Skip to main content

As a public health precaution, all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo will temporarily close to the public starting Saturday, March 14 until further notice. Please continue to check back frequently at or for updates. In the meantime, please explore our website, resource materials and online exhibitions. 

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now
Usage Conditions Apply
Marlon Brando
Martin Sheen
Robert M. Peak, 30 May 1927 - 1 Aug 1992
Marlon Brando, 3 Apr 1924 - 1 Jul 2004
Martin Sheen, born 3 Aug 1940
Color photolithograpic halftone poster
Sheet: 104 x 68.6cm (40 15/16 x 27")
Board: 109.2 x 73.7cm (43 x 29")
A to G depth: 1 1/2"
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Saul Zalesch
Restrictions & Rights
© 1979 Omni Zoetrope
Object number
Exhibition Label
By the time he was recruited for Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Apocalypse Now, the influential but controversial actor Marlon Brando had become almost a parody of himself. Although he was paid generously for his relatively small role in this Vietnam-era war epic, he arrived for the shoot grossly overweight and ill-prepared. Nonetheless, Brando, playing Colonel Kurtz, a Special Forces officer driven mad by the moral ambiguity and unendurable horror of war, looms at the heart of the film in Coppola's vision, as this poster suggests. Brando shaved his head for the role, and his partially improvised monologue is filmed in a surreal, shadowy close-up. Despite the director's problems with Brando, Coppola conceded the importance of his role. The big scene of this adventure-action movie, he claimed, "is not another helicopter battle, but it's a guy, a face, alone in a dark room, telling the truth."
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Usage conditions apply