Trivia: The Godfather

The movies:

  • AFIS 100 Years Series:
  • All-Star Cast: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Abe Vigoda, Talia Shire and Eli Wallach were big names in the sequels, most of them owing it to the roaring success of the original. During the making of the first film, only Brando was a bona fide huge star and Sterling Hayden a household name; Richard Conte had been a leading man in the '40s and '50s, but was in the final stages of his career.
  • 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.
  • Breakthrough Hit: Because of the original, you know who Francis Ford Coppola is. Also, see All-Star Cast; practically anyone under 40 in that list had his or her career made by this film.
  • The Cast Showoff: The Don's wife, Carmella Corleone, is seen singing at the wedding. Morgana King, who played Carmella, was a gifted jazz singer, and portraying Carmella was actually her film debut, as well as her acting debut.
  • Common Knowledge: A minor example: Richard Matheson is often said to be one of the Senators in Part II (even IMDB lists him), but he's uncredited on the film, Matheson himself denies it, and there's no evidence beyond it being repeated ad nauseum.
  • 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.
  • Development Hell: The third film remained in varying stages of development for fifteen years, before Coppola and Puzo finally signed on.
  • 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.
    • In Part II, the scene with Signor Roberto struggling with the door was set up by having the actor playing Genco secretly force the door shut with a nail. The actor playing Signor Roberto was a famous Italian comedian and Coppola wanted to see how he'd react.
  • Fake Nationality:
    • 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.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • 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, in fact, that Coppola, constantly worrying about potentially being fired and replaced during the shoot, 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.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!:
    • Luca Brasi may sleep with the fishes, but Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) is Fish.
    • For the younger audiences Joey Zasa is Rossi and also Fat Tony.
    • Adrian is a Corleone. Kinda makes you wish Rocky was around to protect her while Carlo abused her. Speaking of which, Gazzo is Willie Cicci.
    • Mulder's dad is one of the Senators grilling Michael.
    • Also for the younger audiences, Moe Greene is Roger Meyers Jr.
    • Why would Michael reject Satan? He is Satan.
    • Harry Dean Stanton is an FBI agent in Part II.
  • Life Imitates Art:
    • The real life mobsters were so flattered by the classy characterization of Brando and the Corleones in general that they started to style themselves after Don Vito, invoking all kind of manerisms old-fashioned or forgotten by then.
    • A real-life mob-boss was apprehended while he was playing the videogame adaptation.
  • 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. note 
    • This could apply to the original book, too. Puzo had written two acclaimed but unsuccessful novelsnote , was eeking out a living as a freelance journalist and struggling with gambling debts. By his own account, a publisher suggested that Puzo's books would be more successful if he added gangsters. Puzo (who had little personal interest in the Mafia) followed his advice and The Godfather was the result.
  • 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.
  • Playing Against Type: Michael (especially in Part II) is a more subdued and quiet role than what Al Pacino usually plays. This, ironically, was also Pacino's first major role. It could be considered a positive, actor-specific example of Early Installment Weirdness.
  • 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. His grandfather Francesco Pennino even composed the musical play Vito and Genco see in one of the flashbacks in Part II.
  • 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.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing, Hudson Hawk) plays one of the Rosatto Brothers in Part II.
    • Also in Part II, Harry Dean Stanton (Alien) is one of the FBI guys guarding Frank Pentagelli when he's a witness for the Senate against Michael.
    • Furthermore, Dominic Chianese (Uncle Junior in The Sopranos) plays Johnny Ola
  • Sequel Gap: Part III was released in 1990, 16 years after the previous installment.
  • Star-Making Role:
    • Al Pacino (Michael), Diane Keaton (Kay), and John Cazale (Fredo), who sadly didn't get much time to enjoy it due to his early death from cancer.
    • Robert De Niro (Young Vito) in Part II.
  • Throw It In:
    • Professional wrestler Lenny Montana, cast as 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.
    • "Michael Corleone says hello!"
    • The motif of oranges representing death. Initially, the film's art directors used oranges as props because they showed up easily onscreen, not intending any symbolism. Coppola certainly ran with the idea in the sequels, however.
    • The use of the garbage can lid when Sonny beats up Carlo was improvised by James Caan.
    • James Caan improvised the part where he throws the FBI photographer to the ground. The extra's frightened reaction is genuine. He also came up with the idea of throwing money at the man to make up for breaking his camera. As he put it, "Where I came from, you broke something, you replaced it or repaid the owner."
    • The scenes in which Enzo comes to visit Vito Corleone in the hospital were shot in reverse, with the outside scene shot first. Gabriele Torrei, the actor who plays Enzo, had never acted in front of a camera before and his nervous shaking, after the car drives away, was real.

  • 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 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.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • A large list of actors were considered for the part of Vito Corleone:
    • 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.
    • Frustrated by the dithering over whether he would be cast as Michael, Al Pacino accepted the role of Mario Trantino in the comedy The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, but when he was offered the part of Michael after all, the role of Mario in Gang was taken over by the actor who had been cast as Vito's driver Paulie Gatto ("Won't see him no more") in The Godfather: Robert De Niro, who, if he had stayed on as Paulie, would have been prevented from taking his Star-Making Role in the sequel.
    • Several actors read for major characters and were recast in other roles:
      • Richard Conte and John Marley were among the many actors considered for Vito Corleone. Both ended up with smaller parts, as Barzini and Jack Woltz, respectively.
      • James Caan read for Michael and Sonny, and was provisionally cast as the former, with Carmine Caridi playing Sonny. When Pacino became Michael, Caan was cast as Sonny instead. As compensation, Caridi had a bit part in the first film (as an onlooker during Carlo's beating) and larger roles in the sequels, as Carmine Rosato in Part II and crime boss Albert Volpe in Part III. Besides Pacino, Keaton, Shire and Richard Bright, he was the only actor to appear in all three Godfathers.
      • Al Lettieri was another option for Sonny; he wound up playing Solozzo instead.
      • Peter Donat was shortlisted with Robert Duvall for Tom Hagen. Appropriately, Donat was cast as Questadt, the Senate lawyer in Part II.
    • Coppola's rough cut of Part II ran almost six hours in length. Vito's storyline extended into the Prohibition Era, including a gang war with Al Capone and Luca Brasi's exploits as Vito's hatchet man. Michael's story continued, gaining political influence in 1960s Washington through his connections with Senator Geary (implying a role in the Kennedy assassination, among other things). Little of this footage survived, aside from the handful of deleted scenes used in the television reedit, and one or two stills showing Robert De Niro as middle-aged Vito. Many of the ideas were recycled for Mark Winegardner's sequel novels and the putative scripts for Part IV.
    • 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.
    • Coppola wanted Brando to return in the sequel and play the part of young Vito, but it never came to pass.
    • 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.
    • Rocco Lampone was also featured in early drafts of Part III. It's unclear how the filmmakers would explain away Rocco getting killed in the closing minutes of Part II.
    • Coppola wanted to make a fourth movie written by Mario Puzo 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 along with Paramount were disinterested and the project was abandoned after the death of Mario Puzo, though the unused screenplay was later made into a novel called "The Family Corleone" and Paramount did win back the rights in 2012 to make more films, so they could do an adaption of the novel if they wanted to.
    • 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.
    • Sergio Leone was Paramount's first choice to direct The Godfather, but Leone disliked Puzo's novel and turned it down. His own gangster epic, Once Upon a Time in America, gives an idea how a Leone-directed Godfather might have turned out.
    • Leone was one of several directors offered The Godfather before Coppola. Arthur Penn also declined, because he didn't want to make another gangster film so soon after Bonnie and Clyde. Another early choice was Costa-Gavras, who liked the novel but didn't feel knowledgeable enough about American culture to direct the movie. Fred Zinnemann, Peter Yates and even Richard Lester were considered before Coppola signed on.
    • 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.
    • Mia Farrow auditioned for the role of Kay. Also considered were Jill Clayburgh, Susan Blakey, Michelle Phillips, Geneviève Bujold, Jennifer Salt, Blythe Danner.
    • Anna Magnani and Anne Bancroft turned down the role of Mama Corleone.
    • Fabrizio, Michael's Sicilian bodyguard who planted the bomb that killed Appolonia, was supposed to be found by Michael at a pizza parlor he opens in America and subsequently blown away with a shotgun at the end of the movie as per "The Godfather" novel (though Michael isn't his killer in the novel). This scene was filmed but ultimately cut because the makeup artists plastered Angelo Infanti with so much fake blood that the scene looked ridiculous. Hence, the reshot scene where he's killed via Car Bomb as the ultimate poetic justice.
  • Written-In Infirmity: Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth) became seriously ill after contracting a tropical disease filming Part II in the Dominican Republic. Rather than recast the role, Coppola rewrote Strasberg's scenes to make Roth's health a major plot point.

The Game:

  • Banned in China: The sequel is currently banned in the United Arab Emirates due to political tensions with Italy.
  • The Other Darrin - Both played straight and averted:
    • Michael isn't voiced by Al Pacino, or even looks like him, since Pacino licensed his likeness to another company for the Scarface game.
    • Vito, on the other hand, does look and sound a lot like Marlon Brando, but his VA is actually an imitator, as Brando's health prevented him from recording all of his lines. The only place you actually hear Brando is in the hospital scene when he's talking to Michael, as Brando's respirator doesn't sound out of place.
    • Rocco Lampone and Carmella Corleone do make brief appearances, but they look and sound nothing like their movie characters, which suggests the estate of Tom Rosqui nor Morgana King did not give permission for their likenesses to be used.
    • Averted with most of the other characters, who look and sound eerily like their movie counterparts, with James Caan, Robert Duvall, Abe Vigoda (though not the still livingJohn Martino) reprising their movie roles, and others (such as Luca and Clemenza) played by virtual sound-alikes.
  • Prop Recycling: The Dodge Super Bee lookalike car in Godfather II is a retextured version of Carson Opus from Burnout Paradise.