Now Celebrating its 40th season on the air, Saturday Night Live
A list you can’t refuse? You’d best cooperate, or you’ll be sleeping with Luca Brasi and the fishes… or worst yet, forced to watch the final movie in the Godfather trilogy.
1. Sergio Leone was Paramount’s first choice to direct the movie. He declined the job, instead opting to work on his mobster movie, Once Upon a Time in America. A total of 12 directors turned down The Godfather before Francis Ford Coppola reluctantly signed on to helm.
2. Paramount wanted to change the movie’s time and place to early 1970s Kansas City to keep the budget down. Coppola used the novel’s popularity to persuade the studio to stick with 1940s New York and Sicily. This allowed the story to keep all of the important aspects of post-WWII America society intact.
3. Author Mario Puzo conceived his Don Corleone character with Marlon Brando in mind. The studio didn’t want to touch Brando, who had acquired a reputation of being difficult on the job. Paramount was so impressed with his audition tape that they agreed to hire him (for no salary, only a percentage), but only if he put up a bond against any delays in production that his famed irregularity may cause.
4. The early days of shooting were plagued by threatened dismissal of Coppola, as Paramount believed the director racked up superflous expenses. Coppola was saved by Marlon Brando, who threatened to quit if Coppola was fired.
5. Likewise, Al Pacino’s role as Michael Corleone was in jeopardy for a good chunk of production. The studio believe Pacino was far too restrained for the character. Only after the famous restaurant scene was filmed did Pacino’s position become secure.
6. The most expensive scene of the production was Sonny Corleone’s death at the toll booth. The cost of one take, four cameras, 127 squibs of fake blood, and over 200 holes in the toll booth and car? Over $100,000.
7. Marlon Brando improvised the part of his death scene where he puts the orange peel in his mouth. The child actor looks (and truly was) scared due to sheer surprise at Brando’s antics.
8. Brando also improvised the part of the opening scene where he picks up and pets a cat. Brando felt it was important to highlight his character’s dual nature as a ruthless, violent mobster and a kind, benevolent family man. The cat was a stray who wandered onto the set. He purred so loudly that the actors had to overdub their lines in the studio.
9. The Johnny Fontaine character was based upon Frank Sinatra. Actor Al Martino was filmed mostly from the back during the opening scene because he didn’t have enough acting experience and felt awkward on camera.
10. The baptism scene was filmed at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC and the Church of St. Joachim and St. Anne in the Pleasant Plains on Staten Island. An actual Bishop was used in the scene. Coppola’s family stood in as extras, and Sofia Copolla “acted” in role of the baby.
11. You’ll never hear the word “Mafia” uttered in the entire screenplay. The Italian American Civil Rights League forged an agreement with the studio, so the term was never used once in the film.
12. Corleone, Sicily was too urbanized in the 1970s to pass as its 1940s counterpart. Coppola chose the small Sicilian towns of Savoca and Forza d’Agro for their appropriately rustic vibes.
13. MIchael’s Sicilian bride, Appollonia, was played by Simonetta Stefanelli, who seemingly disappeared from movies after The Godfather. She collected a number of movie credits but never shed the reputation of her iconic role. In 2011, Simonetta was the victim of an internet death hoax. She is still alive and well.
14. The horse’s head in the famous Woltz bed scene? A real horse. It came from a slaughterhouse, and fake blood was added for dramatic effect.
15. President Barack Obama considers The Godfather to be his favorite movie. John Krasinski, Jason Statham, and countless other celebrities and civilians agree.