A look back at the making of Movie ‘The Godfather’

The Godfather is a 1972 American crime film directed by Francis Ford Coppola, who co-wrote the screenplay with Mario Puzo, based on Puzo’s best-selling 1969 novel of the same name. The film stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Richard Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, John Marley, Richard Conte, and Diane Keaton. It is the first installment in The Godfather trilogy. The story, spanning from 1945 to 1955, chronicles the Corleone family under patriarch Vito Corleone (Brando), focusing on the transformation of his youngest son, Michael Corleone (Pacino), from reluctant family outsider to ruthless mafia boss.

Paramount Pictures obtained the rights to the novel for the price of $80,000, before it gained popularity. Studio executives had trouble finding a director; the first few candidates turned down the position before Coppola signed on to direct the film but disagreement followed over casting several characters, in particular, Vito and Michael. Filming took place primarily on location around New York City and in Sicily, and was completed ahead of schedule. The musical score was composed principally by Nino Rota, with additional pieces by Carmine Coppola.

Part Hollywood tale, part gangster drama, Paramount+’s The Offer chronicles the making of The Godfather from start to finish, including behind-the-scenes drama with meddling studio execs — oh, and the Mafia.

It’s a fascinating story about one of the greatest films of all time, but it’s just not enough to sustain a 10-hour long miniseries. Strange pacing and unnecessary subplots bog down The Offer‘s more enjoyable moments, turning what could have been a thrilling look at movie history into an uneven television show.

Go behind the scenes of The Godfather

The Offer shows us The Godfather through the eyes of producer Al Ruddy (Miles Teller). When we first meet him, he’s a programmer at the Rand Corporation in search of something more fulfilling. Later, he’ll land a producing gig at Paramount under studio executive Robert Evans (Matthew Goode).

Paramount’s in a bit of a slump, but they’ve got an ace up their sleeves: the rights to hit Mafia novel The Godfather, written by Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo). It’s up to Al and his secretary Bettye McCartt (Juno Temple) to turn a movie that seemingly no one wants to make into Paramount’s biggest hit. This involves recruiting director Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) and stars Al Pacino (Anthony Ippolito) and Marlon Brando (Justin Chambers). The rest is history, but there are still many, many bumps along the road.

These are not the gangsters of The Godfather

It’s not possible to tell the story of the making of The Godfather without talking about the film’s connections to the Mafia. Mobster Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi) and the Italian-American Civil Rights League take issue with the novel’s portrayal of Italian-Americans and with the subsequent film production. To appease them, Al insists that The Godfather is a story about family, not about Mafia stereotypes.

Ironically, the show’s gangsters end up being the kind of stereotypes Joe and his cronies are so upset about. Ribisi’s performance is a hoarse-voiced caricature, and a subplot involving “Crazy” Joe Gallo (Joseph Russo) is nothing we haven’t seen done before — and better — in other gangster stories. In limited doses, these characters could be stomach-able. But when they’re in The Offer as much as they are, they end up weighing the show down more than a pair of concrete shoes.

The Offer is fun, but flawed

The Offer hits its highs when it’s delving into the development and production of The Godfather. Scenes where Mario and Francis bicker about the script or where Al and his team discuss casting are fun celebrations of the film, and of moviemaking in general.

However, there’s a fine line to walk between celebration and overindulgence, and it’s a line that The Offer crosses often. After all, it’s a Paramount miniseries about one of Paramount’s most acclaimed pieces of intellectual property — that’s already about as indulgent as it gets. But it goes further, moving from referencing The Godfather to referencing the creation of other films like Chinatown and Love Story. These moments are treated like big Easter eggs for movie enthusiasts, with eye-rolling results.

The same goes for long-winded speeches about the power of film. It’s one thing to watch Francis become giddy with joy about the Corleone family making tomato sauce, but it’s an entirely different thing to watch Al or Robert mansplain movies to people. In fact, there’s a constant sense that The Offer would rather be a movie than a TV show, especially given its episodes’ occasional lack of cohesion or contained arcs.

The Offer still has its joys: Goode’s performance is delightfully smarmy, resulting in some of the show’s best line deliveries. Plus, fans of The Godfather will love all the homages to the original, as well as behind-the-scenes glances of some iconic moments. If you’re looking for a compilation of The Godfather‘s greatest hits, you’ve come to the right place. On the other hand, if you’re in search of a fully satisfying TV show, it might be best to keep looking.

The Offer is now streaming on Paramount+, with new episodes weekly.

Author Profile

Dan Dunn
Dan Dunn
Executive Managing editor

Editor and Admin at MarkMeets since Nov 2012. Columnist, reviewer and entertainment writer and oversees all of the section's news, features and interviews. During his career, he has written for numerous magazines.

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Email Dan@MarkMeets.com

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