20 Godfather facts that will blow your mind


Between them they won 9 Oscars and were nominated for 20 more. Without doubt, ‘The Godfather’ trilogy is one of the most critically and culturally respected in movie history.

But behind and in front of the camera, the films – which came out in 1972, 1974 and 1990 – are filled with enough fascinating morsels to fill 10 books.

Here are some of the best.

‘The Godfather’

Laurence Olivier could have been the Don


Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine were all in the running to play Don Vito, but while it’s impossible to imagine anyone but Brando in the role, director Francis Ford Coppola initially preferred Sir Laurence Olivier. The legendary English thesp turned it down.

Sofia Coppola is in the first movie too


While she suffered ridicule for her stilted performance in the third movie, Francis’ daughter actually appears uncredited in the original as baby Michael Rizzi.

That’s not cotton wool in Brando’s mouth


Not in the movie at least. Wanting Don Vito to look like a bulldog, the Method actor packed his cheeks with cotton wool for his screen test. When it came time for actual filming, the make-up department had fashioned him a proper mouthpiece.

Diane Keaton is wearing a wig – and she hated it


Appearing on NBC, Keaton was appalled after seeing a clip of her as Michael’s wife Kay Adams. “I’ve never seen so much hair on my head,” she said. “I’ll never forget, it felt like 10 pounds. [Wearing the wig] was the worst experience.”

No-one knows who owned Brando’s cat


Don Corleone holding the cat has become an iconic image, even though it was a last-minute thought by Coppola after he spotted the stray moggie on the Paramount lot.

Annoyingly, it seemed to love Brando and responded by purring constantly, which meant his dialogue had to be added in afterwards.

George Lucas directed part of the film


Lucas was and is great friends with Coppola (at one point the former was going to direct ‘Apocalypse Now’), so it’s not a surprise that he helped his overworked mentor. The ‘Star Wars’ creator filmed the second unit shots featuring the newspapers and crime photos – often called the “Mattress Sequence” – when the families go to war.

James Caan really hit Carlo Rizzi during their screen fight


It was known on-set that Caan (Sonny Corleone) didn’t get on with actor Gianni Russo, who played Carlo Rizzi. That dislike turned physical during their brawl, with Caan apparently cracking his opponent’s elbow as well as breaking two of his ribs.

Luca Brasi’s death looks real – thanks to wrestling


The iconic hitman is played by Lenny Montana, himself a Mob bodyguard and former wrestler. When it came time for his death scene, Coppola asked the actor to rely on his wrestling training to make it seem as real as possible. That’s why Brasi’s bug eyes and death throes ring true.

The Don’s funeral flowers cost a lot


When Don Vito passes away, every gangster in town shows up for his send-off. And as a big-time mobster, it was important for his funeral to look the part. That’s why the production spent a little over £44,000 on flowers.

‘The Godfather: Part II’

Oranges = death


It’s long been considered that the colour orange has special meaning in ‘The Godfather’, in that it signifies impending death. Coppola and his cinematographer Gordon Willis have always said that the reason it features is because orange brightens up dark scenes (Willis was notorious for shooting with minimal light).

That hasn’t stopped conspiracy theorists pointing out all the times it “caused” people to kick the bucket, from the Don handling oranges when he dies to Fanucci picking up the fruit not long before he’s killed.

The guy playing old gangster Hyman Roth is the (God)father of Method acting


Gangster Hyman Roth is a great subsidiary character and is brilliantly played by Lee Strasberg, who earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nom.

But Strasberg is better known as one of the most influential acting teachers of all-time and took the role based on the urging of former pupil Al Pacino. His other students include James Dean, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino and Marilyn Monroe.

The golden telephone is based on real-life


Cuban dictator Fulgencia Batista really did receive a golden phone from a US Ambassador in 1957 and it currently sits in Havana’s Museum of the Revolution.

The movie made Oscar history


Robert De Niro’s performance as the young Vito is possibly the finest of his career and rightly won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. That victory put him in an elite club of one as the only thesp to win an Academy Award for playing the same character as someone else who also won an Oscar for their performance.

Vito arrives in America from the wrong direction


There are various factual errors dotted through the series, like when Vito (De Niro) comes to New York for the first time. His ship was filmed going south, which means he passes the Statue of Liberty the wrong way. In fact, he would have been going north to Manhattan docks.

Anthony Corleone is related to himself off-screen


Michael’s son appears in all three films played by different actors. Not referred to by name in the source novel, he was called Anthony because child actor Anthony Gounaris responded better when being called by his real name.

For the second film, which sees Tony Corleone celebrating his first communion, the filmmakers cast a new actor – James Gounaris, aka Anthony’s older brother.

‘The Godfather: Part III’

Scorsese’s mum’s in it


Martin’s mother Catherine is no stranger to acting roles – she’s cropped up in her son’s movies ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Casino’ amongst others.

Catherine, who died in 1997 aged 84, was known for her loquacious personality and often improvised her screen dialogue. In the third ‘Godfather’, she stops Vincent (Andy Garcia) on the street to complain about the state of the neighbourhood.

The Pope stuff is based on real life


Pope John Paul I died in 1978 and in 1981, a Papal financial scandal followed, precipitated by the collapse of the corrupted Banco Ambrosiano whose main shareholder was Vatican Bank.

The movie fictionalised this unsavoury affair by tying it in with Michael Corleone’s shady dealings.

Eddie Murphy was going to be in it


With the second movie released in 1974, bringing the final instalment in the trilogy to cinemas was a tortured affair, involving more than 18 different screenplays over 15 years.

Sly Stallone was mooted at one point, as was the ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ comedian, who was asked by screenwriter Thomas Lee Wright to play a character based on drug kingpin Leroy ‘Nicky’ Barnes. Murphy was keen, saying that he would have appeared in the film for free. Sadly, it never happened.

The opening scene featured a building that wasn’t built yet


Set in 1979, the opening scene features the Big Apple skyline and the building complex then known as the World Financial Center (now Brookfield Place) is in shot.

Only problem is they didn’t start building it until 1982.

One of the original choices for Mary Corleone was murdered


Actress Rebecca Schaeffer was one of the primary contenders for the role of Michael’s daughter (eventually played to much derision by Sofia Coppola) and was preparing her audition when she opened her apartment door on 18 July, 1989.

The man who’d knocked was Robert John Bardo and he’d been stalking Schaeffer for over three years. After talking to her and then being told to leave her alone, he returned and shot her in the chest.

Bardo, now 45, remains in prison serving life without parole. His crime was the catalyst for a change in the California stalking laws.

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