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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

February 17, 2009 at 3:56 PM

Leave the gun, take the cannoli: “The Godfather” revisited

Vanity Fair posts this week an entertaining article recounting the behind-the-scenes story of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 classic “The Godfather.” A few tidbits:
— Studio executives felt Al Pacino was too short to play Michael Corleone, and considered Robert Redford (??!!), Martin Sheen, Ryan O’Neal, David Carradine, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty (who says in the article that he was actually offered the part, but passed).
— For Don Corleone, author Mario Puzo and Coppola wanted Marlon Brando from the beginning, but the studio wanted Lawrence Olivier, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, Carlo Ponti or Danny Thomas — or, really, anyone but Brando, then considered box-office poison. Brando landed the part by shooting a screen test (which Coppola, careful not to bruise the actor’s ego, didn’t call a screen test but just “a little footage”).
— The actors first gathered at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan in 1971, and clearly got along well: James Caan, urged by Robert Duvall, mooned Brando.
— Real-life Mobsters were everywhere during the making of the film — and, initially, tried to stop the production by threatening the studio. Frank Sinatra, also, was vehemently opposed to the novel and the film (he felt the character of singer Johnny Fontane was based on him), and threatened to “beat the hell” out of Puzo.
You wonder how it ever got made — but, of course, it did. Long story; lively read.

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