Francis Ford Coppola’s Handwritten Casting Notes for The Godfather

godfather casting notes

Lau­rence Olivi­er as Vito Cor­leone? Dustin Hoff­man as Michael? Those are two of the intrigu­ing options direc­tor Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la was appar­ent­ly mulling over when he jot­ted down these notes while prepar­ing to make his clas­sic 1972 film The God­fa­ther.

The cast­ing of The God­fa­ther was a noto­ri­ous­ly con­tentious affair. Exec­u­tives at Para­mount Pic­tures thought Mar­lon Bran­do — Cop­po­la’s first choice to play Mafia “God­fa­ther” Vito — was too dif­fi­cult to work with. They thought Al Paci­no was too short to play his son Michael.

“The war over cast­ing the fam­i­ly Cor­leone was more volatile than the war the Cor­leone fam­i­ly fought on screen,” writes for­mer Para­mount head of pro­duc­tion Robert Evans in his mem­oir, The Kid Stays in the Pic­ture. At one point the stu­dio want­ed Dan­ny Thomas to play Vito and War­ren Beat­ty to play Michael. A long list of lead­ing Hol­ly­wood actors were con­sid­ered for the role of Michael, includ­ing Robert Red­ford, Ryan O’Neal and Jack Nichol­son.

Cop­po­la even­tu­al­ly set­tled on Paci­no as the cere­bral Michael and the lit­tle-known Carmine Cari­di as Michael’s tough-guy old­er broth­er, Son­ny. Evans told the direc­tor he could have one but not both. In a pas­sage from the book, quot­ed in Mark Seal’s 2009 Van­i­ty Fair piece, “The God­fa­ther Wars,” Evans describes a tense meet­ing with Cop­po­la:

“You’ve got Paci­no on one con­di­tion, Fran­cis.”

“What’s that?”

“Jim­my Caan plays Son­ny.”

“Carmine Caridi’s signed. He’s right for the role. Any­way, Caan’s a Jew. He’s not Ital­ian.”

“Yeah, but he’s not six five, he’s five ten. This aint Mutt and Jeff. This kid Paci­no’s five five, and that’s in heels.”

“I’m not using Caan.”

“I’m not using Paci­no.”

Slam went the door. Ten min­utes lat­er, the door opened. “You win.”

For more on the cast­ing of The God­fa­ther, includ­ing excerpts from screen tests and remem­brances from Cop­po­la and oth­ers, see our ear­li­er post “A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Cast­ing of The God­fa­ther with Cop­po­la, De Niro & Caan.”

via A.V. Club

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  • ger says:

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