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The Apocalypse Now Scene Martin Sheen Regrets Filming

Martin Sheen has had an enduring career that stretches decades. Thanks to his body of work, the actor has played various memorable roles in films and on TV, including his famous stint as a U.S. President on NBC's "The West Wing." The actor has also worked with many impressive directors, including Francis Ford Coppola. Whenever the two are mentioned together, it's usually due to their work on the classic film "Apocalypse Now."

Making its premiere at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival (per Variety), "Apocalypse Now" is an unflinching view of the Vietnam War mixed with loose inspiration from Joseph Conrad's novel "Heart Of Darkness." The film follows Capt. Willard (Sheen) as he hunts down the mad yet messianic Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in the jungles of Cambodia and Vietnam. 

Much praise has been thrown upon "Apocalypse Now." Some regard it as the best war film of all time (via The Guardian). Yet the film wasn't easy to make, as "Apocalypse Now" had several production setbacks, as well as rampant alcohol and drug abuse on set. In fact, one alcohol-fueled scene from Sheen led to some regret from the actor. The scene introduces us to Captain Willard, in an early scene of the film when during a drunken breakdown in a hotel room, the character smashes a mirror and smears blood on himself. It's a pivotal moment that sets up "Apocalypse Now" and immediately clues in viewers on Willard's troubled soul.

Martin Sheen couldn't look at the movie's hotel scene

Behind the scenes, Sheen had an on-set meltdown because he was actually drunk when he shot the hotel room scene, which is partly why it was brutal for the actor to re-watch later. In a 2010 video interview between Coppola and Sheen (via Aleksandr Potebenko), the actor talked about his early reactions to the hotel room scene, recalling that despite Coppola's insistence, he couldn't will himself to watch back the footage. As Sheen told Coppola in the interview, after going back to the hotel room the day after the scene was shot, Sheen felt ashamed and terrified at the sight of the broken mirror and blood on the bed. Later, in the same interview, Sheen noted that he did finally see the scene after "Apocalypse Now" premiered.

Sheen may have lost himself in the moment as he fought with some of his personal issues. Per The Hollywood Reporter, the actor spoke with Bob Costas about the scene in an old interview, recalling he begged Coppola to keep shooting, even with his hand bloodied. In the interview, Sheen told Costas, "He [Coppola] said he couldn't do it and they had a nurse standing by. And I said, 'Please. I must do this for myself.' And he did. And he allowed me, in a sense, to wrestle with some demons that I had been wrestling with for quite a while."