Why John Lennon Wasn’t Able to Write Music for ‘Apocalypse Now’

John Lennon made his mark on movies as well as music. Beatles movies like A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, and Yellow Submarine live on as timeless classics which are still popular today. However, many Beatles fans don’t know that John once exchanged interesting letters with one of the most acclaimed directors in cinema history: Francis Ford Coppola. 

John Lennon in Hyde Park, London | Rowland Scherman/Getty Images

Legendary movie director reaches out to John Lennon

Coppola gave us a string of masterpieces in the 1970s, specifically The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now. Since that winning streak, he’s directed other popular films like Peggy Sue Got Married, The Outsiders, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. During the making of Apocalypse Now, he got in touch with John, reports Alternative Nation.

According to Far Out Magazine, Coppola’s letter to John said the following:

“Dear John,

“We’ve never met but, of course, I’ve always enjoyed your work.

“I am presently in the Philippines making “APOCALYPSE NOW”. I’ve been here eight months, expect to be here another several months. I live inside a volcano, which is a jungle paradise, where there are beautiful mineral springs; and thought of ever you were in the Far East or if ever you would enjoy spending a little time talking about things in general and some distant future projects that I have in mind, please, I would love to cook dinner for you and just talk, listen to music and talk about movies.

“If coming to the Far East is difficult, then someday in the future, either in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York, I would like to meet you.

“Sincerely, “Francis Coppola.”

What Francis Ford Coppola wanted John Lennon to do

The correspondence between John Lennon and Francis Ford Coppola.

The letter doesn’t specify what Coppola wanted John to do. However, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001 by Keith Badman says the director wanted the former Beatle to compose music for Apocalypse Now. Fans of the film will note its soundtrack features classic rock tunes like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and “The End” by the Doors. John’s music would have been a welcome and fitting addition to the film. 

Coppola and John did meet. By that point, the filming of Apocalypse Now was completed. Here’s what John later had to say about the project.

John Lennon’s response letter

John Lennon wearing his trademark glasses and playing the guitar in a Parisian hotel room on January 16, 1964 | Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

John’s response to the meeting was short, sweet, and casual.

“Dear Frank,

Having given a lot more thought to this idea, I realise that due to my work schedule I really don’t have the time for such a big new project.

I love the book but it would take to [sic] much energy etc.

“Best wishes to you, it was nice meeting you

Love, John Lennon

Coppola has earned many accolades in his career. Despite this, his letter from John has to be among his most prized possessions. Even if John didn’t work on Apocalypse Now, Coppola can take comfort knowing John enjoyed meeting him.

Also see: The Beatles: Lesser-Known Films Inspired by the Iconic Band