How Francis Ford Coppola handled real crowd characters during production

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It may sound like fiction today, but by doing The Godfather the producers had to make do with real life thugs. Paramount production manager Robert Evans recalled the anonymous threats from the start. Then it became clear that the shoot would have union issues (or worse) if Paramount and director Francis Ford Coppola didn’t respond to some of the crowd’s demands.

Gulf + Western, Paramount’s parent company, has suffered evacuations at its Manhattan headquarters following bomb threats. Then producer Al Ruddy heard that a car was following him to Los Angeles. And during the spotting, the crew realized that no one in Manhasset would be working with them.

Needless to say, this was no way to make a movie. So Ruddy decided to play ball with the Mafia. In addition to passing the script on to Colombo family boss Joe Colombo, Ruddy also agreed to bring in a few associates from Colombo to perform. The Godfather. As for Coppola, the director took advice from author Mario Puzo on how to deal with the crowd.

Francis Ford Coppola simply ignored the gangsters around the ‘Godfather’ set

Marlon Brando and Francis Ford Coppola discuss a scene from “Godfather” on location in Little Italy. | Anthony Pescatore / NY Daily News via Getty Images

RELATED: ‘The Godfather’: Why Isn’t Michael Corleone Arrested Upon Returning From Sicily?

As the mobsters threw their weight with Paramount brass, Coppola recognized that he had the insulation he needed and could get to work. If he encountered any characters from the crowd during filming, he would do as Puzo ordered him to do.

“I got some great advice from Mario Puzo,” Coppola told Playboy (via Scraps From the Loft) in 1975. “He told me mafia guys love the glamor of show business and that, if you let them, they would get involved. Mario told me that I would probably be contacted and that when I was, I should refuse to open up to them. “

Coppola did just that. If someone logged in offered her a phone number or attempted to visit her, the manager would push them away every time. “Because if there’s one thing about them, it’s that they respect that attitude,” Coppola told Playboy. “If you turn them off, they won’t interfere with your life.”

Yet this was only possible if Ruddy did the opposite. You could say, without exaggerating, Ruddy came and dined the Mafiosos during the Godfather shoot. It seems he couldn’t have made the film without a number of concessions.

Coppola accepted a connected ‘actor’ as Luca Brasi

Marlon Brando gestures at a table while Robert Duvall sits behind him in

Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall in a picture from “The Godfather” | Paramount Studios / Courtesy of Getty Images

To avoid problems with unions and film locations, Ruddy attended a charity dinner hosted by the Colombo family. And Ruddy accepted that the connected characters fill in small parts in The Godfather. The role of Luca Brasi was one of them.

In The companion godfatherPeter Biskind says Lenny Montana, who played Brasi, got his role through the Ruddy-Colombo deal. Prior to The GodfatherMontana’s experience in entertainment was limited to his work as a professional wrestler.

This created problems on the set. While Montana had no problem handling a gun, he found it hard to say his lines. Coppola found a solution for this, however. Knowing he had footage of Montana flubbing, he shot the scene in which Brasi is rehearsing for his visit to Vito Corleone.



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