The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival held a historic closure with a ‘The Godfather’ cast reunion. Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, Diane Keaton and director Francis Ford Coppola, got together on Saturday night to discuss on ‘ The Godfather’ and ‘The Godfather, Part II’ and reveal some behind-the-cameras secrets.
To celebrate the first movie’s 45th anniversary, the festival included a screening of both films as part of the program. About 6,000 people got the chance to watch ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Godfather, Part II’ at Radio City Music Hall. The audience included Leonardo DiCaprio, Peter Fonda, Robert Schwartzman, Sofia Coppola, among others.
Moderated by filmmaker Taylor Hackford, the 90-minute discussion went through some memories of two of the most iconic and transcendental films in Hollywood history. Although many of us thought that it was all said about the films and that we knew all the behind-the-scenes stories, the epic panel revealed more than we could’ve imagined, including how difficult it was to get the film made.
Coppola shared a few coincidences about the film production that still blow his mind
The legendary filmmaker took the stage to talk about a series of coincides that took place one day, preceding the conception of the film. On a Sunday morning, Coppola recalls reading the New York Times when an ad caught his eye. It was an ad for Mario Puzo’s book, featuring the cover art of marionette strings. “I thought it looked like an intellectual book about power,” he said.
Right after that, producers Albert Ruddy and Gray Frederickson, who were in town shooting a film, decided to stop by Coppola’s house to say hi. They “weren’t associated with ‘The Godfather’ yet”, but ended up producing the film. Afterward, while the three men were shooting some footage, Coppola’s phone rang. It was Marlon Brando on the line. Coppola had recently submitted a script for a movie called ‘The Conversation’ to the star, and although they had never met or spoke before, he took the time to personally call the director to let him know that he was turning down the story. Later, Brando became the legendary Don Corleone.
The fact that all these things happened at once, still amaze the filmmaker to this day.
Al Pacino was “too short” and got bullied on set
When it was Pacino’s time to talk came, he recalled how tough it had been to finally get the role of Michael Corleone. Coppola wanted him since the beginning, but Paramount was not that convinced. Producer Robert Evans thought the actor was “too short” for the role – which Pacino said was “sorta true.” They were suggesting instead someone like Robert Redford.
In the end, Pacino got the paper, but the first weeks of shooting were kind of troubled for him. He recalled hearing people giggling at his performance. He had been filming for a while already, but still, producers weren’t convinced. “I kept testing even after I got the part,” he said. However, Coppola managed to convince Paramount not to fire Pacino, setting forward in the production schedule the restaurant scene, where Michael shoots Sollozzo. After that, Pacino had secured his place.
Pacino also recalled that at the time of shooting the wedding sequence, he was still nervous and worried. So he and Diane Keaton went back to their hotel and decided to, well, get really drunk. “We got so loaded after that wedding sequence,” he said. “We were theater actors, and we were not used to filming. The whole thing had sort of a surreal feel to it. So we got back and started drinking.” After that, he almost left the film. “Where do we go from here, we’re done, it’s over! This is the worst film ever made!” the actor recalled saying. Luckily, he got over it. Keaton, on the other side, said she is “still unsure” why she was cast. “I hear it was because Francis thought I was ‘eccentric,’” she said.
The cast talks about Brando’s pranks and his impressive testicles
Marlon Brando’s pranks during the filming of ‘The Godfather’ are now legendary. James Caan, for example, recalled the funeral scene and how the legend-filled Don’s coffin with weights, making it three times as heavy. Caan almost got a hernia because of that.
Duvall’s story about Brando, however, definitely wins. He recalled a time during the filming of the wedding that the cast members were fooling around, mooning each other. Coppola reminded them “there are women and children present, Bobby!” but he and Brando kept going until one of the women on the set saw them and pulled Duvall aside. “Mr. Duvall, you are fine,” he remembers,”but my God, did you catch those balls on Brando?”