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At this point, waxing lyrical and citing The Godfather or The Godfather II as one of the greatest films ever made has almost become cliché. That's right up until you actually sit down and re-watch not just Francis Ford Coppola's original 1972 adaptation of Mario Puzo's novel, but his 1974 sequel, too. As soon as you start to wallow in these films, even just for a scene or a second, you can't help but absorb and devour their pageantry and beauty, as it Is acting, directing, cinematography, and every other facet of cinema at its very best. I wasn't just lucky enough to sit down and watch The Godfather and The Godfather Part II early on Saturday afternoon all the way into Saturday night, but afterwards I was also able to sit down and listen to Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Talia Shire and Robert DeNiro talk about their experiences on the two films.
During this time, they dropped some delightful tidbits regarding its production, which included a particularly hilarious anecdote about Marlon Brando's testicles. You can scroll down below to see what I learned from my time at the once in a lifetime Tribeca Film Festival event below.
Coppola's Pretty Sure You Couldn't Make The Godfather Today
Towards the end of the Tribeca talk, which was originally supposed to last for 45 minutes but ran for just under one hour and 20 minutes instead, host Taylor Hackford became inundated with questions from the audience, who were eager to learn more about the iconic movies. One of these questions posed whether or not The Godfather could actually be made in today's movie climate. Director Francis Ford Coppola doesn't believe that studios today would give The Godfather the go-ahead, insisting that it would be too costly, especially because you couldn't stretch it into its own cinematic universe. Coppola explained:
This film could be made today but it wouldn't get a go ahead. The first Godfather cost $6.5 million. The second Godfather cost about $11 or $12 million, which if you convert that to what today's money is would make a major studio nervous. But it would never get through the process of getting an OK or what they call a greenlight. Nothing can get a greenlight unless you can make a full series of them, or if you're a Marvel comic type of film.
Francis Ford Coppola then immediately recalled an exchange he once had with a former owner of MGM, who asked the director how to make sure that a film was both critically and financially successful, which pretty much sums up why films of The Godfather's scale and ilk aren't seen anymore. Francis Ford Coppola continued:
You know once Kirk Kerkorian, who owned MGM, asked me, 'How do you make a film that's successful financially and also artistically?' And said, 'Risk.' Nobody wants the risk when you get into business.
Your move, Marvel.
Coppola Reveals The Most Underappreciated Star Of The Godfather
The fact that The Godfather and The Godfather Part II received nine Oscar nominations in the acting categories alone is proof of just how stellar its performances are. This also means that some of its actors were always going to be overlooked by history when discussions and examinations of the epics took place. Francis Ford Coppola believes that one actor who history has especially been cruel to when it comes to his performance in The Godfather is Al Lettieri, who played Virgil Sollozzo in the film. But he took time to pay the actor his dues on Saturday night, explaining:
I feel that an the unsung heroes in this, and someone who passed away, was the villain. Because if you have a good villain, someone who you take seriously, and I think that Virgil Sollozzo played by Al Lettieri is one of the best. That makes the whole story work better.
For those of you that are dying to know, Marlon Brando and Al Pacino won and were nominated in the Best Actor category for The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, respectively, while Pacino, James Caan and Robert Duvall were nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather. Robert DeNiro won that accolade for The Godfather Part II, beating Michael V. Gazzo and Lee Strasberg to the gong, and Talia Shire was nominated for The Godfather Part II in the Best Supporting Actress category. You're welcome.
Thank Talia Shire For That Seminal Moment In The Godfather Part II
One of the most important sequences in The Godfather II is the revelation from Kay Adams-Corleone that she has decided to leave Al Pacino's Michael Corleone because of just how despicable he has become. Diane Keaton's performance in this scene is pitch-perfect, as she goes from nerves to anger to relief, especially when she reveals that she didn't have a miscarriage, but instead had an abortion because she didn't want to bring another of Michael's sons into the world. It turns out that this scene wasn't originally in the script, though, instead it was Francis Ford Coppola's sister Talia Shire, who played Connie Corleone throughout the series, that suggested that's how it should proceed. Francis Ford Coppola admitted:
You know the scene, the very important scene where you tell Al that it wasn't a miscarriage it was an abortion? That was Talia's idea. Talia ended up suggesting she has the abortion as her way out.
Thankfully Francis Ford Coppola listened, because by doing so he etched up the tension in the sequence and made it umpteen times more gripping, and in the process also created a seminal cinematic moment.
The Pranks By Robert Duvall And Marlon Brando Were Iconic
While The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are serious movies made by serious men, they still needed some downtime to gather their senses during the production process. During the Tribeca chat about the films, Francis Ford Coppola admitted that it was Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall that were the most responsible for creating havoc on the set, insisting that they were "constantly making jokes and having fun." This provoked Robert Duvall to relive a hilarious story about what the duo did to pass the time when Coppola was shooting Connie and Carlo's wedding scene, which opens The Godfather. Duvall recalled:
During the wedding scene we were all mooning each other, and Brando took it quite seriously. He gave out a world championship belt. So he went for his belt and I went for might belt, and Coppola said, 'There are women and children here, you can't do that.' But we did it. And afterwards some woman turned to me and said, 'Mr Duvall you're fine.' She turned to her friend and said, 'But did you catch the balls on that Brando.'
If that doesn't convince you to re-watch The Godfather just so you can try and catch a glimpse of Marlon Brando's humungous testicles while also appreciating one of the finest films ever made, then I'm not sure what will.