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Genoa, Italy

Roman Polanski's Neptune

Massive galleon from a box-office bomb docked in Genoa. 

In the early 1980s, Roman Polanski told Paramount Pictures that his new tale of treachery on the high seas, “Pirates,” would cost $15 million. When it was finally released at Cannes in 1986, its budget had ballooned to $40 million, its budget buckling under exotic filming locations, special effects and a larger-than-life galleon called the Neptune.

At the time, the Neptune, was hailed as the most expensive movie “prop” of all time, and its dedication to detail shined through. Besides the steel hull of the ship and a diesel-powered motor, the galleon actually had fully functioning sails and rigging. Along with true-to-form galleon infrastructure, the ship was intricately carved and painted to perfectly resemble a Spanish galleon, complete with a giant Neptune figurehead. Oddly enough, the Neptune is actually larger than a historical galleon, and some of the budget could have possibly been spared by a closer adherence to reality.

But, Polanski was never concerned with reality or consequences and he built the Neptune in his image; larger-than-life. Today, the Neptune is still on the high seas, and the Tunisian-built rig is docked in the Port of Genoa, where its looming rigging towers over modern Italian boats.

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