The Godfather: 11 Surprising Facts You Can’t Refuse

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather

Paramount Pictures

The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola’s loving adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel hit cinemas in 1972, to critical acclaim worldwide. Undeniably the greatest gangster movie ever made, it follows the Corleone crime family as leadership is passed from father Vito to son Michael, and chronicles every murder, sit-down, wedding, baptism and betrayal.

Here are 11 surprising facts about the film…

1) Marlon Brando pranked actors with weights

During the scene where Vito Corleone returns home from the hospital, he is carried up the stairs by his men. As a practical joke, Marlon Brando laid some weights beneath him to make it harder for the actors to carry him. 

2) The cat purred too loudly 

The cat that Vito Coreleone has on his lap during the opening scenes of the film was actually a stray that Francis Ford Coppola found wandering the Paramount lot. It was clearly very happy being petted by Marlon Brando throughout the scene because it purred loudly. A little too loudly, in fact, as when it came to reviewing the footage, Brando’s dialogue could barely be heard above the cat’s purrs, and had to be re-recorded and added in over the footage.

3) George Lucas created one sequence as a favour to Coppola

After the scene where Michael whacks McCluskey and Solozzo, there’s a montage of newspaper headlines, and gangsters waiting around in grotty rooms whilst the mob war plays out. None other than George Lucas put this montage together. He did it as a favour for francis Ford Coppola, who had helped him fund American Graffiti – the film that had made his name. Lucas asked to be uncredited.  

4) James Caan improvised smashing the FBI agent’s camera

At the wedding, when Sonny storms out to the FBI agents, snatches one of their cameras and smashes it on the ground, that was actually improvised by James Caan. The FBI agent’s frightened response was genuine. Caan also improvised throwing money at him, to repay him for the camera. This was because, where Caan had grown up, it was the done thing to repay somebody if you broke their belongings. 

5) Luca Brasi’s anxiety before talking to The Godfather was genuine

When Luca Brasi comes to talk to Vito Corleone on the day of his daughter’s wedding, he stumbles over a few of his words. This was actually genuine anxiety from the actor Lenny Montana, who was a big fan of Marlon Brando, and who was very anxious about working with the star. Francis Ford Coppola liked that nervousness, and kept the fumbled lines in the final movie. 

6) Marlon Brando wanted Don Corleone to look like a bulldog 

When deciding how he wanted to portray Vito Corleone in his audition, he decided he wanted the don to look like a bulldog, so he stuffed cotton wool into his cheeks to puff them out. The filmmakers obviously agreed that was the right look for the character, because they had a dentist make a mouthpiece for Brando to wear during filming. 

7) True to life, a lot of cars in the film have wooden bumpers

You might notice that many of the cars shown in the film have wooden bumpers. This is very true of the era, as citizens would remove their metal bumpers to donate them to the war effort, where they would be used to make munitions and machinery. They’d replace the metal bumpers with wooden ones. 

8) Brando used cue cards in The Godfather 

Brando didn’t learn his lines for The Godfather. He much preferred to use cue cards, as he felt this gave a more genuine performance, as it wouldn’t look like the character already knew what he was going to say. Brando had used this approach before, in movies such as Superman. 

9) It took 4 days to film Sonny beating up Carlo

When he discovers Carlo has been beating his sister, Sonny races over there to deliver some karma. He batters Sonny up and down the street. Although the street fight doesn’t last very long in the movie, it actually took four days to film, and contained over 700 extras. James Caan improvised using the trash can lid. 

10) Al Pacino boycotted the Oscars

Al Pacino was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, whilst Marlon Brando was nominated for (and won) Best Actor in a Leading Role. Pacino was furious with this because he actually had more screentime than Brando and thus, refused to turn up to the ceremony. 

11) Vito’s voice was based on real gangster Frank Castello 

When it came to finding the right voice for the character of Vito Coreleone, Marlon Brando recalled the voice of real life gangster Frank Castello, whose criminal hearings were television in the 50s. He had a whispery, husky voice that Brando thought would be perfect for the Don, and he was right – that voice is an iconic part of cinematic history.

There you have it – 11 pieces of The Godfather trivia! 

The Godfather trailer

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