The Godfather Without Brando?: It Almost Happened

It’s hard to imagine The Godfather, the iconic 1972 film, without Marlon Brando. But that’s almost how it turned out.

During casting, Paramount executives originally pushed for Laurence Olivier. But when he couldn’t take the film, and when the director, Francis Ford Coppola, asked them to consider Brando, they initially responded: “Marlon Brando will never appear in this motion picture.” Below, Coppola and co-star James Caan explain how the execs were eventually cajoled into changing their minds, and how film history fell into place. As you watch this, also keep in mind that Paramount originally asked two other directors to make The Godfather before approaching Coppola, and they later wanted Robert Redford or Ryan O’Neal to play Michael Corleone. But Coppola, who threatened to quit production, eventually got his way and put the relatively unknown Al Pacino into the film.

FYI: Best Week Ever has a good post on the Top 10 Actor / Director Tandems In Movie History.

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  • Paul Phillips

    There are some other fascinating instances of famous movie roles initially intended for others. Lawrence Kasdan wrote the script for The Bodyguard in the 1970s and intended it as a vehicle for Steve McQueen and Diana Ross. However, the death of McQueen put paid to that and the project was put on ice until its now-famous rendering with Costner and Houston. My favourite rumour on the casting front is that eventual Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey was not the first choice for American Beauty’s Lester Burnham. That honour apparently went to one Chevy Chase. Now, that’s a film I’d pay good money to see.

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  • goo6er

    You always read about classic movies that almost never were because “somebody else” was going to be cast in place of the iconic star, like Ronald Reagan instead of Bogart in “Casablanca.”

    How I wish it were possible to find movies that missed the mark, and yet coulda been a contenda’ if so-and-so had been cast instead of the actor actually chosen for the part.

  • alissa clough

    And, if there weren’t that pesky little kitten….