The character actor G.D. Spradlin, who got his Hollywood start in his forties after making a fortune in the oil business, died July 24 in California at age 90.
Spradlin specialized in playing doctors, lawyers, business executives, politicians, and generals. He was best known for two roles in two of Francis Ford Coppola’s most acclaimed movies: The Godfather Part II , in which Spradlin was the crooked U.S. Senator in the pay of the Mafia, and in Apocalypse Now (above ), in which he played the creepy general who orders Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) to assasinate Captain Kurtz (Marlon Brando).
Here’s part of that scene’s famed dialogue from the script by John Milius and Coppola. It takes place early in the film in the General’s trailer. Also in the scene is an Army Colonel (a very young-looking Harrison Ford, below) and a spooky civilian, mostly likely a CIA agent, who is not named:
GENERAL: Well, you see, Willard, in this war, things get confused out there. Power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation to be God. Because the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You have and I have them. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And, very obviously, he has gone insane. WILLARD: Yes, sir. Very much so, sir. Obviously insane. COLONEL: Your mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a navy patrol boat, pick up Colonel Kurtz's path at Nu Mung Ba, follow it, learn what you can along the way. When you find the colonel, infiltrate his team by whatever means available, and terminate the colonel's command. WILLARD: (to General) Terminate...the colonel? GENERAL: He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops. CIVILIAN: Terminate with extreme prejudice.