Five things you didn’t know about ‘The Godfather’: from fake teeth to tantrums

The celebrated mob drama returns to cinemas after 50 years

Marlon Brando in The Godfather. Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, The Godfather is returning to cinemas worldwide for an encore.

While a new generation of fans can savour the epic story of the Corleone family, played by a masterful cast, others will also wonder how this film was even made considering all the drama off set.

From director Francis Ford Coppola working with the threat of being fired every day to the innovative ways in which Marlon Brando got into character, here are five things you need to know about The Godfather.

1. Lawrence Olivier could have played the Godfather

Five decades since its release, it’s hard to wonder who other than Brando could have played mob boss Don Vito Corleone.

Coppola actually considered British actor Laurence Olivier, while Paramount Pictures was looking at US actors Ernest Borgnine, Anthony Quinn and Orson Welles.

The idea of Brando was initially nixed owing to his notorious behaviour on sets.

However, after Coppola showed the studio heads a scene from an audition tape, they were impressed enough to grant the green light.

2. Marlon Brando and James Caan got their teeth done

While Brando had the frame, he didn’t have the look required for the ageing and withdrawn Corleone.

Instead, he underwent three hours of make-up every day to appear like the older and weathered Don, in addition to wearing dental prosthetics to achieve the signature jawline associated with the character.

James Caan also got his teeth done, having received dental prosthetics to add an extra fiery layer to play the vengeful role of Sonny Corleone.

3. Director Francis Ford Coppola was close to getting fired throughout the shoot

Director Francis Ford Coppola arrives at an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of 'The Godfather', at Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles. Photo: Invision / AP

Even if Coppola got the cast he wanted, shooting the film was a fraught experience.

The fact he was able to see his name on the final credits is a minor miracle, considering that the studio, alarmed by the rising budget and lack of action scenes, had seasoned filmmaker Elia Kazan on standby should Coppola get fired.

4. It was a family affair

Six of Coppola's relatives scored minor and cameo roles in The Godfather.

Sister Talia Shire (who became best known as Adrian Balboa in the Rocky franchise) played Vito's daughter Connie Corleone.

His infant daughter Sofia, who grew up to be a respected filmmaker, also appeared as Connie’s newborn son. Eighteen years later, she also played the role of Mary, Michael Corleone's daughter, in The Godfather: Part III.

Coppola's father, Carmine, is in a small scene playing the piano, while his mother and two sons appeared as extras.

5. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino boycotted the Oscars

Even with the acclaim and box office success, the film’s signature tension spilled from the big screen to the 1973 Academy Awards.

Al Pacino boycotted the ceremony owing to being nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category, despite having more screen-time than co-star Brando.

The latter also boycotted the ceremony and, instead, sent Native American rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather to pick up the award to show his opposition to the way Native Americans were portrayed in Hollywood.

The event, however, ended on a high note with The Godfather also winning the night's biggest prize for Best Picture.

Updated: March 03, 2022, 8:33 AM