In January 1977, some nine months into a disastrous shoot, Francis Ford Coppola hired Ballard to script-doctor a key sequence and to help fashion the satisfactory dénouement that had thus far eluded John Milius, George Lucas and Coppola himself. Ensconced in the Philippines, Ballard eventually declared the de Marias rubber plantation sequence beyond salvaging. He was delighted when problems with the sound recording meant it was cut from the film, and in 2001 declined an invitation to see it restored at the Cannes premier of Apocalypse Now Redux.
Ballard was the first to suggest that the film should end with Willard (Harvey Keitel) not joining but killing Kurtz (Marlon Brando).
However, Coppola rejected Ballard’s suggestion that Willard then press on further up-river, deeper into a jungle that, under prolonged chemical bombardment, has begun to mutate into something pellucid with which he seems to merge.