Saturday, January 30, 2010

Movie Moments: More about The Godfather

Leo sent me an email after I posted the previous item, asking some questions about The Godfather:
1. I don't think Brando played in all the Godfather movies.
2. When were they made?
3. Why didn't he play in them all?
4. Did he play this before or after "Apocalypse Now" ?
5. When did he enter his really fat stage in Hawaii?

My responses were:
1. I don't think Brando played in all the Godfather movies.
The Godfather (1972): Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone as an adult
Godfather 2 (1974): Robert De Niro as Don Vito Corleone as an adult
Oreste Baldini as Vito Andolini as a boy

2. When were they made?
Godfather: 1972
Godfather Part 11: 1974
Godfather Part 111: 1990

Director Francis Ford Coppola has revealed that movie executives at Paramount threw out an idea to wrap up The Godfather franchise with a fourth film, as they did not want to pay an ailing Mario Puzo. Coppola says that he had offered to assist late Puzo in writing a final film before he died in 1999. But studio bosses disapproved their idea, even though Coppola would not charge a single penny from them.
The director, who had initially evinced aversion to directing sequels to his 1972 masterpiece, says that he wanted to help Puzo because the latter wanted to bequeath some money to his children.
"He and I cooked up an idea for what there would be for The Godfather IV and we went to Paramount... and we said, 'Look, Mario is not well. Hire him to write this Godfather IV script, I will help him, do it for nothing...' "Mario was very concerned to leave his kids some money and they just never made the deal... Mario died and it was heartbreaking,"
3. Why didn't he play in them all?
See below: he received between $150,000 and $300,000 for his role in The Godfather, depending upon whose account you read, so that he was not happy and refused the sequel.
4. Did he play this before or after "Apocalypse Now" ?
Godfather: 1972
Apocalypse Now: 1979
5. When did he enter his really fat stage in Hawaii?
From Wikipedia:
He gained a great deal of weight in the 1980s and by the mid 1990s he weighed over 300 lbs. and suffered from diabetes. He also earned a reputation for being difficult on the set, often unwilling or unable to memorize his lines and less interested in taking direction than in confronting the film director with odd and childish demands. On the other hand, most other actors found him generous, funny and supportive.
On July 1, 2004, Brando died at the age of 80. The cause of his death was intentionally withheld, with his lawyer citing privacy concerns. It was later revealed that he died at UCLA Medical Center of respiratory failure brought on by pulmonary fibrosis. He also suffered from congestive heart failure, failing eyesight due to diabetes, and had recently been diagnosed with liver cancer.

Some Godfather Trivia from IMDB:

Ernest Borgnine, Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles, and George C. Scott were considered by Paramount Pictures for the role of Vito Corleone.

Burt Lancaster wanted the role but was never considered.

When Paramount considered casting Italian producer Carlo Ponti, director Francis Ford Coppola objected, as Vito was Italian-American and more a New Yorker than Italian, and thus wouldn't speak with Ponti's Italian accent.

When asked his opinion by the Paramount brass, Coppola said he wanted to cast either Laurence Olivier or Marlon Brando as the Don.

In a September/October 2003 "Cigar Aficionado" magazine cover story, Coppola said, "I wanted either an Italian-American or an actor who's so great that he can portray an Italian-American. So, they said, 'Who do you suggest?' I said, 'Lookit, I don't know, but who are the two greatest actors in the world? Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando. Well, Laurence Olivier is English. He looked just like Vito Genovese. His face is great.' I said, 'I could see Olivier playing the guy, and putting it on.' [And] Brando is my hero of heroes. I'd do anything to just meet him. But he's 47, he's a young, good-looking guy. So, we first inquired about Olivier and they said, 'Olivier is not taking any jobs. He's very sick. He's gonna die soon and he's not interested.' So, I said, 'Why don't we reach out for Brando?'" Frank Sinatra, despite his reported distaste for the novel and opposition to the film, had discussions with Coppola about playing the role himself and at one point actually offered his services. Coppola, however, was adamant in his conviction that Brando take the role instead.

This would be the third time Brando performed in a part sought by Sinatra, after playing Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront (1954) and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls (1955/I). Brando's previous film, Queimada (1969), had been a terrible flop and he could not get work in American pictures, being considered by many producers as "washed up". \

Paramount executives initially would offer Marlon Brando only union scale for the role of Don Corleone. Finally, the studio relented and paid Brando $300,000, according to Coppola's account. In his autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002), former Paramount production chief Robert Evans claims that Brando was paid $50,000, plus points, and sold back his points to Paramount before the release of the picture for an additional $100,000 because he had female-related money troubles. Realizing the film was going to be a huge hit, Paramount was happy to oblige.

This financial fleecing of Brando, according to Evans, is the reason he refused to do publicity for the picture or appear in the sequel two years later.

Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only two actors to ever win separate Oscars for playing the same character. Brando won Best Actor for The Godfather (1972) and De Niro won Best Supporting Actor for this movie, both in the role of Vito Corleone.

According to Francis Ford Coppola, the term "Don Corleone" is actually incorrect Italian parlance. In Italian, addressing someone as "Don" would be like addressing them as "Uncle" in English, so the correct parlance would be "Don Michael" or "Don Vito".

Coppola says that Mario Puzo, who couldn't speak Italian, simply made up the idea of using "Don" with a person's last name, and it has now become a pop culture staple.

And as regards the cat held by Brando in the opening scenes...
The cat held by Marlon Brando in the opening scene was a stray the actor found while on the lot at Paramount, and was not originally called for in the script. So content was the cat that its purring muffled some of Brando's dialogue, and, as a result, most of his lines had to be looped.

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