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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Godfather: The story behind the story

Recently I read a book about the making of THE GODFATHER which changed my perception about the making of the masterpieces. I used to assume that a masterpiece is created with a lot of planning and a deep faith shown by the creators. Not in this case. This movie was a child of destiny and the result of unexpected events.
1. Mario Puzo didn’t want to write THE GODFATHER. He had no knowledge of mafia before writing the book. But at the age of 45, he was in a debt of thousands of dollars. So he decided to write something ‘commercial’ to save himself from poverty. When he wrote this book, he hated it so much that he threw it on the floor. But the book became an instant bestseller, selling 6 million copies within a year. It changed his fortune forever.

2. No director wanted to direct it, including Francis Ford Copolla. Twelve hot-shot directors had rejected it on different grounds, before Copolla agreed to direct it. He also didn’t want to touch this movie. When he read the novel, he found it very sleazy. But his friend suggested him that this movie will provide him money with which he could produce artistic movies.

3. Paramount Studio didn’t want to produce it because gangster movies had been flopping on the box office. But the success of the novel gave them some confidence, and they gave the green flag to direct it and also increased its budget to 6 million dollars. The movie went making 250 million dollars.

4. Except Marlon Brando all actors in the movie were unknown. The studio heads didn’t like Brando because he was considered to be ‘Box Office poison’. It was the persistence of Mario Puzo and Copolla that he got the role. When Puzo was writing the novel, he had Brando in his mind as Vito Corleone, and he had sent the screenplay to him for consideration.

5. Nobody wanted Al Pacino in the movie except Copolla. Actually Pacino was so sure that he won’t get the role that he didn’t bother to mug up his lines for the audition. But Copolla had deep faith in him, and he fought with the studio heads to keep him. It was only after the Solozzo scene in the restaurant that the studio heads were convinced that Pacino was the right person.

6. Above all, most of the people in the studio and the movie crew had absolutely no faith in the 29-years old Copolla as the director. Once he was sitting in the bathroom, and he heard two crew members saying that the director was a kid. There was a time when the studio guys had decided to fire him in the mid of the shoot. But he saved his ass by reshooting a scene and making them change the decision.
Before the shoot, THE GODFATHER was a movie you couldn’t trust to make. Decades after the movie was released, it’s still a movie you cannot ignore if you see it on any channel.

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