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Award Category Fraud: Marlon Brando won Best Actor for playing Vito Corleone, even though the lead character is Michael, played by Al Pacino, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Pacino refused to attend the ceremony for this reason.
Dawson Casting: Inverted in Part III - Mary Corleone should be in her twenties (she was about 5 in Part II, which took place 21 years earlier) but Sofia Coppola was still a teenager when she played her.
Enforced Method Acting: In the "Woltz's bedroom" scene, John Marley (who played Woltz) was not told that they would be using an actual horse head for the scene, as they had used various props in rehearsals.
American Actor (of Anglo-Irish extraction) Marlon Brando plays Italian immigrant Vito Corleone. Jewish American actor James Caan plays his son Santino. The Jewish actor Abe Vigoda plays the Italian Sal Tessio. And in an unusual subversion of Jewish actors in Hollywood playing Italians, Italian-American actor Alex Rocco plays Jewish gangster Moe Greene.
Cuban American Andy Garcia plays Italian American Vincent Mancini.
Eli Wallach, of Jewish extraction, playing Italian Mob boss Don Altobello.
According to Coppola & Puzo, The Godfather Part III was meant to be titled The Death of Michael Corleone to highlight the fact that it did not follow on directly from Part II, but rather was meant to be "an epilogue." They were overruled, with executives saying "You can't make a Godfather movie without 'The Godfather' in the title!" This after Coppola had to demand the second film be titled The Godfather Part II instead of something else.
This also occurred during the first film as well. Stanley R. Jaffe, who was then Paramount's executive vice president and chief operations officer, along with producer Robert Evans, frequently fought with Coppola over creative matters during the film, from his decision to cast Marlon Brando and Al Pacino in the main roles, to his editing of the final product. It got so bad, that Coppola had to have the film's on-set physician prescribe him sleeping pills in order to combat his stress related insomnia. "The Godfather Wars" gives a very thorough account of the whole odyssey.
Adrian is a Corleone. Kinda makes you wish Rocky was around to protect her while Carlo abused her.
Money, Dear Boy: Coppola's reason for making all three films. He was head of a very unprofitable film company when he was offered the first one (offered purely on the grounds that he was Italian), and thought it was a stupid genre movie that he didn't want to waste his time on... but he really needed the money. Coppola wanted to now move away from the studio and focus on his personal film projects The Conversation and Apocalypse Now, which he could get finance for... Providing he made another Godfather film. Then many years later he was struggling with debts from failed projects... people went to see my Godfather movies, didn't they? Yeah, let's make another one of those. People sometimes cite this trope as a reason the third one sucked, but it was there the whole time.
Numbered Sequels: Cinema's Trope Maker. The first major film to use this trend was The Godfather Part II. It was one of Francis Ford Coppola's three demands for working on the sequel. His two other demands were approved, but the studio highly objected to simply following the title with a number. Its success began the tradition of numbered sequels. Oddly enough, this was inverted for Part III. Coppola, now without Auteur License, wanted to call it The Death of Michael Corleone, but the studio wouldn't let him.
Real-Life Relative: Coppola defines The Godfather as his own family business because several of his relatives had minor acting or production-related roles in the movies. His sister Talia Shire played Connie Corleone in all three movies. His daughter Sofia was the baby being baptised at the end of Part I, and also played Mary Corleone in Part III. His son Roman played the young Sonny Corleone in Part II. Coppola's father Carmine composed part of the score.
Refitted For Sequel: Vito's backstory in Part II is taken from scenes in the original novel that were left out of the first film.
The actor playing Luca Brasi was so nervous about acting opposite Brando that he flubbed his line. Coppola liked it and kept it in, and later filmed the scene of Brasi rehearsing his line over and over to make the flub funnier.
Clemenza's famous "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli" was ad-libbed by Richard Castellano.
In the "You can act like a man!" scene, Vito suddenly jumping, shaking and slapping Johnny Fontane was an improvisation by Brando, who felt that actor Al Martino was not showing enough emotion. Fontane's surprised face was unusable and is never shown, only his back.
Troubled Production: Paramount was not helpful to Coppola at all, and the troubles during the first film's production enjoy a quasi-mythological status in the Hollywood metascene. note The book originates from Mario Puzo being a The Gambling Addict no less The in-fighting with Robert Evans (among others) was so crude that Coppola banned him from the sequel, and there were several Mafia interferences with striking similarities to the events of the movie. The title of the Vanity Fair article on this (The Godfather Wars) is not sensationalized at all.
Robert Redford and Ryan O'Neal were considered for the part of Michael Corleone. Almost enforced by Executive Meddling as Coppola wanted the black-haired Mediterranean type but admitted that many Italians have blond hair and blue eyes.
Robert De Niro was very nearly cast as Vito's driver Paulie Gatto ("Won't see him no more") in the first film, which would have precluded him from taking his Star-Making Role in the sequel.
Part III was originally to be about the breakdown between Michael and Tom. However, Tom was written out when his actor, Robert Duvall, demanded to be paid the same as or marginally close to the amount that Al Pacino was getting.
Winona Ryder was supposed to play Mary in Part III but she opted to film Mermaids instead. Rebecca Schaeffer was also up for the part of Mary before she was murdered.
Originally Clemenza was to return in Part II but the actor made too many demands, and the character was replaced with Pentangeli. Given the scenes of Clemenza bonding with Michael and advising him on his first hit in the first film, it would have made the events of the second even more tragic.
Marlon Brando was supposed to appear in the birthday party flashback at the end of Part II. But due to a dispute with Paramount he never turned up for the shoot, forcing Coppola to rewrite the scene on the spot, in which Vito is The Ghost.
Joe Spinell was originally supposed to reprise his role as Willi Cicci in Part III, in which he would have taken over the Corleones' New York operation, but Spinell died before production. Cicci's role in the story was replaced by new character Joey Zasa, played by Joe Mantegna.
Coppola wanted to make a fourth movie with a similar layout to Part II, focusing on both the Corleones' rise to power under Vito and Sonny's leadership, and the present-day fall of the Corleone empire under Vincent, but many of the actors were disinterested, and the project was abandoned after the death of Mario Puzo.
Coppola initially didn't want to direct Part II, and instead recommended a young, up-and-coming director: Martin Scorsese. Paramount rejected the idea because Scorsese was too unknown at the time.
Coppola wanted to call the third movie "The Death Of Michael Corleone" but the studios nixed it. It might not be a big deal but it would probably have lessened the comparisons to the first two movies and made it clear it was an epilogue as Coppola intended. Also the title would have gotten audiences to expect Michael would be killed and made the ending where his daughter Mary is killed and instead and he actually dies years later a complete surprise.