The Tribeca Film Festival is coming to a close, and today is the last day to catch up with the festival winners. But last night, Tribeca capped off a successful 2017 run with an epic and historic evening to celebrate the 45th anniversary of “The Godfather.” A marathon eight-hour event, Tribeca screened “The Godfather” and “The Godfather: Part II” back to back, followed by a fascinating one-and-a-half-hour talk with director Francis Ford Coppola and a few members of the principal cast: Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Talia Shire, and, from ‘Part II,’ Robert De Niro.
The discussion was hosted and moderated by director Taylor Hackford (“An Officer And A Gentleman,” “Ray”), who clearly knew his ‘Godfather’ stuff, peppering the evening’s conversations with plenty of context and encouraging the cast to regale the audience with some of the most celebrated stories about the making of the movie.
The overall theme, without a doubt, was struggle. Much of the conversation centered around how difficult it was for Coppola to get the movie made in his vision, how Paramount Pictures nearly fired him and didn’t want him to cast either Marlon Brandon or Al Pacino in their now-iconic roles. In fact, even after they had seen footage of both actors in the movie, Paramount was convinced “The Godfather” was going sideways and Coppola should be shown the door. Canny maneuvers on the director’s part, some make-adjustments advice to his actors and some reshoots ultimately compelled Paramount to change their minds. But by all accounts, the movie came very close to being shut down. So much of the Q&A focused on Paramount’s dislike of Pacino and how difficult it was for Coppola to cast him — rounds and rounds of auditions to the point that Pacino’s then-girlfriend yelled at the director in anger for stringing him along. You kind of have to wonder how the actor didn’t develop a huge self-confidence problem.
The anecdote of the night, though, came from Pacino, who revealed that Keaton and he got drunk after the wedding scene and were convinced they were going to be in a disaster. “The whole thing had a surreal feeling,” he remembered. “We got back, and we started drinking and we were just talking about ‘where do we go from here? We’re done. It’s the worst film ever made.'”
Hackford navigated the often-discursive conversation as best he could, but it amusingly went off the rails at the end when Coppola decided to take unplanned questions from the audience, much to the chagrin of Tribeca organizers trying to wrap up the night. Still, it was an absorbing talk and shouldn’t be missed. Tribeca live-streamed the entire event and you can still watch it right here. It’s very possible you’ve heard these stories before, but it’s certainly worth the watch nonetheless. Makes sure to fast forward to the 13-minute mark, however, because it’s simply a black screen with text up until then.
By the way, in celebration of the 45th anniversary of “The Godfather,” Paramount will release all three films in the epic crime saga on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD May 9th.