NEW YORK - JUNE 24: A photo of Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone from the movie "The Godfather" hangs above his script from the movie, at Christie's Auction House June 24, 2005 in New York.
The Godfather premiered on March 15, 1972 and it’s my favorite gangster movie of all time. I’ve watched it countless times and own about three different versions of the trilogy. The iconic film and cast won five Golden Globe awards and three Oscars and to say it’s been influential in pop culture would be an understatement. Here are some interesting facts about The Godfather you may not know!
In the scene above, Al Pacino does a fantastic job of acting like he has a broken jaw. How did he channel this Academy Award nominated performance? By actually getting his jaw wired shut!! It’s hard to imagine anyone but Al Pacino playing Michael Corleone, but that almost happened. Paramount Pictures were dead set against Pacino playing Vito Corleone’s youngest son and brought in everyone from Martin Sheen to Jack Nicholson to read for the part. Have a look at these screen tests for the role of Michael, including a read by James Caan who would, of course, eventually play Sonny. Bonus at the end of Robert Deniro trying his hand at playing Sonny!
Speaking of James Caan, he killed it as Sonny Corleone. You know it. I know it. He knows it. One person who didn’t know it was producer Robert Evans who cut out over 45 minutes of footage of Caan, which limited the depth of his character. This actually led to a confrontation between the two at the film’s premiere, in which Caan yelled, “Hey, you cut my whole f’n part out!”
Understandably, the actual Mafia wasn’t thrilled with someone making a movie about them. The Italian-American Civil Rights League, which was actually run by mob boss Joe Colombo, made sure Coppola didn’t use the terms “Mafia” and “Cosa Nostra” in the screenplay and kept an eye on the production by insisting that some members of the League were hired as extras. In fact, one of the co-stars of the movie got his role because he was mobbed up. Gianni Russo who played Carlo Rizzi, the scumbag brother-in-law of the Corleones, had no acting experience but secured the role because he was an associate of Mafia boss Joe Colombo. Star Marlon Brando was vocal about having some without film experience play such an important role. That all changed when Russo approached Brando and threatened him. Unaware that this was a real threat, Brando thought Russo was playing his character and thought he was so fantastic he changed his mind. Here’s Carlo getting his. The garbage can lid bit was James Caan improvising.
Last but not least, the goddamn horse’s head was real! The infamous scene where movie producer Jack Woltz, played by actor John Marley, wakes up and finds a decapitated horse head in bed with him was about as authentic as you can get. That’s because Marley expected to wake up next to a fake horse, like the one they used in rehearsal. But Coppola didn’t like how the prop looked on film so he bought an actual horse head from a local dog food company. Marley’s frightened screams were legit.