How Marlon Brando saved 'imbecile' Francis Ford Coppola’s job on 'The Godfather'

The troubled production almost led to Francis Ford Coppola being fired from ‘The Godfather'


                            How Marlon Brando saved 'imbecile' Francis Ford Coppola’s job on 'The Godfather'
Francis Ford Coppola directs Marlon Brando on the set of 'The Godfather' (Paramount Pictures)
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The crime classic, ‘The Godfather’, is often regarded as one of the greatest American films ever made. But the movie had a famously troubled production, under the direction of Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola caused turmoil and chaos on the set, as he battled the studio to bring his vision to life. He was constantly on the verge of being fired.

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Coppola was turning in footage that was mocked by executives, and on one occasion, convinced his crew that he had killed himself out of frustration. Producer Robert Evans was quoted to have called Coppola an ‘imbecile’. He came close to being fired on at least four separate occasions. Here is how Marlon Brando saved him from being fired.

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Coppola versus the studio

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Francis Ford Coppola (Photo by Allan Tannenbaum/ Getty Images)

The first battle was the casting. Coppola wanted newcomer Al Pacino to play Michael Corleone, and Marlon Brando to play Don Vito Corleone. The president of Paramount Pictures forbade Coppola from casting Brando. Brando was labeled as a difficult actor to work with and during the time, all of his movies were box office flops.

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Paramount, called Brando a crazy guy and refused to sign off. But they were convinced after Coppola showed him the terrific audition of Brando in makeup as the Don. The studios were impressed with Brando’s audition and considered his audition to be perfect.


Marlon Brando came to the rescue 

Dan Fogler as Francis Ford Coppola in 'The Offer' (Image via Paramount+)

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The battle took four months, but Coppola got the actors he wanted. Even if Coppola got the cast he wanted, shooting the film was a fraught experience. He hadn’t yet shot a single frame of the movie and had already alienated himself from the executives. “If you don’t finish on time today,” a Paramount executive told Coppola, “You’re not gonna come to work tomorrow.” In addition to being under constant pressure from the studio, he also clashed with Evans over the edit.

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When there were serious threats of Coppola being fired, it was Marlon Brando who saved him. Brando threatened to walk out from the movie if Coppola was fired. It was also a favour as it was Coppola who made Brando the part of the movie. Eventually, Coppola was not fired and continued the production. 'The Godfather' wrapped production after six months. Ultimately, the film became a runaway hit, breaking numerous box office records and scoring nine Oscar nominations.

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'The Offer' which shows the behind-the-scenes of making of 'The Godfather' will premiere on April 28, 2022, on Paramount+.