Knowing Marlon Brando would never submit to a formal screen test, Francis Ford Coppola brought a portable camera to Brando’s home, telling him they wanted to “try out some things” on tape. According to one account of the legendary test, Brando was wearing a kimono and had his long hair pulled back. Slowly, he transformed himself into the older don, blackening his hair, (supposedly with shoe polish) and stuffing Kleenex into his lower cheeks to look like a bulldog. Brando then puffed on a cigar and mumbled quietly, exuding his famous screen aura.
When Coppola and producer Albert Ruddy showed the studio executives the footage, they initially didn’t know it was Marlon Brando. Stanley Jaffe, the studio head who had sworn Brando would never be in the picture, reluctantly agreed, and the headline in the Hollywood trade paper Variety proclaimed, “No Stars for Godfather Cast – Just Someone Named Brando.”