All these years after Marlon Brando’s incredible performance, it’s crazy to think that anyone else could have embodied Don Corleone. But the studio, who wanted anyone but Brando, entertained actors such as Ernest Borgnine, Richard Conte (who later played Don Barzini), Anthony Quinn, Raf Valline and, yes, even Burt Lancaster, seen above in 1971’s Valdez Is Coming. “The casting period went on and on and on,” Francis Ford Coppola said later. “We screen-tested everybody.” But even though Coppola auditioned dozens of actors for many of the roles, he never really considered giving Don Corleone to anyone but Brando.
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
Burt Lancaster as the Don?
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