The making of "The Godfather" (2023)


When "The Godfather" opened in March 1972, director Francis Ford Coppola's drama about a mob family forever changed how we look at gangster films. Correspondent Tracy Smith talks with Coppola, and with stars Robert Duvall, James Caan and Talia Shire, about the making of a classic that, 50 years later, movie lovers still cannot refuse.

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Someday and that day may never come I'll call upon you to do a service for you, but uh until that day, except this justice is a gift on my daughter's wedding day.

Can you believe it's been 50 years since we first met the corleone family 50 years on, the godfather has taken its place high on the list of classic hollywood movies from tracy smith.

We have an offer, you can't refuse.

I want you to rest well and the montreal now this hollywood big show is going to give you what you want totally they start shooting in a week, I'm going to make them an awfully camera.


You probably remember the first time you saw the godfather, and by now you can likely recite all the characters best lines from clemenza's cannolis leave the gut.

Take you got to get up close like this, but a bing you blow their brains all over your nice cyber league suit.

The film came out half a century ago in march 1972 and when it did, the real mob was at the theater.

Why do you come out here and rain or wait like this to catch cold, and if I have chance to see maron brando the godfather broke all box office records at the time not bad for a film made by a director who at first didn't even want.

To make it.

Back then francis ford coppola was a young filmmaker in business with another young gun george lucas, but when coppola first read mario puzo's book.

The godfather he was underwhelmed and I thought this is just sort of salacious trying to make money kind of book and so I I disregarded it when they offered it to me I turned it down what changed your mind george lucas came to me, says francis we're going broke.

They're going to chain the door for the lack of paying the rent of our americans.

Wardrobe studio and you have to do this, we have no other alternative.

We need the money.

So coppola took the job framing it as a dark tale of family succession and almost immediately began to butt heads with paramount studio.

Brass, I was very young.

I was 29.

I had no power.

They could easily push me around which they did and tried to coppola wanted new york stage actor al pacino to play michael the studio, wanted anyone but and considered people like robert redford, ryan, o'neal and warren beatty.

They also wanted sir lawrence olivier in the title role but coppola held out for marlon brando at 46 and in top physical shape.

Brando didn't look anything like an aging dawn that I cannot do, but with some world-class makeup he was able to transform himself into a character.

He knew just how to play we've known each other many years, but this is the first time he ever came to me for council for help.

The cat was coppola's idea.

It was a studio cat and I just put in his hand he would never say what do you want me to do? I joke that, like, if he's in a scene, brandon was in a scene and a heard of buffalo ran by in character.

He was oh look at the buffalo, you know what I'm saying yeah he would make use of anything.

He was great.

He was a genius, no doubt about it, and talk about genius robert duvall as family attorney tom hagan did this scene in two takes.

They shot sonny on the causeway he's dead.

As always, duvall had his lines down cold brando, probably didn't he didn't like to memorize lines yeah.


He claimed that by uh seeing the lines he could he could be fresher.

I think it was a form of laziness.

I mean in the scene with pacino out in the backyard.

He had a great big sign in a tree, look up at the tree and say the lines from off the tree way up.

You know that's wild, but it just looks like he's thinking yeah.

Well, you know he was able to do that, but even with all that talent, coppola was in constant fear of losing his job.

The studio hated his ideas and some of the crew he says, would bad mouth him behind his back this one all these people here and you look so alone.

Well, that's really! This picture is how I felt during the picture.

I just I was not a happy camper as they say.

Coppola wasn't totally alone, he'd cast two allies as corleone siblings, james khan, as sunny and his real-life sister talia shire as connie, but they feared the worst for those first couple of weeks that we were all shooting, francis's job was in jeopardy.

Yeah I mean, and so my sister shouldn't have been on that set.

I will tell you that, because it was very, very tough, but a turning point came after paramount.

Execs saw the dailies for this scene where al pacino as michael prepares to kill two of his family's mortal enemies.

The sound of the train helps build tension that you can feel and see behind pacino's eyes until the moment he strikes, but for all the shoot-'em-up summit paramount worried that the godfather as scripted wasn't violent enough coppola says they actually wanted to hire someone to pump up the action in the film.

So he choreographed the violent fight scene between talia shire's character, connie and her no-good husband, carlo played by gianni russo, and I remember the plates were heavy, so I'd go and it wouldn't break and it didn't break.

And so my shoes came off and I kept just running around in the broken things, because you don't want to take two, but it was uh.

It was intense talk about intense for the scene where sunny is gunned down at the tollbooth technicians, wired, everything with small explosive charges called squibs to simulate bullet strikes on me.

I had 147.

around the the toll.

Booth was 5 000., oh jesus, were you scared a little, but there were girls on the set and I had to do it.

I swear I wish I was lying.

The result was a shockingly realistic, ballet of brutality that looked lethal and actually could have been.

It would blow a hole in your hand, if you put your hand right here like that, you can't do it many times.

You don't want to take two.

That's a stay tuned, crazy, no you're! Still like an older brother, like did you notice that on and the winner is mario puzzo and francis ford coppola for the godfather.

The first godfather movie won three oscars, but it was bigger than that.

You come here unannounced on the day.

My daughter is to be married.

It changed our culture in ways that still resonate today from the simpsons to the sopranos.

Is it true, my god, even if you've seen it a hundred times, you haven't seen it like this for a while the studio restored, the godfather in time for the anniversary.

So now it once again looks like the vision francis ford coppola went through a kind of hell to make.

I would imagine that the wounds have healed by now.

I I don't know the wounds.

Really I mean, do you have some episode in your life when you were a young woman that hurt you and you think about it? Does it not hurt you anymore? No you're right, it still hurts.

It still hurts, because we are creatures of feelings and and and those feelings get linked with some thing and if you go back and think on that subject, it could break your heart again.

Coppola, of course went on to be recognized as one of the greatest directors of all time and he told us that ultimately he's glad he took the job.

Aren't we all the godfather was a new way to show an italian-american gangster film with a different, a different sensibility.

So, of course always the movie you do.

That is something a little different is rejected in its own time.

But years later it becomes the new.

Now then godfather becomes the standard to measure against.

In other words, art is a ever blossoming flower that we're all part of it's a beautiful thing, really.


What is the famous line from The Godfather? ›

This version of the popular phrase/cliché, "revenge is a dish best served cold," was uttered in the novel by Vito Corleone, when talking to Michael about avenging some recent deaths within his family.

How does Vito Corleone know it was Barzini? ›

How did Vito Corleone figure out it was Emilio Barzini who was behind the assassination of Sonny Corleone? Because Barzini showed his cards when he followed up on Phillip Tattaglia's comments about the politicians and judges the Corleones were connected to during the meeting of the Five Families.

What word was omitted from The Godfather? ›

In an attempt to sort out their differences, the film's producer arranged a meeting with Joseph Colombo who revealed that he had one simple request. “They demanded that he [Albert Ruddy] delete all mentions of 'mafia' in the script,” author of The Godfather Effect, Tom Santopietro, said.

Who turned down The Godfather role? ›

Before Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson was in the running to play Michael Corleone in The Godfather. But why did he turn down the iconic role? The Godfather is one of the most acclaimed and beloved movies of all time, which is arguably best remembered for its impressive ensemble.

What is Don Corleone most famous quote? ›

Revenge is a dish best served cold.” – Don Vito Corleone.

What are 5 famous quotes? ›

Famous quotes in English
Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.Benjamin Franklin
Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.Alfred Lord Tennyson
To be or not to be, that is the question.William Shakespeare
To err is human; to forgive, divine.Alexander Pope
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Was Vito scared of Luca Brasi? ›

Although Vito fears and dislikes Brasi, he eventually recruits the brutal thug into his crime family, knowing that Brasi's formidable reputation would intimidate the Corleone family's enemies.

Was Barzini more powerful than Vito? ›

In the novel. Barzini heads one of New York's Five Families, and is the second most powerful Mafia don in the country after Vito Corleone.

Did Carlo actually set up Sonny? ›

2. Michael and Vito might have placed some of the blame for Sonny's assassination on Tom. Though it turns out that Carlo Rizzi plotted with Barzini to set Sonny up, Michael and Vito probably believed that Tom didn't do enough to stop Sonny from leaving the safety of the family compound that day to find Carlo.

What was wrong with Fredo in The Godfather? ›

The official explanation of Fredo's death, as related by Connie, is that he drowned, although it is left ambiguous whether Connie actually believes this. Michael himself cries out Fredo's name while having a diabetic stroke.

What is the Sicilian quote in godfather? ›

Calo : In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns.

What did Luca Brasi say to Don Corleone? ›

Luca Brasi : Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter... 's wedding... on the day of your daughter's wedding. And I hope their first child be a masculine child. I pledge my ever-ending loyalty.

Who was the first choice for Don Corleone? ›

Orson Welles - Don Vito Corleone, The Godfather (1972)

Marlon Brando was always Francis Ford Coppola's first choice for the role of Don Vito Corleone.

Who was the highest paid actor in Godfather 1? ›

Biography. A distinguished character actor, Richard S. Castellano was the highest earning actor in The Godfather, whose fame outside the saga included playing Joe Girelli in The Super. He also received an Academy Award nomination for his role in Love and Other Strangers.

Who was originally cast as Luca Brasi? ›

Lenny Montana(1926-1992)

Tall and solidly built, this Italian-American professional wrestler turned actor was born Lenny Passaforo in Brooklyn, New York, and is best remembered for his first on-screen role as the not too bright but ever loyal bodyguard Luca Brasi in.

What is the famous cannoli line in The Godfather? ›

In the distance, his lieutenant Rocco Lampone (Tom Rosqui) is seen in the car, putting the gun muzzle to Paulie's head. Boom-boom-boom. Clemenza returns and, emotionless, utters the classic line. "Leave the gun, take the cannoli."

What is the most famous movie line? ›

The list
1"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."1939
2"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."1972
3"You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am."1954
4"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."1939
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What is the first line in The Godfather? ›

'I believe in America. ' “I believe in America.” These four words — spoken in a clipped, lilting rush over a pitch-black screen — are the first thing you hear in “The Godfather” after a short moan of music. The words hover over the imageless screen, demanding your attention and priming you for what's to come.

What were Don Corleone's last words? ›

Shortly afterwards, on July 29, 1955, Vito dies of a heart attack in his garden while playing with his grandson, Michael's son Anthony. In the novel, his last words are, "Life is so beautiful."

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