American Photojournalist

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For real-world usage, see Category:American photojournalists
American Photojournalist
First appearance Apocalypse Now
Portrayed by Dennis Hopper
Gender Male

The American Photojournalist, portrayed by Dennis Hopper, is a fictional character in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film Apocalypse Now.

The character of the American photojournalist in "Apocalypse Now" was first suggested by Chas Gerretsen[1] during a lunch with Francis Ford Coppola, regarding the scene where an American TV correspondent (played by Francis Ford Coppola) yells at some passing soldiers, "don't look at the camera," "...that if Francis wanted to mock TV correspondents, he should use a photojournalist because, "we were all crazy"."

A couple of days later, after the arrival of Dennis Hopper, Chas was asked by Jerry Ziesmer[2] to report to Francis: "on how to dress a combat photographer."

From that moment on the role of Dennis Hopper who had been cast to play Lieutenant Richard M. Colby,[3] changed to that of a photojournalist.

The character was inspired by a number of real-life American photojournalists who worked in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos during the 1970s, including Sean Flynn.

The photojournalist is the film's equivalent of the "harlequin" or Russian sailor in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.


The American Photojournalist is first seen in Colonel Kurtz's compound when Willard, Chef, and Lance arrive. Like the rest at the compound, the American Photojournalist is deeply affected by Kurtz' teachings and praises him, ranting about how his words change everything and how his legacy will stand once he is gone.

Despite his devotion, Kurtz has little respect for the American Photojournalist. In the final scene in which the American Photojournalist appears, he is talking with Willard while Kurtz reads T. S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men". Kurtz throws the book at him, and proceeds to call him a "mutt". To this, the American Photojournalist leaves, and is never seen again.

The American Photojournalist's name is never revealed, and it seems clear from his erratic behaviour, mood swings and forceful literal nature that he has gone insane.

Deleted Scene[edit]

The American Photojournalist features heavily in scenes deleted from the finished film. In the black market 'Rough Cut', he has a number of extra scenes as the length of the film set at Kurtz's compound rises to about an hour. In the 'Rough Cut', Willard tries unsuccessfully to ask him for his name, and he makes numerous other appearances including a scene where Willard is humiliated and taunted by the entire tribe while in a cage. His eventual fate is also revealed; as he prepares to finally leave the compound, he is gunned down by Colby because he had taken Colonel Kurtz's picture, something Kurtz had already threatened him over.


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