The Godfather was released in New York in 1972, and is widely regarded as the best film of all time. Here are 20 awesome facts about this cinematic classic.
Facts via IMDB
1. Gianni Russo used his organized crime connections to secure the role of Carlo Rizzi, going so far as to get a camera crew to film his own audition and send it to the producers. However, Marlon Brando was initially against having Russo, who had never acted before, in the film; this made Russo furious and he went to threaten Brando. However, this reckless act proved to be a blessing in disguise, because Brando thought Russo was acting and was convinced he would be good for the role.
2. During filming, Francis Ford Coppola complained about the station wagon that picked him up, so he and Robert Evans made a bet that if the film made $50 million, Paramount would spring for a new car. As the film's grosses climbed, Coppola and George Lucas went car shopping and bought a Mercedes Benz 600 stretch limousine, instructing the salesman to send the bill to Paramount. The car appears in the opening scene of American Graffiti (1973).
3. During an early shot of the scene where Vito Corleone returns home and his people carry him up the stairs, Marlon Brando put weights under his body on the bed as a prank, to make it harder to lift him.
4. Marlon Brando wanted to make Don Corleone "look like a bulldog," so he stuffed his cheeks with cotton wool for the audition. For the actual filming, he wore a mouthpiece made by a dentist. This appliance is on display in the American Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York.
5. The scenes in which Enzo comes to visit Vito Corleone in the hospital were shot in reverse, with the outside scene shot first. Gabriele Torrei, the actor who plays Enzo, had never acted in front of a camera before and his nervous shaking, after the car drives away, was real.
6. The scene where Sonny beats up Carlo (Connie's husband) took four days to shoot and featured more than 700 extras. The use of the garbage can lid was improvised by James Caan.
7. James Caan improvised the part where he throws the FBI photographer to the ground. The extra's frightened reaction is genuine. He also came up with the idea of throwing money at the man to make up for breaking his camera. As he put it, "Where I came from, you broke something, you replaced it or repaid the owner."
8. According to Al Pacino, those were real tears in Marlon Brando's eyes when Michael pledges himself to his father, in the hospital scene.
9. Al Pacino boycotted the Academy Awards ceremony, angry that he was nominated for the Academy Award Supporting Actor, noting that his character had more screen time than his co-star, Best Lead Actor nominee (and winner) Marlon Brando.
10. There was intense friction between Francis Ford Coppola and Paramount, who frequently tried to have him replaced, citing his inability to stay on schedule, unnecessary expenses, and production and casting errors. (Coppola actually completed the film ahead of schedule and budget.)
11. The smack that Vito gives Johnny Fontane was not in the script. Marlon Brando improvised the smack and Al Martino's confused reaction was real. According to James Caan, "Martino didn't know whether to laugh or cry."
12. The film's cinematographer, Gordon Willis, insisted that every shot represent a point of view, usually setting his camera about four feet off the ground, keeping the angle flat and even. Director Francis Ford Coppola managed to get him to do one aerial shot in the scene when Don Vito Corleone is gunned down, telling Willis that the overhead shot represented God's point of view.
13. The cat held by Marlon Brando in the opening scene was a stray the actor found while on the lot at Paramount, and was not originally called for in the script. So content was the cat, that its purring muffled some of Brando's dialogue, and, as a result, most of his lines had to be looped.
14. Note the attention to detail: most of the cars have wooden bumpers. Bumpers were removed by car owners during the war and replaced with wooden ones. The chrome ones were turned in to help with the war effort. After the war, it took years for them to be replaced.
15. According to Mario Puzo, the character of Johnny Fontane was NOT based on Frank Sinatra. However, it was widely assumed that it was, and Sinatra was furious; when he met Puzo at a restaurant, he screamed vulgar terms and threats at Puzo. Sinatra was also vehemently opposed to the film. Due to this backlash, Fontane's role in the film was scaled down to a couple of scenes.
16. According to Francis Ford Coppola, the film took 62 days to shoot.
17. The early buzz on the film was so positive that a sequel was planned before the film was even finished filming.
18. Don Vito Corleone's distinctive voice was based on real-life mobster Frank Costello. Marlon Brando had seen him on TV during the Estes Kefauver hearings in 1951 and imitated his husky whisper in the film.
19. The three-year-old child actor, Anthony Gounaris, responded best when his real name was used while shooting the film. That is why Michael's son's name is Anthony.
20. Cinematographer Gordon Willis earned himself the nickname '"The Prince of Darkness," since his sets were so under lit. Paramount executives initially thought that the footage was too dark, until persuaded otherwise by Willis and Francis Ford Coppola that it was to emphasize the shadiness of the Corleone family's dealings.
21. The line "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" was selected by the American Film Institute on its list as one of the top 100 movie quotes. It was at #2, right behind "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" from Gone with the Wind (1939).
22. Whenever oranges appear in the film, they foreshadow death or a near death.
23. Marlon Brando did not memorize most of his lines and read from cue cards during most of the film.
24. Al Pacino wore a foam latex facial appliance that covered his entire left cheek and was made up with colors to match his skin tone and give the effect of bruising, to simulate the effect of having his jaw broken by Captain McCluskey.
25. Because Corleone, Sicily, was too developed, even in the early 1970s, the Sicilian town of Savoca, outside Taormina, was used for shooting the scenes where Michael is in exile in Italy.
26. Mario Puzo modeled the character of Don Vito Corleone on New York mob bosses Joe Profaci and Vito Genovese. Many of the events in his novel are based on actual incidents that occurred in the lives of Profaci, Genovese, and their families. Puzo based Don Vito's personality on his own mother's.
27. James Caan originally heard the phrase "bada-bing!" from his acquaintance, the real-life mobster Carmine Persico, and improvised its use in the film.
28. Paramount was in severe financial trouble in the early 1970s and really needed a big hit. They specifically asked Francis Ford Coppola to make the film more explicitly violent.
29. Mario Puzo gave Vito's eldest son the nickname of "Sonny" after the nickname given to the son of Al Capone. The similarities end there. Sonny Capone did not enter his father's business.
30. The opening wedding celebrations were filmed over a period of a week and employed over 750 extras.
31. Robert Duvall received $36,000 for eight weeks work as Tom Hagen.
32. Sonny's death scene offers up a clue to the fact that Carlo set him up. When Sonny beat up Carlo, he finished by kicking him in the face. After Sonny has been shot dead, one of his killers kicks his across the face.
33. Mario Puzo was very proud of one particular line from the novel - "A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns". He was adamant that it be used in the film, but Marlon Brando felt it was too preachy and it was excised.
34. The scene between Tom and Sollozzo was shot in an abandoned diner. The snowstorm when they exit the diner was real.
35. While filming in Little Italy, Marlon Brando developed a taste for the spicy squid with hot sauce from Vincent's. In the scene where Vito leans over Sonny's dead body, Brando is holding a carton of the delicacy out of range.
36. Laurence Olivier was originally offered to play Vito Corleone. Unfortunately due to his failing health he had to decline leading to Marlon Brando being casted.
37. In the scene in Jack Woltz's bedroom with the bloody horse head, there is an Oscar statue sitting on his bedside table.
38. Al Pacino really had his jaw wired shut for the first part of the shoot after Michael is punched in the face.
39. Francis Ford Coppola didn't care for the horse head scene in the novel, but recognized that it was too iconic to delete.
40. Both Marlon Brando and James Caan had to wear lifts for the movie.
41. Lenny Montana (Luca Brasi) was so nervous about working with Marlon Brando that, in the first take of their scene together, he flubbed some lines. Francis Ford Coppola liked the genuine nervousness and used it in the final cut.
42. There are approximately 61 scenes in the film that feature people eating/drinking, or just food.
43. Originally, Francis Ford Coppola was against directing the film, as he felt it glorified the Mafia and violence, and it would reflect poorly on his Italian-Sicilian heritage. However, he eagerly took the job, once he thought of making it an allegory of American capitalism.
44. The film makes use of a variety of Italian words. Paulie says "sfortunato," which means "unlucky guy." Michael explains that Tom is a "consigliere," or counselor. Vito calls Johnny Fontane a "finocchio," an offensive term for a homosexual. Sonny refers to Paulie as a "stronzo," a term equivalent to "asshole". Carlo and Connie both say "vaffanculo" during their fight, which means "fuck you". Don Zaluchi says the sale of drugs to children is an "infamia," or an infamy. Both the Don Corleones use the word "pezzonovante," which means ".90 caliber," or more accurately an idiom meaning "big shot."
45. The only comment Robert Duvall made about his performance was that he wished "they would have made a better hairpiece" for his character.