To call Megalopolis a passion project for Francis Ford Coppola might be something of an understatement. He’s been trying to get the epic movie made for two decades or so, with finance issues and, of all things, 9/11 getting in the way. Deadline now brings word that he’s trying again, and has a superb initial list of actors that he’s meeting for roles in the film, including Oscar Isaac, Forest Whitaker, Cate Blanchett, Jon Voight, with Zendaya, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jessica Lange.

Coppola is also taking the risky step of putting some of his own money up to part-finance the film, which is estimated in the $100 million-plus range. And if you’re wondering what it’s about? Here’s the basics from the man himself: “The concept of the film is a Roman epic, in the traditional Cecile B. DeMille or Ben-Hur way, but told as a modern counterpart focusing on America,”” he tells Deadline. “It’s based on The Catiline Conspiracy, which comes to us from ancient Rome. This was a famous duel between a patrician, Catiline, and that part will be played by Oscar Isaac, and the famous Cicero, who will be Forest Whitaker. He is now the beleaguered mayor of New York, during a financial crisis, close to the one that Mayor Dinkins had. This story takes place in a new Rome, a Roman epic sent in modern times. The time set is not a specific year in modern New York, it’s an impression of modern New York, which I call New Rome.”

While the director has some actors committed (including veteran collaborator James Caan), others are still just on his wishlist, and there will be more to come. “I’m committed to making this movie, I’d like to make it in the fall of 2022,” Coppola says. “I don’t have all my cast approved, but I have enough of them to have confidence that it is going to be a very exciting cast. The picture’s going to cost between $100 million and $120 million. Needless to say, I hope it’s closer to $100 million. I’m prepared to match some outside financing, almost dollar for dollar. In other words, I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. What’s interesting about that is, there was a documentary about my dream studio, when I owned Zoetrope Studios and I was unafraid to risk everything I had in order to make my dream come true. Well, I really haven’t changed my personality, at all.”

For more from Coppola, head to Deadline. And having written about this film off and on through the years, we’re fascinated to see if it really can actually work this time.

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