Video

The Godfather

Revisiting The Godfather on Francis Ford Coppola’s birthday…

Celebrate Francis Ford Coppola’s birthday today with a rewatch of The Godfather. Starring Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan, the 1972 masterpiece broke several box office records, making it the highest grossing film of 1972. The film picked up three Academy Awards in 1973, including Best Picture, and is rightly regarded as one of the most influential films in Hollywood history. But did you know…

1) Coppola wasn’t Paramount’s first (or even second… or third) choice to direct the film. The studio had wanted a director of Italian descent to ensure the film would be so authentic, the audience would “smell the spaghetti,” as per Robert Evans, then head of Paramount Pictures. A number of directors passed on the project, including Sergio Leone, Peter Yates and Richard Brooks, before the film was offered to Coppola. He initially wasn’t interested, but accepted, funnily enough, because he owed money to Warner Bros, and his partners, including George Lucas, urged him to. “Go ahead, Francis,” Lucas said. “We really need the money. What have you got to lose?” 

2) Coppola and Paramount disagreed on pretty much everything – casting, locations, budget, and the direction of the film. Coppola wanted to make an intelligent commentary on succession and American capitalism, but the studio just wanted to make a quick profit off of Mario Puzo’s novel, preferably on a low budget. They also wanted to shoot in St. Louis, whereas Coppola used the novel’s continuous success to argue for a larger production on location in New York and Sicily. The tension between Coppola and Paramount grew so fraught that the studio even threatened to replace him with Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire) throughout production. Our clip is an excerpt from the documentary short, “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t”, originally released in 2008 to commemorate The Godfather’s 35th anniversary.