* There was talk of George C Scott, Rod Steiger even Sophia Loren's producer husband, Carlo Ponti. The Mafia voted Ernest Borgnine or Anthony Quinn. Once Francis Coppola got the directing gig, he said it was very simple. He needed "the best actor in the world." Brando - or Olivier. And Olivier was ill.
[Montage by Reg Oliver, 1976]
THE GODFATHER saga
“My father made him an offer he couldn't refuse.”
Francis Ford Coppola . 1971
"I would have given my soul to play it," said Orson Welles. "But I don't get offered great parts."
Ernest Borgnine, Richard Conte, Raf Vallone were as Coppola videotaped "every old Italian actor in existence." Plus Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, Edward G Robinson, Danny Thomas, Raf Vallone - even Carlo Ponti (Sophia Loren's producer husband) was considered. And hot-shot lawyer Melvyn Belli was interested. Conte became Brazini and Vallone turned up in III as... The Pope.
After Mario Puzo’s pages hit the desk of Peter Bart, Paramount’s vp for creative affairs, his boss Robert Evans stumped by $12,5000 “against $75,000 if it becomes a book” hand shepherded the 30-page treatment to best-sellerdom. But the suits was not impressed: Mafia movies never made money. So, hey, let’s off-load it (for a $1m) on Burt Lancaster.
Half-heartedly, Paramount sent for director Otto Preminger who immediately sent a copy to Frank Sinatra. "He would've been wonderful. I even offered to eliminate the singer who some people thought was patterned after Sinatra. Nevertheless, he said: 'Ludvig, I pass on this.' I didn't want it without him, so I passed, too. It was a reversal of The Man With The Golden Arm, 1955. This time, Brando got the plum role and Sinatra lost out."
Sinatra later had talks with Coppola, and tried to buy the rights to make the film himself - or, it was alleged, to block any movie at all. In 1989, Sinatra nearly joined the third film.
BC, Before Coppola -
“He was the only Italian director
in Hollywood,” said Evans.
“I wanted to smell the spaghetti”
Six other film-makers passed: Richard Brooks, Arthur Penn, Peter Yates. Costa-Gavras felt it too American. Franklin J Schaffner, Fred Zinnemann thought it too kind to the Mafia.
Producers Albert Ruddy and Gary Frederickson chose Sidney J Furie for a $1m. TVesque production on the back lot. But Puzo's impact never diminished. The 1969 book, originally called Mafia - the one word never spoken in the film - remained a best-seller for 67 weeks. "It was getting bigger than I was," quipped Coppola. Gangsters were secondary to Francey. More into family than Family, he further shocked Evans by seeing the film as a metaphor for US capitalism.
When Danny Thomas was the favourite Don, Warren Beatty was invited to star and produce but he had not been "bothered" by anything since Bonnie and Clyde, Shampoo, Reds. "The Mafia doesn't bother me. I hope." (Twenty years later, he made Bugsy (Siegel) as more of a love story than a Mafia movie).
Don Corleone . George C Scott had no wish "to play that old." Rod Steiger said the role would have been his - if he had accepted Coppola's script of Patton. (One Godpop legend has Steiger, at 47, campaigning to play... Michael!).
“the best actor in the world.”
Brando. Or, Olivier
The British knight was ill. That did not stop him from perfecting an Italian accent.
Coppola asked who should be Don Vito and Pacino said, no hesitation. Brando. "Francis had Brando in his mind first," felt Al. So did Puzo, who wrote to the actor about the role two years before: “You’re the only actor who can play the part with that quiet force and irony the part requires.” “Impossible,” said Brando, "the studios would never take me on. I'm all washed up." He was right. New York cabled: WILL NOT FINANCE BRANDO IN TITLE ROLE. And Paramount president Stanley Jaffe vowed that the "troublesome" star would never be in the film: "furthermore, I will no longer allow you to discuss it." After viewing Brando's improvised video-test, Jaffe asked: Who is that? Marlon had based his voice on a real Don seen on TV during the 1951 Kefauver hearings: Frank Costello. He whispered huskily… the original hoarse head. “Powerful people don’t need to shout,” said Brando.
“Every actor you can think of was testing for this and that,” reported Jimmy Caan. Indeed, Evans would spend clsoe to $500,000 Paramount lucre in testing actors from sea to shining sea, when Coppola had already chosen, tested and decided on his five leads: Brando, Caan, Duvall, Pacino and Diane Keaton Said Caan: “For the price of the four corned-beef sandwiches we had at lunch he shot this 16-mm. improvisation.”
Michael Corelone . Evans' first choice for was his pal Alain Delon, of whom Paramount chief Charlie Bludhorn had said the previous year, during The Adventurers casting: “We don’t need Delon. Stars are out of date and... they cost too much!” Anyway the French superstar's English was not up to it. Christopher Jones lost out, he said, when his managers asked too much - same as his Ryan's Daughter salary of $500,000. Dustin Hoffman "desperately" wanted to do it. Burt Reynolds was ruled out, or so he said, "because it wasn't considered a Burt Reynolds role." “I could have played it in spades,” Jack Nicholson told Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert, but…
Jack Nicholson passed:
“Michael should be an Italian.”
Brando agreed: "He shouldn't be the usual leading man. Michael should be a man who broods."
Evans forgets voting for his then-wife Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal to repeat their broody Love Story affair. (Paramount's owner, Charles Bludhorn, also wanted O'Neal - "ya know, the kid on the bench"). Although he flubbed through 15 takes Coppola preferred James Caan'd test to other Michael wannabes: David Carradine, Peter Fonda, Tony LoBianco, Dean Stockwell - and Coppola's future Apocalypse Now star, Martin Sheen,
Michael became a battle between Caan (Puzo's favourite) and Pacino ("too Italian" said Paramount!).
“Very nerve-wracking,” said Al.
“I didn't care if I got the part or not.”
He told Francis: "I don't want to be around where I'm not wanted. So, please, Francis, no more auditions, no more screen tests. I can live without this picture. No, he said, you must play it. Then the trouble started - nobody else wanted me!"
Evans even suggested the oh-so-Italianate Robert Redford! "As a northern Italian," said Evans.
Falling for Pacino on seeing Panic In Needle Park, Puzo was really won over by Pacino's improvisations. However, Bob Evans told Al's manager, Martin Bregman: "Your client will play Michael Corleone over my dead body... A runt will not play Michael!”
For insisting on Pacino, Coppola was almost fired.
Almost? Evans fired him three times.
"I just kept pressing on." Said Brando: "If they fire you, I'll quit."
With seven weeks to go, Francey tested a further 30 Michaels, including Frank Langella, before an eight minute reel from Needle Park convinced Evans (and Paramount) about "that dwarf Pacino." He was paid $35,000 - $15,00 of which went on legals fees to get out of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight at MGM. (De Niro replaced him).
"I wanted all the other parts," recalled Pacino. "I thought they were better than mine... Then, for the first few weeks, they were thinking of firing me. And I couldn't understand why they didn't . I didn't know what to do, frankly. I was a kid and it was my second movie I didn't know what was going on. I just thought: Francis wants me. I don't know why... but he wants me."
The only reason he was not canned was the suits saw him gunning down Sollozzo. Wait a minute - this ain't bad!
Sonny Corleone . "I thought he wanted me for Sonny," said Pacino. Legend says that having lost Michael, Burt Reynolds was given Sonny - except Brando refused to work with a TV star. Jimmy Caan became Sonny (named after Al Capone's son) instead of John Saxon or the initially signed Carmine Caridi - too tall opposite Pacino. (Cardidi was compensated with with small roles in Godpop II and III).
Robert De Niro was another "of the 400 - well, more like 4,000!" testees. He made such an electric job of Sonny that Coppola cast him as Paulie ("won't see him no more") Gatto...and remembered him for Godfather II. De Niro, however, took over the role Pacino quit in MGM's half-baked Mafia movie, The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.
Springing Pacino lose from MGM was a job for mob lawyer Sidney Korshak, a pal of Bludhorn and Evans, who called him "my consigliere, my godfather." Much in the way John Marley's Hollywood producer is phoned in the movie, a call was put into MGM's owner, Kirk Kerkorian, still trying to build his MGM Grand in Las Vegas. "Wanna finish your hotel?" said Korshak. That was enough.
Kay Corleone . Jill Clayburgh was turned down as unsuitable for Pacino’s wife - when, in reality, the two actors were living together. Then, Diane Keaton tested with Pacino in the opening wedding scene - "the wrong scene," he moaned, "it's an expository scene." "They tested us together a lot," recalled Diane. "Like, for days.
“I think they finally got so tired
of seeing me, they said:
For God's sake, give her the part.”
Bad news for other hopefuls: Karen Black, Susan Blakely, Genevieve Bujold, Jill Clayburgh, Blythe Danner, Veronica Hamel (soon Daniel J Travanti’s lady in Hill Street Blues, 1981-87), Jennifer O'Neill, Michelle Phillips, Jennifer Salt, Cybill Shepherd, Trish Van Devere.
And yet, Keaton never related to her Kay in any of the three films... “ a woman standing in a hallway waiting for permission to be seem by her husband.” Worse, while the guys had great times with their idol, all the mighty Brando ever deigned to say to Keaton was: “Nice tits!”
Connie Corleone . "I didn't wear my contacts - I was afraid of seeing him standing beside the camera," said Coppola's sister, Talia Shire, about her test Seeking a film debut, she had plenty of competition: Julie Gregg (married off to Sonny, instead), Peggy Marshall, Maria Tucci, Brenda Vacarro, Kathleen Widdoes. Nepotism had nothing to do with it, swore Talia. "My test was picked by Bob Evans. He had no idea I was Francis' sister. In fact, Francis was very angry when he discovered I'd been cast!"
Fredo Corleone . Austin Pendleton, busy stage actor and a professor at the HB Acting studio in New York, was considered His 115 screen rolers included Alice’s White Rabbit and the lead of (Tom Stoppard’s) The Fifteen Minute Hamlet, 1995.
Tom Hagen . At 70, Rudy Vallee offered to play Hagen, 35! Jimmy Caan also tested as Don Corleone's consigliere. So did Peter Donat, who won a bit in the sequel (and became Fox Mulder's father on The X-Files) and Martin Apocalypse Sheen - and the winner, Robert Duvall. (Caan, Duvall, Pacino were all Oscar-nominated).
Johnny Fontane . No great surprise when Frank Sinatra Jr bowed out of the "Sinatra role" of singer Johnny Fontane. Coppola kept permutating the real thing - Frankie Avalon, Eddie Fisher, Buddy Greco, Bobby Vinton. And Al Martino well used in performing for, and indeed being beaten up by The Mob - played it after Coppola’s choice of Vic Damone "could not in good conscience continue." Truth is, he was warned off by the Dons who had already OK’d Martino. The role was “only minimised,” said Copp[ola, due to Martino being no Sinatra as an actor. “I was completely ostracized on the set because of Coppola,” thundered Martino. “Brando was the only one who didn’t ignore me.”
Mama Corleone . Another singer, Morgana King (ex-Maria Grazia Morgana Messina de Berardinis), won Brando's wife from Anne Bancroft and Italian star Alida Valli.
Bonsera . And yet another singer Frank Puglia became too ill for the undertaker - it would have been the 231st screen role for the Italian kid of operetta and opera discovered by for Orphans of the Storm by DW Griffith in 1921. Salvatore Corsitto inherited.
Sollozzo . Franco Nero said he discussed the role with Coppola in London - Al Lettieri, too. And he won.
Clemenza . Ex-wrestling champ Lenny Montana. was picked, but Richard Castellano was chosen. Montana stayed aboard as Luca Brasi, Don Corelone’s loyal, if not very bright bodyguard.The success of the movie went to Castellano’s head as we shall see in Part II.
Rizzi . John Ryan quit as the bridegroom banging the bridesmaid in the opening wedding - letting in Gianni Russo. Said banging led to the birth of of Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) in The Godfather Part III.
Moe Green . Even though it was yet another gangster on offer, Peter Falk was only too pleased to participate in Coppoola’s enterprise. Until he read the script. “Gimme me another day to make up my mind,” he asked producer Al Ruddy. “What for?” “I gotta hire a private detective.” “A detective? But why?” “I can’t find my role!" Alex Rocco found it.
Finally, Francey started directing on March 23, 1971
- on the first of 120 locations - and 23 deaths
Two years and four days later, the film collected three Oscars from nine nominations and shook Roger Moore when he announced Brando as Best Actor and wannabe Nativc American Sacheen Lightfeather refused it due "the treatment of American Indians today in the film industry."
“He taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
THE GODFATHER: PART II
Francis Ford Coppola . 1973
"Only way I'd do it was if they let me film Abbott and Costello Meet The Godfather," joked Coppola as Paramount turned the sequel screw.
Martin Scorsese was first reserve until, after resisting five other offers, Coppola gave for a $1m superstar salary. And full control. Totally identifying as always with Michael Corleone, Coppola ruled out Puzo's script, The Death of Michael Corleone (it became his subtitle for III), because "Michael would never have a mistress."
Brando "went crazy," said Evans, over losing at least $11m by selling his five points of the first film when he needed $100,000 in a hurry. Therefore, he refused the sequel - yet Coppola waited until actually shooting his flashback scene before rewriting it and giving the Don's lines to Sonny.
A disinterested Pacino was mollified
when told Michael would age to 70.
Pacino was offered $100,000, $250,000… all the way to $350,000. Then over a bottle of J&B, Al was shown a tin box with a million dollars in it. In cash. "An abstraction," he told the producer. "I ended up kind of apologising to the guy for not taking the million."
What changed his mind was not agreeing to $600,000 and 10% but Coppola inspiring him by outlining his script. "He just got me charged with electricity… The hairs on my head stood up. I usually say, If you feel that from a director, go with him."
Coppola saw Michael as Hitler - and as himself.
“To some extent I’ve become Michael -
a powerful man in charge of an entire production.”
Michael wore MFC monograms. F for Francis.
Robert De Niro, not yet a star, instantly became one as the younger Vito. Coppola had noticed his similarities to Brando during various tests for what was now known as Godpop I. Extra make-up was tested and dropped and De Niro did it alone with the Brando-cum-Frank Costello hoarseness.
Hyman Roth . For the Jewish gangster based on Meyer Lansky, Coppola and casting man Fred Roos wanted director Elia Kazan or the agent who first signed Jerry Lewis at age 16: the cadaverous Abner J Greshler. There was some overly hopeful talk of James Cagney... and even Peter Sellers. (Great as he usually was in films, Selleers was rarely in great movies, as biopgrapher Roger Lewis pointed out). Feisty director Samuel Fuller shot a test with Pacino - “ten minutes of uninterupted dialogue. I have it at home. But I was too young!” At 62. Pacino’s idea was 73. This was his old friend and mentor, Lee Strasberg, of the Actors Studio. Strasberg refused a $10,000 offer, held out for $30,000 - which became $58,000 as the shooting stretched.
Clemenza . Richard Castellano agreed to continue as Clemenza, in both yesterday/today timespans - if his lover could rewrite his dialogue and work on the whole script. Arrivederci Ricardo! Francey chose Bruno Kirby, Castellano's TV-son in The Super, as the young Clemenza (after testing an unknown Joe Pesci, who would join Don Scorsese’s Mafia) and the older version was rewritten as a new character - Frankie Pentangeli, played by playwright Michael V Gazzo (A Hatful of Rain), another hoarse head.
Some of the original losers got into II. Peter Donat (Robert’s nephew) became Senator Questadt and the taller-than-Al Carmine Caridi was a Rosato brother. Robby Benson, at age 18, was signed as Michael's son, Anthony - eventually played at age seven by James Gounaris, age 9, succeeding his brother from the first film.
Shooting started in Lake Tahoe, October 1, 1973, ending nearly nine months and 16 deaths later on June 19, 1974, in Italy, as the $6m. budget hit $13m - $8,000 per hour. The 6hr 30mn rough-cut was cut to 3 hr 20 mn. Strasberg felt the audience was cheated by the cutting - "the material that was cut wasn't bad material."
George Lucas told his old boss:
“Francis, you have two movies.
Throw one away. It doesn't work."
Francey went back to the editing table and made both work - enough for it to be the first sequel to win a Best Picture Oscar, one of six from 11 nominations on April 8, 1975 (making a two film total of nine from 20 nods). Coppola got three for adapted screenplay (with Puzo), directing and best picture (he produced with Fred Roos and Gary Frederickson).
Coppola treated the “two films” as one and finally edited them together, in sequential order this time, for The Godfather: The Complete Epic 1902-1959 for NBC in November 1977, with various cuts and additions making up 7 hrs 14 mn: 57 mn longer than the two separate films. Pacino hated it. “A linear picture... and one I object to... From the moment I saw it. It doesn’t play. Godfather II is meant to seen as it was made, with the intercutting of the De Niro section. It was in... that mesh that Francis found the metaphor for Godfather II.”
Part 1 and Part 11 top Pacino’s personal top five films: III doesn’t rate. The others? Scarface, Serpico, Looking For Richard.
“Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.”
THE GODFATHER: PART III
Francis Ford Coppola . 1989
“Everybody wanted to be in this movie,”
said Joe Mantegna.
“It’s the Italian Star Wars.”
Pacino compared it to King Lear - and Indiana Jones. "It has chapters, a natural evolution and people seem to want another one.... The first one is great storytelling. Two said a lot more. It was risky. The third one didn’t seem so focussed as the other two, it seemed unfinished. We missed the Duvall character strongly..."
It took Paramount 16 years to persuade Coppola to go to bat again. He remained aloof, disinterested, as a dozen treatments and scripts arrived from Nicholas Gage, Alexander Jacobs, Nick Marino, Vincent Patrick, Dean Riesner (a Clint Eastwood scripter), Thomas Lee Wright. Plus Mario Puzo, of course - but also from the Paramount (later Disney) chief Michael Eisner and even from his boss, the head of the parent company, Gulf and Western, Charles Bludhorn. (III is dedicated to him).
Feeling they'd lost Coppola, most of the scripts avoided the Corleones - or eliminated them with extreme prejudice.
Wright’s version interested Eddie Murphy:
“I’d act in The Godfather for nothing.”
Some of the scripts muddled the new Don, Michaels son, Anthony, with James Bond - battling the CIA, Castro or South American drug cartels. In 1978, Mario Puzo had Anthony (aimed at John Travolta or Robby Benson) recruited by the CIA to assassinate a Latin American dictator. In 1986, he created Sonny Corleone's bastard son Vincent Mancini…
After Apocalypse Now, One From The Heart and The Cotton Club, Coppola was in poor shape again,financially and artistically strapped. Other directors approached included three still on the A list from 1971 - Beatty, Costa-Gavras, Scorsese. Plus, as they rose and fell: Robert Benton, James Bridges, Michael Cimino, Philip Kaufman, Sidney Lumet, Michael Mann, Alan J Pakula. And a “flattered” Louis Malle.
Proving just how much Hollywood had changed since Godpop I in 1972, one of the numerous new scripts came from Don Simpson, the producer - not the writer! - of Flashdance, Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun. His sole scripting work was uncredited bits of Aloha, Bobby and Rose, 1975, and co-writing Paul Bartel’s Cannonball, 1976, which featured - as an uncredited Mafioso - a certain Sylvester Stallone.
Then, guess who, was being asked
to run the Godpop III show?
Stallone had auditioned and lost a bit role in Godpop I, and that rejection, he said, made him turn to scriptwriting… Now, he was Mr. Rocky Rambo - bigger than the fast-fading Coppola. Sly had even made Francey’s sister, Talia Shire, into a bigger name as Rocky's wife than as Michael's sister!
Revenge is sweet - except… but let him tell it.
“Charlie Bluhdorn, head honcho at Paramount and a really colourful character, actually had a huge poster made up: The Godfather III - Written, Directed by and Starring Sylvester Stallone. I said: "Why don’t you just rent a blimp, fill it full of old pianos and drop them all squarely on my face - because that’s what the critics will do.
“Coppola created masterpieces
and I was going to cover them in sludge?
"So, naturally, I turned it down, but was extremely flattered. Coppola went on to do the third one, which had my favourite form of assassination - the ever-faithful, never to be doubted, man-size serving of poison cannolis."
Needing $12m to avoid seizure of his assets, Coppola finally accepted a $16m deal - "my one shot to get my company going again and to do things I want to do."
Pacino would age this time
and he asked for $7m.
“We open with Michael's funeral!”
(No wonder he felt there was much of him in Michael). Pacino accepted $5m - which made his by then off-on-off lover Diane Keaton want something similar. She settled for $1.7m.
Despite his hatred for the original book, Frank Sinatra was reportedly keen to be Don Altobello. The role was larger than he figured and his concert schedule got in the way. In a total reversal of From Here To Eternity, Eli Wallach was booked in his place… 37 years later!.
With Michael's son, Anthony, quitting the family business for opera (Broadway singer Franc D'Ambrosio), Coppola polished Puzo’s scheme of starring Sonny's sonny - seen being conceived during the wedding reception opening of Godpop I.
Don Vincent Mancini-Corleone . De Niro wanted to be this heir apparent, to play, in effect, his own grandson. They were about the same age - or they were in the 90s, not so much for the film’s 60s period. They worked on aged tests at Coppola's Napa Valley home. They didn't work.
As with Michael in 1971, there was no shortage of Vincent wannabes: Kevin Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Matt Dillon, Vincent Spano tested. Coppola's nephew, Nicolas Cage was seen, along with Val Kilmer, Charlie Sheen (his father had tested for Michael in 1972) and Billy Zane. The smooth, Cuban born Andy Garcia won.
Mary Louise Corleone . Front runners for Michael and Kay's daughter were Madonna and Julia Roberts (too busy becoming a Pretty Woman). Francey also saw: Trini Alvaro, Bridget Fonda, Annabella Sciorra, before giving it to Winona Ryder. She was "honoured" at being chosen and arrived in Rome in mid-meltdown after completing three films, back-to-back. She was ordered home. "It wasn't even a choice... I couldn't get out of bed. They'd working with a wet noodle. " (She made up for it. In 1991, she brought Jim Hart's script of Dracula to Coppola - and he asked her to star in it).
Her agents were ecstatic at meeting Coppola.
Then, Anne Heche blew it by asking:
“This guy ever direct anything I’d know?”
Attempts were made to get Julia again or Laura San Giacomo. And poor Rebecca Schaeffer, 21, was murdered by a stalker hours before her appointment with Coppola. (Her last film was The End of Innocence, 1990).
Finally, in a move that flawed the entire movie, Copopla - forever over identifying with Michael - gave the role of Michael’s daughter to his own daughter, Sofia. Not her first Coppola film. She was Michael's godson being baptised in Godpop I and had bit parts in Rumble Fish, Peggy Sue Got Married. She had also written Life With Zoe, with her father for New York Stories.
Sofia had simply arrived in Rome to visit with her folks, when her mother passed on her father's news. "It was like: 'Excuse me? Are you sure? I just want to take a shower." He re-wrote Mary for her. De-sexing it. (But hadn’t he always maintained hat he’d written the role for Sofia in the first place...?) But no, no, it was Nnt nepotism, argued Coppola, "a lot of the times, your family's the only ones who will do it, who will show up."
Maybe so, but the Paramount suits were not pleased. The #2 man, Sid Gannis, flew into Palermo and talked to Pacino about The Sofia Problem. Didn’t work. Coppola won.
Grace Hamilton . Madonna was nearly switched to Grace, the journalist, but proved too expensive at $500,000. Diane Lane and Virgina Madsen were seen before the shutter-bugger went to another famous kin: Bridget Fonda, Peter's daughter, Henry’s grand-daughter, Jane's niece.
Tom Hagen . Robert Duvall wanted at least half Pacino's $5m fee - "not ideal, but OK" - to inhabit Hagen a third time. "He didn't really want to play another supporting part," thought Coppola, writing a line on how Hagen had died and simply re-named the consigliere BJ Harrison, offering it to, of all people, George Hamilton.
“No billing, no money, no part...
This is an offer I can really refuse.”
After talking to Rome, Hamilton took the next plane. Of course, he did.
They all did. But it was not the same. “It had a lacklustre, middled-aged feel,” felt Diane Keaton. “Everyone was older but not happier. Francis Coppola preferred to direct from the Silver Bullet, his trailer.”
Joey Zasa . Like Fonda for Mary, Mickey Rourke was not Italian enough for Joey. John Turturro was - and he got it. If Joe Mantegna was not free. He was... Dennis Farina got his revenge for losing Zasa to Joe by beating Joe to succeeding the late Jerry Orbach in 46 chapters of Law & Order, TV, 2004-06.
The Pope . Before making a Pontiff out of Raf Vallone (the Italian star considered for Don Coreleone in 1971, had since played real Mafia chief Joe Bonanno on TV), Coppola also considered Vittorio Gassman, Yves Montand, Michel Piccoli.
Archbishop Gilday . For the shady Vatican archbishop, Coppola shuffled through Albert Finney, Marcello Mastroianni, Philippe Noiret and Gian Maria Volonte. Making the character Irish made it tailor-made for Donel Donnelly.
In the 20 years since the first film, about 14 of the original cast had died, including Joe Spinell, due to have continued Willi Cici from I and II. However, back from 1971 were Franco Citi, Al Martino - and Carmine Cardi, not as a Rosato brother anymore but the old Don Volpe.
Shooting began at Cinecitta November 27, 1989 and lasted about as long as the original, six months, to May 24, 1990, with the over-schedule budget hitting $55m. The ending, itself, went throuigh a dozen reswrites. “There was one,” reported Diane Keaton, “where Talia Shire kills Eli Wallach, Al is blinded and Andy breaks off with Sofia the instant before she is assassinated. After blind Al discovers his dead daughter on the steps of the theatre, he blows his brains out. There was one where Al is assumed dead but comes back. There was one where he is shot but lioes, only to be killed on Easter Subnday on his way ti chruch. There was the version where Al is gunned down at Teatro Massimno but Sofia lives. None of us knew what to expect.”
"I'm not really interested in gangsters," claimed Coppola. "I like the Italian part...
“This is an Italian-American family and even
though they’re gangsters, they’re probably
very similar to what my family was like."
For Pacino, III never found itself because of one main reason: Robert Duvall did not want to play. “ I don’t want to make Bobby into a villain here. He must have had his reasons.... But Michael’s relationship with Tom Hagen was the catalyst for his involovement in that whole thing with the church. Hagen was killed and it was Michael’s investigating his murder that brought him into the church. He wasn’t coming there with hat in hand. A totally different idea...”
“Francis then rewrote the script and cast his daughter as Michael’s daughter. I think that’s when everything sort of changed.” Later Al said: “He thought that would serve us in the film because his vision of the part was that kind of innocence. He knew what he wanted. So you have to grant him that.”
"Francis Coppola wrote a screenplay that was really there. Robert Duvall not playing the part of Tom Hagen changed the movie. Francis then re-wrote and cast his daughter as Michael's daughter That's when everything sort of changed.
“If I were to do it over again… I wouldn't have that hair… It was a mistake… the antithesis of what the character was and how I saw him."
There was a bigger problem which Pacino outlined to Lawrence Grobler in 2005. "Nobody wanted to see Michael have retribution and feel guilty. That's not who he was. The thing about the other scripts was that in his mind he was avenging his famnily and saving them. Michael never thought of himself as a gangster. Never. That was not the image he had of himself… He's not part of the Goodfellas thing… I've played gangsters… but not Michael. [He] had this code.
“Michael lived by something
that made audiences respond.
Once he... started crying over coffins.
making confessions, feeling remorse...
It wasn’t right.”
"I applaud Francis for trying to get to that but Michael was so frozen in that image.
"There was in him a deep feeling of having betrayed his mother by killing his brother… (Ban him. Exile him in some way. He was harmless). That part of Michael was off. Just as he denies the mother of his children. How could you do a thing like that? .. That was a mistake. And we are ruled by these… crucial, brutal mistakes that we make in life. His choices - he was wrong. Like the way in Scarface when Tony kills Manny, that was wrong. And he pays for it. And in his way, Michael pays for it… All this contemplation and dealing with the King Lear connection.
"Maybe in retrospect, the movie should have been about Kay. "