s face it. The movie makes itself.”

Many actors reportedly did table reads for the film over the 40 years since Coppola started working on Megalopolis, including Jon Hamm. The director also told Variety he was considering Russell Crowe, Robert De Niro, Nicolas Cage and Paul Newman for the film in 2001.

Is there a Megalopolis trailer?

<p>Francis Ford Coppola/American Zoetrope</p> 'Megalopolis'.

Francis Ford Coppola/American Zoetrope


Coppola shared a short clip of his upcoming film on his YouTube channel in early May 2024. The 2-minute long video shows Catalina standing on the roof of what appears to be the Chrysler Building in New York City.

After Driver’s character nearly jumps over the edge, he shouts “time stop” hinting at his powers to control the clock.

Two weeks later, Coppola’s YouTube account published a shorter trailer. The video begins with a narrator saying “When does an empire die?” and shows bits of the film, including LaBeouf yelling “We are taking our city back” and Plaza lounging in Roman attire, eating fruit.

What has Coppola said about Megalopolis?

The famed director has been working on Megalopolis since finishing his iconic war film Apocalypse Now in 1979. Over the years, he has talked about his passion project and even spent $120 million of his own funds to get Megalopolis made.

Coppola wanted to reimagine the historical moment of the Catilinarian Conspiracy for his next film.

“In history, Catiline lost and was killed and Cicero survived. But since the survivor tells the story, I wondered, what if what Catiline had in mind for his new society was a realignment of those in power, and could it have even been ‘visionary’ and ‘good,’ while Cicero perhaps could have been ‘reactionary’ and ‘bad,’ ” he told Vanity Fair in May 2024.

Beyond the historical inspiration for the film, Coppola has also cited the H.G. Wells-written film, Things to Come, as an important influence on Megalopolis.

“This … classic is about building the world of tomorrow, and has always been with me, first as the ‘boy scientist’ I was and later as a filmmaker,” he said.

Will movie theaters include Megalopolis’ viral fourth wall scene?

<p>Samir Hussein/WireImage</p> Grace VanderWaal, Giancarlo Esposito, Aubrey Plaza, Francis Ford Coppola, Romy Croquet Mars, Adam Driver, and Nathalie Emmanuel attend the "Megalopolis" Red Carpet at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2024.

Samir Hussein/WireImage

Grace VanderWaal, Giancarlo Esposito, Aubrey Plaza, Francis Ford Coppola, Romy Croquet Mars, Adam Driver, and Nathalie Emmanuel attend the "Megalopolis" Red Carpet at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2024.

One of the buzziest moments of the 2024 Cannes Film Festival was during the premiere of Megalopolis when an actor walked onstage in front of the screen and engaged with Driver’s character in the film.

Coppola called this choice “in-theater ‘live cinema’ ” in the description of Megalopolis’ trailer on YouTube.

Because the film has not yet been bought by a wide distributor it is not certain whether or not this 4D element of Megalopolis will happen in theaters across the world but its French distributor, Le Pacte, has announced that they will try.

“We certainly will do a lot of such performances,” the company’s president Jean Labadie told Deadline in May 2024. “With four screenings a day in many theaters it will not be easy to do it for each screening.”

When will Megalopolis be released?

<p>Francis Ford Coppola/American Zoetrope</p> 'Megalopolis'.

Francis Ford Coppola/American Zoetrope


Megalopolis premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2024, and acquired Lionsgate as an international distributor in June 2024.

The film will premiere in IMAX on Sept. 27, 2024.

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