On Saturday 29th April, following marathon back to back screenings of The
Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Robert De Niro all took part in the discussion, with filmmaker Taylor Hackford on moderating duties.
There were also some famous faces in the audience, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Peter Fonda, Alessandro Nivola, Whoopi Goldberg and Sofia Coppola.
The conversation was streamed by Tribeca on Facebook Live and can be viewed in full here.
Francis Ford Coppola recalled his initial reaction to Mario Puzo’s novel: “I was attracted to it because I thought it was a foreign author, and an intellectual book about power,” but went on to say “I was disappointed in the book when I first read it because it’s very long. Much of the book, about a third, is about Lucy Mancini’s anatomy.”
Discussing the challenges of putting together the fist film, Coppola speculated about getting The Godfather made today, “This film could be made today, but it wouldn’t get a go ahead from a studio. The first film was made for about $6.5 million; the second was made for $11 or $12 million. Would never get a green light today.”
According to Coppola casting was a constant battle between himself and Paramount. On Marlon casting Brando, “It was not [convincing] Brando, it was convincing Paramount. Finally I was told by the President of Paramount, ‘Brando will not appear in this picture, and I prohibit you from saying his name again.’ I fell on the floor.”
Francis Ford Coppola was sure of Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, but again the studio wasn’t convinced: “I just saw his face,” said Coppola, “Once you see someone in the role, it’s very hard to get that out of your head.”
Pacino added: “It seemed like I was always testing. I was still testing after I got the part.”
On Coppola’s decision to cast her, Diane Keaton said: “I read recently that Francis gave me the part because he thought I was eccentric. He wasn’t wrong.”
James Caan commented on Coppola’s casting insight: “Francis, you know, somehow in his young little mind, just knew who had it and who didn’t. He knew who every character was.”
Al Pacino credited Coppola for his livelihood: “Without Francis, where would I be?”
“The studio didn’t want me after they hired me.” Pacino recalled, “I was living on 90th and Broadway at the time. I walked to the village and back; I did it every day, thinking about this role. Just thinking where I could go with it. I came, and started filming it, I was dizzy. I was new to film. We were theatre actors and weren’t used to film.”
James Caan on the cat: “That cat, it sat like it was there for a thousand years. He was only in one take, and you feel like that is Vito’s cat.”
Diane Keaton to Francis Ford Coppola on re-watching the film recently: “I watched it on my computer recently. I hadn’t seen it in about 30 years. I couldn’t get over it. It was so astonishing. Francis, it was so beautiful. And everybody is so great in it. Every choice you made was so authentically brilliant. I just kept crying, and that damn Talia. I am not kidding…. Everything was astonishing to me and I didn’t expect it.”
Francis Ford Coppola on watching The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II for the first time in many years: “I found it a very emotional experience. I forgot a lot about the making of it.”