The cast of The Godfather I and II got together at the Tribeca Film Festival to chat about the legendary films.
Yohana Desta writes: It was an offer you couldn’t refuse: on Saturday night, the Tribeca Film Festival hosted a 45th anniversary screening of The Godfather I and II, followed by an epic reunion featuring director Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, and Robert De Niro (who is also the co-founder of the festival).
After an epic back-to-back screening of the two films (the third film shall not be mentioned) at Radio City Music Hall, the stars took the stage for a lengthy discussion, moderated by a particularly talkative Taylor Hackford, the Oscar-nominated director of classics like An Officer and a Gentleman. Over the course of the night, the conversation often turned back to behind-the-scenes drama (Coppola’s near firing, Pacino’s multiple screen tests), to countless Marlon Brando stories (like the time he and Duvall mooned everyone on set). The late icon’s presence was commemorated onstage in the form of a large, framed photo of him in full Vito Corleone form.
Though the Godfather films are now regarded as two of the best movies ever made, everything was stacked against the production of the first film. Coppola remembers not even particularly liking Mario Puzo’s original novel at first blush: “I was disappointed in the book when I first read it,” he recalled.
The entire production was fraught before it even began. Coppola was constantly worrying about whether the studio was going to fire him, to the point where his secretary warned him not to quit outright, but to let himself get fired—just in case.
“I didn’t have any money. I had two kids, one on the way, and I was totally broke. And I knew that if they fired me, then they’d have to pay me,” he says. Coppola later got his revenge, firing 12 people who were the main “naysayers” of his vision that wanted him off the project.
His secretary gave him the firing advice after the first time Coppola went to meet with Brando, another figure the studio wasn’t fond of. “I was told by the president [of Paramount] . . . ‘Brando will not appear in this picture, and I prohibit you from bringing up his name again,’” Coppola said. The actor eventually got the role after doing a screen test, taking a measly salary, and putting up a $1 million bond as insurance that he wouldn’t “cause trouble” during filming.
Brando, who later won an Oscar for his role as the jowly Corleone patriarch, was an ever-present topic throughout the night, with many cast members recalling their favorite moments with the acting icon. Robert Duvall remembered that Brando thought James Caan was the funniest person on the set, and loved causing a little mischief of his own.
“During the wedding scene, we all were mooning each other,” Duvall ssaid. “Some woman turned to me said said, ‘Mr. Duvall, you’re fine.’ She turned to her friend and then said, ‘But did you catch the balls on that Brando?’”
Back then, Brando was already a long-time household name. Al Pacino, on the other hand, was still somewhat unknown, with only a couple of movies under his belt (including The Panic in Needle Park, the film that got Coppola’s attention). The director called up the burgeoning star, who remembers thinking it was “strange” that anyone would adapt the daunting best-seller, and thought it was even more “nuts” that Coppola wanted him to play chameleonic Michael Corleone. … (read more)
Source: Vanity Fair