11/13/20: Some Trivia About the Making Of A Great Movie The Godfather (1972)

By Fred Muenz

  • Michael and Kay Christmas shopping was the first scene to be shot. The scene required 143 extras, a crew of 60, the placement of cars from the period, placing period correct street signs and the replacement of the modern lampposts with period replicas at $1,000 each.
  • The film rights to The Godfather were purchased from Mario Puzo’s 20-page outline.
  • The film was originally to be filmed on Hollywood sound stages and backlots. After determining the cost of adding two or three stories to the buildings on the outdoor sets to duplicate New York streets, production was moved to New York.
  • The film was shot at over 100 New York locations.
  • The studio originally wanted to make a low-budget gangster film set in modern times.
  • Al Pachino, James Caan and Diane Keaton were each paid $35,000 for their work on the film. Robert Duvall was paid $36,000.
  • A Young Sylvester Stallone auditioned for the roles of both Paulie and Carlo but was not hired for either part.
  • James Caan first auditioned for the role of Tom Hagen, was then considered for the role of Michael, before being cast as Sonny.
  • Marlon Brando did not memorize his lines, he read them from cue cards.
  • The hospital scenes were filmed at three different locations. The exterior scenes were filmed at a side entrance to Bellevue Hospital, the interior scenes were filmed at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in Manhattan and the scene where the Don is leaving by ambulance was filmed at the old Lincoln Hospital off Southern Blvd. at East 141st Street.
  • In the scene where the Don returns from the hospital and is being carried up the stairs, Brando put extra weights under his body as a joke.
  • Francis Ford Coppola made the film a family affair. His sister, Talia Shire played Connie, his mother was an extra in the restaurant scene, his father Carmine was the piano player in the “mattress” scene and also composed the music for the film, his sons, Gian-Carlo and Roman were extras where Sonny beats up Carlo, Francis himself was an extra at the funeral and his three-week old daughter was the baby at the baptism.
  • Elvis Presley auditioned for the role of Tom Hagen, but really wanted to play the Don.
  • The scene where Sonny beats up Carlo took four days to shoot and used more than 700 extras. The use of the garbage can lid was improvised by James Caan.
  • Al Pacino’s maternal grandparents emigrated to America from Corleone, Sicily, just as the fictional Vito Corelone.
  • At the meeting in the restaurant, Sollozzo speaks to Michael in Sicilian so rapidly that subtitles couldn’t be used.
  • Richard Castellano (Clemenza) was the real-life nephew of mobster Paul Castellano. He ad-libbed the line “leave the gun, take the cannoli”. His real-life wife appeared as his wife in the film.
  • The scene in which Enzo comes to the hospital to visit the Don was filmed in reverse, with the outside scene shot first. Gabriele Torrel (Enzo) had never acted in front of a camera. His nervous shaking was real.
  • Gianni Russo (Carlo) was really connected to organized crime. He got the part after threatening Brando, who thought he was acting.
  • The wedding scene took a week to film, using several locations, and used 750 extras.
  • The interior of the Corleone home was a two-story set built on a soundstage at Filmways Studio in New York. The exterior scenes were filmed at a home on Longfellow Avenue, Todt Hill, Staten Island. The low stone perimeter fence of the home was enlarged to give the impression of a family compound. The gate marking the entrance was built for the film and torn down after shooting.
  • When cinematographer Gordon Willis had a disagreement with Coppola, Richard Castellano came to Willis’s defense. Coppola got his revenge by making him do twenty takes of the scene where Clemenza runs up four flights of stairs.
  • The studio was unhappy with Coppola and tried several times to replace him.
  • During pre-production, Coppola shot his own unofficial screen tests with Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton at his home. The studio insisted on official screen tests, at a cost of $420,000. In the end, each of Coppola’s choices was hired.
  • Exterior shots of the Woltz estate were actually Harold Lloyd’s home. Interior shots were filmed at the Guggenheim estate on Long Island. Because of the precious artwork, security guards were stationed on-set.
  • The bed with the horse’s head was a rental. The horse’s head was real, coming from a slaughterhouse.
  • In the scene outside the hospital where Captain McCluskey confronts Michael, the officer who says “He’s clean, Captain. He’s a war hero.”, was NYPD detective Sonny Grosso, one of the detectives who broke up The French Connection.
  • The baptism scene was filmed in two churches. The interior shots were filmed at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in New York City. The exterior shots were filmed at the Mount Loretto Church in Pleasant Plains, Staten Island. The Mount Loretto Church burned down in 1973.
  • The studio didn’t feel that the film had enough violence and threatened to hire a “violence coach” to make the film more exciting.
  • Real life gangsters originally tried to make the studio stop filming, but after the movie was released, loved it. Many altered their dress and speech patterns to emulate the film.
  • The meeting between the heads of the five families was filmed in the boardroom of the Penn-Central Railroad. That explains the train mural behind Don Barzini (Richard Conte).
  • Abe Vigoda got the part of Tessio by answering an open casting call and beat out hundreds of other actors.
  • Francis Ford Coppola turned in an initial Director’s Cut running two hours and six minutes. The studio rejected the version and demanded a longer cut with more scenes about the family. The final version was nearly fifty minutes longer than Coppola’s initial cut.
  • Stanley Kubrick thought the film had the best cast ever assembled and was possibly the best movie ever made.

MORE SILVER SCREEN MEMORIES NEXT WEEK

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