LOS ANGELES TIMES: Sam Bottoms, a film and television actor who played the role of California surfer-turned-GI Lance Johnson in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam War epic “Apocalypse Now,” has died. He was 53. Bottoms died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles of glioblastoma multiforme, a virulent brain cancer, said his wife, Laura Bickford.
Bottoms was 20 in 1976 when he was cast to play surfer Lance Johnson in “Apocalypse Now,” in which he was one of the young sailors who accompany Capt. Benjamin Willard (Martin Sheen) up river in a gunboat for his rendezvous with Marlon Brando’s renegade Col. Walter Kurtz. That comes after Bottoms’ scenes with Robert Duvall’s surf-obsessed Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore, who memorably calls in a napalm strike on the tree line behind a coastal village with a primo surf spot.
Bottoms spent a year and a half filming the movie in the Philippines.”Francis is a great general, he’s a Gen. Patton, a Gen. Sherman, a great leader,” Bottoms said in a 2001 interview with The Times. “I was his loyal soldier. I would have done anything he asked. I did, and I’m surprised that I came out of it alive.” Coppola told The Times on Wednesday that in casting young actors to play soldiers in the movie, he had been impressed with Bottoms during improvisational sessions.
“He was a handsome, tall young man and very sweet-natured and seemed to be right for that part,” Coppola said. “He, Larry Fishburne and Fred Forrest were like a young family almost to me [during filming], and they went through thick and thin uncomplainingly. We all admired them. “Sam was an especially likable, beautiful young man. He was quiet and undemanding and always anxious to help and had a nice smile.” MORE