Kevin Costner and Francis Ford Coppola bet tens of millions on vanity projects

The Cannes Film Festival can be the launchpad for the next big thing in Hollywood. It can also be the end of the road for a film. And as the 77th annual gathering begins to draw to a close, two members of Hollywood royalty are finding themselves in uncomfortable positions.

Kevin Costner and Francis Ford Coppola both gambled on themselves with their latest projects, self-funding films they thought would connect with audiences. Based on the receptions at Cannes, though, neither film did—and Costner and Coppola could stand to lose tens of millions of dollars as a result.

Costner sunk a reported $38 million of his own money into Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1, mortgaging 10 acres of waterfront property in Santa Barbara to fund the film, which looks at the expansion of the American West, before and after the Civil War. Coppola spent $100 million from his own pocket on Megalopolis, described as “a Roman Epic fable set in an imagined Modern America.”  But both films have so far received cool receptions and have been labeled by some critics as vanity projects. Currently, on Rotten Tomatoes, Horizons has a 27% rating, while Megalopolis stands at 53%.

Coppola sold part of his wine holdings to finance his film, something he admits will leave less for his children. However, he notes, the sale was likely to happen at some point anyway.

“Although my one wine company was the 13th largest in the country, it was on the edge of being unable to survive if it didn’t get bigger,” he told Deadline. “At my age, I wanted it to be acquired by people I knew and liked. By combining with them, we became the fifth-largest winery. Which means we’re in the game. In the course of that, I realized I had created a holding of value in that company, which I could go and turn into money and make the movie I wanted to make.”

Costner, meanwhile, is hoping lightning strikes twice for him. He helped finance Dances With Wolves to initial derision and walked away an Oscar winner. Horizon has been a project he’s been trying to get made since 1988, but it never worked out.

“I couldn’t get anybody to make it,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m a storyteller, and I went ahead and put my own money into it. I’m not a very good businessman, so, scratch your head, if you will. I don’t know why, but I have not let go of this one.”

That passion aside, even Costner admits the experience has been a stressful one.

“I’ll tell you what. I’m never gonna do this again,” he said laughing. “I’m never putting my f*cking money in another movie after these four.”

Horizon will be distributed by Warner Bros. and New Line, but Megalopolis is still without a distributor and Coppola says he’s still editing the film and doesn’t expect it to come out this year.

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