Early in his career, Marlon Brando starred in hits such as On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. But by 1971, he had a reputation for conflicts with directors, off-screen antics and delays on the set. Even though Don Corleone appears in less than a third of the film, Francis Ford Coppola knew he needed an actor who could give the picture power and mystique, and in Brando he had his man. Studio head Stanley Jaffe thought otherwise and told Brando, “As long as I’m president of the studio, Marlon Brando will not be in this picture.” After more badgering, Jaffe finally agreed to three concessions he thought would be deal breakers: that Brando work for far less than his usual salary, take financial responsibility for any delays he caused and, most important, consent to a screen test, which was unheard of for the actor at that time.
The Anniversary You Can’t Refuse: 40 Things You Didn’t Know About The Godfather
On March 15, 1972, The Godfather hit movie screens. In the four decades since, it has become acknowledged as one of the greatest movies of all time. TIME has compiled the most interesting stories, anecdotes and tidbits from the film's production
Brando Was Almost a No-Go
The Corleones at 40
- The Cat
- George Lucas Shot Some Footage
- That Opening Shot
- The Alternate Ending
- It Was Initially Set in the 1970s
- The Horse Head
- Coppola Wasn’t the First Choice
- There Was Originally a Different First Scene
- Very Few People Wanted Al Pacino for Michael
- Burt Lancaster as the Don?
- Brando Was Almost a No-Go
- Until His Incredible Screen Test
- Who Is This Coppola Guy?
- A Palace Coup
- The Prince of Darkness
- There Are Very Few Unorthodox Camera Shots
- Kay and the Wig
- Brando and the Cue Cards
- Pacino Hurt Himself Early in the Shoot
- Everyone Wanted to Know What Brando Looked like as the Don
- Luca Brasi Fumbles His Lines
- Lots of Bare Butt Cheeks
- What’s with All the Oranges?
- Marlon Brando Was a Real Prankster
- Luca Brasi Was a Pro at Dying
- Offensive to Italians?
- What’s the Mob?
- The Succession Scene Needed a Major Rewrite
- Death by a Thousand Bullets
- A Too-Realistic Fight
- Sofia Coppola Played a Boy
- The Baptism Montage
- Deleted Scene No. 1: Michael Shoots His Wife’s Killer
- Going to See Genco in the Hospital
- The Problem with Sinatra
- Vic Damone Was Almost Johnny Fontane
- The Film Was a Family Affair
- The Score Was Honored (and Then Rejected) by the Oscars
- Each of the Main Male Actors Got Oscar Noms
- Ushering in the Age of the Modern Blockbuster