Al Pacino has delivered several remarkable performances over the course of a stellar career but none of them have surpassed the cultural impact that he made with his work in The Godfather. His rendition of Michael Corleone has transcended cinema and has become immortalised within the ever-shifting frameworks of popular culture.
Although different viewers respond in various ways to Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic trilogy, it is definitely undeniable that Al Pacino’s acting is one of the major reasons why the films are still such compelling cinematic experiences. The Godfather has become an indispensable part of the legacies of the director as well as the actor.
Everyone agreed on Pacino’s genius after watching the film but that wasn’t case at first. In fact, the studio was ready to fire the actor and replace him someone else after the first two weeks. “When I got on the thing, they were gonna fire me about two weeks into it,” Pacino revealed. “They didn’t care for what they were seeing.”
According to Pacino, the actor wasn’t even favoured by the studio before he was cast. His work in The Godfather is often cited as his breakthrough role but it almost didn’t happen until one of Pacino’s friends convinced the studio executives to give him a shot by making them watch footage from a previous project by Pacino.
“They didn’t want me, and there were a series of tests. … We finally got to shoot, they accepted,” the actor recalled while providing details about the incident. “Because Jerry Schatzberg, my great friend and director, gave them eight minutes from Panic in Needle Park. And when they saw the footage they hired me.”
Coppola also stepped in to prevent the studios from firing Pacino by trying to urge him to perform better. At the time, Pacino had a definite idea of what the character was going to be but the director urged him to look at the footage himself in order to evaluate. Seeing himself on screen, he started thinking more about the enigma of Michael Corleone and the rest is history.
Pacino also claimed that his biggest trouble with The Godfather came after the end of the production because had become unhealthily attached to his role. He said: “What was more of a struggle was living afterward with the aura of that. … Being that character, … it sort of had an effect on me, on my life, for a while.”