In Mario Puzo’s novel, there is no resolution between Vito Corleone and his son Michael. Francis Ford Coppola wanted to convey that they loved each other. So Coppola called on his friend Robert Towne, a renowned screenwriter who later wrote Chinatown, as a script doctor. Towne arrived in New York the day before the scene between Vito and Michael was scheduled to be filmed. Towne faced a tremendous challenge: to add outside material that captured complex and powerful emotions but remain consistent with what had already been filmed. He took notes from the original script and worked through the night, finishing the scene at 4 a.m.
It’s a simple scene in Don Corleone’s garden that focuses as much on regret about the past as it does anxiety over the future. “I never wanted this for you,” Vito says to Michael, explaining he wished to see a Senator or Governor Corleone. Brando’s speech about his dreams for his son runs nearly two minutes. When Coppola accepted the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, he thanked Towne: “That was Bob Towne’s scene,” he said.