Little known fact: the cat in Brando’s lap was not planned. The first nearly full-body shot of the don reveals an unexpected guest: a gray and white cat in his lap. “I saw the cat running around the studio, and he took it and put it in his hands without a word.” Coppola said. The cat’s purring nearly ruined the shot.
Little known fact: the movie ushered in the age of the modern blockbuster. By 1972 when the movie was released, only two other films had earnings that approached it: Gone with the Wind and The Sound of Music … In the 20 years that followed it, 58 movies would surpass it.
Little known fact: each of the male main actors got Oscar nominations. Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, and James Caan were all nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Marlon Brando won for Best Actor, but he turned down the Oscar, instead sending a Native-American activist in traditional Apache dress to state his reason: an objection to the depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood films.
The Score Was Honored (and Then Rejected) by the Oscars
Little known fact: the score was honored (and then rejected) by the Oscars. Nino Rota, an Italian composer, was chosen as The Godfather‘s composer in order to give it a true Italian feeling. Though nominated for an Oscar, Rota’s score was then withdrawn, because part of the love theme had previously appeared in the 1958 movie Fortunella.
Little known fact: the film was a family affair. Aside from Sofia Coppola’s and Talia Shire’s roles in the movies, Father Carmine also composed several pieces of music for the film and appeared as a piano player during a montage, and the director’s two sons showed up in minor roles.
Little known fact: Vic Damone was almost Johnny Fontane. The popular singer was originally cast as Johnny Fontane. He dropped out, attributing his pride in being Italian, though he would later state that it was all about the money.
Little known fact: Sinatra was involved in some drama. Many assumed that the Fontane subplot was based on the real-life Frank Sinatra drama when he was trying to earn a role in From Here to Eternity. One night when Sinatra refused to meet Puzo, he broke down in tears and uttered, “It’s not my fault.” Sinatra thought he was apologizing and screamed at Puzo. The incident made news and was a PR disaster.
The Problem with Sinatra | The Anniversary You Can’t Refuse: 40 Things You Didn’t Know About The Godfather | TIME.com
Deleted Scene No. 1: Michael Shoots His Wife's Killer
Little known fact: in a deleted scene, Michael shot his wife’s killer. In a scene cut from the film, Michael comes back to America to track down his former bodyguard and the man who killed his wife. Finding him, Michael blows him away with a shotgun. Though the scene was never used, the still was distributed widely during the film’s promotion.
Little known fact: the baptism scene was a montage of footage. It cuts back and forth between Michael’s godson’s baptism and the brutal slaying of the family’s enemies. In the book, the planning and execution of the murders consumes dozens of pages, so Coppola unified the scenes with the baptism. He used 67 shots over five minutes.
Little known fact: Sofia Coppola played a boy. In the baptism scene near the film’s end, the role of Michael Rizzi was played by an infant Sofia Coppola. Other than the people playing main characters, Sofia is the only actor to appear in all 3 films.
Little known fact: Caan and Russo’s fight might have been a little too realistic. When Caan tossed Russo over the fence, then beat him with a trash can, he allegedly broke two of Russo’s ribs and cracked his elbow. There were rumors that Caan and Russo didn’t get along well, which may have contributed to the brutality of the brawl.
Little known fact: they used hundreds of bullets for Sonny’s death. When a half-dozen men rise up with tommy guns, Caan exudes the horrific pain of being hit by hundreds of bullets as 400-plus squibs attached to his body, the car and the tollbooth explode on cue. The scene required 3 days, and technicians and explosives cost $100,000.
Little known fact: the succession scene needed a major rewrite. In Mario Puzo’s novel, there is no resolution between Vito Corleone and his son Michael. But Coppola wanted to convey that they loved each other. So Coppola called on his friend Robert Towne, a renowned screenwriter, as a script doctor to fix it.
Little known fact: they had to cooperate with the mob. In an attempt to make peace with Joseph Colombo Sr., a major NYC Mob boss, producer Albert Ruddy agreed to remove the words Mafia and Cosa Nostra from the movie. Once the New York Times got ahold of the story, all hell broke loose, with Paramount having to deny that Ruddy was working on their behalf.
Little known fact: many Italians were offended by the movie. There were various politicians and advocacy groups who were pre-offended by movie and what they assumed would be a stereotypical view of violent Italian men.
Little known fact: Brasi was a pro at dying. Lenny Montana utilized some of his prol wrestling skills during his death scene. He was able to use techniques he had learned to make his bulging, bug-eyed face nearly purple while being garrotted.
Little known fact: Brando was a prankster. During the scene of two orderlies lugging an ailing Don Corleone up the stairs of his mansion, a pair from the film crew volunteered to be onscreen. Brando, ever looking for a laugh, filled his stretcher with weights just to mess with them.
Little known fact: the oranges didn’t signify a death to come. The reason for their presence is likely a more practical one. Harlen Lebo writes, “...oranges were simply another carefully chosen compliment to otherwise somberly dressed sets. We knew this film wasn’t going to be about bright colors, and oranges make a nice contrast.”
Little known fact: there were lots of bare buttocks on scene. The actors were reportedly awestruck by Brando but in a sign of budding friendship, Caan and Duvall began dropping their pants and mooning Brando during filming. But Brando upstaged them all by dropping trou while cameras were being set up for the wedding photo scene, mooning nearly 500 extras on the set.
Little known fact: Luca Brasi froze and fumbled his lines in his opening scene. Hoping to take advantage of the misstep, Coppola later flip-flopped scenes so in his scene Luca is nervously practicing his lines while waiting to see the Don, implying that Corleone is the one man Brasi fears.