There’s no denying the fact that “The Godfather” movies rank as some of the finest cinematic masterpieces of all time. The films have provided us with many memorable moments and introduced mainstream audiences to several of the biggest and brightest stars in Hollywood.
Few are privy to all that took place behind the scenes but, trust us, the off-screen action was just as titillating as what audiences saw on screen. From real-life dueling co-stars to last-minute casting changes and other little-known details, we’ve compiled a list of fascinating facts about the franchise.
1.On the set of “The Godfather,” Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and James Caan would moon the cast regularly during filming. The heavyset Brando actually received a belt from the crew that was engraved with the inscription, “Mighty Moon King.”
2.Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles and George C. Scott were all considered for the iconic role of Don Vito Corleone. Studio exes believed that, with a waning film career, Marlon Brando would be too difficult to work with. Francis Ford Coppola lobbied hard for Brando and eventually had him cast.
3.Francis Ford Coppola originally turned down the job to direct “The Godfather,” maintaining that the film’s mafia theme showed Italians in a bad light. Ironically, Coppola was almost replaced by Elia Kazan, Brando’s director in “On the Waterfront,” during filming. It was Brando who did the lobbying this time, threatening to leave the film if studio execs replaced Coppola.
4.There were rumors on the set that James Caan (Sonny) and Gianni Russo (Carlo) didn’t like each other, which apparently played out onscreen during the filming of their memorable street fight scene. While filming the scene in which Caan leaves Russo laying in the gutter having beat him to a pulp, he reportedly beat Russo so hard that he broke two of his ribs.
5.The studio felt Al Pacino was too much of an unknown for the role of Michael Corleone, but Coppola insisted on casting Pacino and eventually landed him the role. Interestingly enough, Coppola almost fired Pacino because he, along with producers, thought he was playing Michael Corleone all wrong. The director had a change of heart while filming the infamous restaurant scene where Michael confronts his father’s rival, Sollozzo, and the corrupt police captain McCluskey.
6.Al Pacino was only paid $35,000 for the first film. One Oscar nomination later, and the actor’s pay skyrocketed to $600,000 for the sequel.
7.Oranges were used to foreshadow death throughout “The Godfather” trilogy. In “The Godfather,” Don Vito Corleone drops a bag of oranges after being gunned down in the street. He later cuts up an orange and puts it in his mouth while playing with his grandson moments before he dies of a heart attack. In “The Godfather Part II,” Michael Corleone eats an orange while revealing his plans to kill Hyman Roth. In “The Godfather Part III,” Michael Corleone drops an orange on the ground as he dies.
8.To prepare for his role as a young Don Corleone in “The Godfather Part II,” Robert De Niro lived in Sicily for several months prior to the beginning of filming. As a Brando fanatic, De Niro had an even bigger advantage in the role, having studied the actor’s style, vocal tone and mannerisms.
9.For his big fight scene in “The Godfather Part III,” Andy Garcia used a real gun to beat up a stuntman. An actual gun meant real-life injuries for the stuntman who had to receive stitches after the scene cut.
10.The Beverly Hills mansion where the legendary horse head scene takes place was recently listed on the market for $95,000,000.