Here’s where Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone was supposed to cameo in The Godfather Part 2 – and why it didn’t ultimately happen. The original Godfather was adapted from the novel by Mario Puzo and is regarded as one of the greatest movies ever made. From the superb cast – including Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall and many more – to the writing and cinematography, it’s a hard movie to find fault with. It also made director Francis Ford Coppola’s career, and he followed with more classics like Apocalypse Now.
Coppola also helmed The Godfather sequels, despite admitting he was initially reluctant to return for either one. The Godfather Part 2 from 1974 is widely considered the rare sequel to surpass the original, and is both a prequel and sequel, charting the rise of the Corleone family under young Vito, and then flashing forward decades to its decline under his adult son Michael (Al Pacino). The Godfather Part III eventually followed in 1990, but met with mixed reviews; Coppola released a Director’s Cut in 2020 dubbed The Godfather Coda: The Death Of Michael Corleone.
Godfather 2 cast Robert De Niro as young Vito Corleone in the prequel section, which covers major events like his assassination of Don Fanucci. In early development on the sequel Coppola hoped to talk Marlon Brando – who was then in his late 40s – to play the young Vito, but he passed. Marlon Brando didn’t ultimately appear in The Godfather Part II at all, but this wasn’t the original plan.
Towards the end of The Godfather Part 2, there’s a flashback scene featuring a cameo from James Caan as Sonny, Michael’s brother who was murdered in the original. This scene takes place during one of Vito’s birthdays, but the character remains offscreen while Sonny and Tom (Robert Duvall) argue over Michael’s decision to join the Marines. This scene was originally supposed to feature Marlon Brando as Vito, but after being mistreated by Paramount during production of The Godfather – who even made him screentest for the role despite his past work – he reportedly just didn’t turn up on the day the scene was scheduled.
The sequence was thus rewritten with the focus given to James Caan’s Sonny instead; despite only working one day on the sequel, Caan earned the same amount as he made on the first entry. Marlon Brando was known for being difficult to work with, and his absence from The Godfather Part 2 is one of the milder examples of his behind the scenes antics. Also of note is the fact Brando and Robert De Niro were the first two actors in film history to win Academy Awards for playing the same role. Joaquin Pheonix’s win for 2019’s Joker marked the second, with the late Heath Ledger having won for playing the character in The Dark Knight.