The cast of “The Godfather” and “The Godfather: Part II,” including Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, Robert De Niro (young Vito), Diane Keaton (Kay), Talia Shire (Connie), James Caan (Sonny), Robert Duvall (Tom) and director Francis Ford Coppola reunited on Saturday at Radio City Music Hall to close out the Tribeca Film Festival and discuss the landmark films — and moderator Taylor Hackford rightfully called it a historic night.
Pacino, 77, recalled how he was afraid of taking on the role of Michael Corleone in the highly-praised flicks and noted he thought he would have had a better shot in the role of Sonny.
Even after Coppola finally got the studio and agreed to give Pacino the part, they continued to second-guess the decision throughout production. The star, who shined as Michael, said he even felt giggles and laughter as he read the lines.
“It was dizzying, the whole thing,” Pacino said of filming.
“Diane and I in that wedding thing … I mean we got so loaded after that wedding scene,” Pacino told the audience to laughter while Keaton — who made a special unannounced appearance at the event — shook her head “no.”
“A lot of chaos going on there,” Pacino said of the scene, which was filmed at night using faked daylight because they were behind schedule. “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,'” the “Dog Day Afternoon” star continued.
The cast members — some of whom Coppola said he hadn’t seen in years — recalled joking with the late Marlon Brando on set and the crazy antics that kept them close through the films.
Playing into the Italian stereotype, Coppola noted that food was a driving force for successful improvisation with the cast.
He called a “family dinner” between the cast during rehearsals “the key” to the film.
And from there it was history. Caan and Duvall were the go-to jokesters on set, and Duvall even recalled an iconic “mooning” contest between himself and Brando, who died in 2004.
Robert De Niro, the founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, remained hushed as his legendary acting partners discussed the first film — which he almost had a small role in.
Luckily, he ended up missing out on the smaller part and went on to land the role of the young Vito Corleone in “The Godfather: Part II” for which he won an Academy Award. Brando also won an Oscar for his role as Vito, making history as the only two actors to ever win Academy Awards for playing the same character.
Coppola called the quest to find the young Vito “daunting,” but found De Niro to be perfect in capturing how Vito would have acted as a young man, as opposed to simply imitating Brando. Still, De Niro insisted that studying tapes of Brando’s performance from the original film was a large part of his preparation for the sequel.
“The Godfather” debuted in 1972 and was made on a $6.5 million budget and “The Godfather: Part II” followed in 1974 with nearly double the first film’s budget at $12 million.
The films late stars were remembered by the cast, including John Cazale (Fredo), Al Lettieri (Sollozzo), Abe Vigoda (Tessio) — and of course the Don himself, Brando.