See The Offer cast against real Godfather players

When Coppola first read Mario Puzoit’s The Godfatherthe filmmaker was disappointed to find that the story was more of a “boiler” and not the intellectual treatise on power he envisioned.

But just when he felt that Puzo – whose previous books he admired – had produced hit fodder to make money from this business, he admitted he needed the paycheck too, so he accepted the position.

Caveats aside, the film’s story is closely tied to the novel, minus the subplot involving – as Coppola said on NPR Fresh air in 2016 – the “private anatomy problems” of Lucy Mancini’s character. Cutting that, he said, “didn’t hurt the remaining part, which we all know.”

But signing on to do the movie was just the start of a seemingly endless series of disagreements with the studio, over everything from the period (“the script had hippies in it,” he reminded NPR) to place (“they took me on a trip to visit the Italian neighborhoods of Kansas City”) to all the actors he wanted for lead roles.

When all has been said and discussed, however, The Godfather made over $250 million at the worldwide box office (making it the highest-grossing release of all time until Jaws was released in 1975) and is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. But although it was named Best Picture at the 1973 Oscars and Coppola and Puzo shared the Adapted Screenplay Oscar, Coppola lost Best Director to Cabaret coxswain Bob Fosse (you can watch all this jazz unfold in the FX miniseries Fosse/Verdon). He would win for The Godfather: part II in 1975.


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