The Offer’s Creator Tells How A Fight With Frank Sinatra Initially Inspired The Godfather Making-Of Series

The Godfather Johnny Fontane

by Sophie Butcher |
Published on

Just when you thought the story of The Godfather was over, Paramount’s new series The Offer pulls you back in. As detailed in the major exclusive new interview with director Francis Ford Coppola in the current issue of Empire, although the finished cut of his mob masterpiece exudes confidence from every frame, the film’s production was far from smooth sailing. There were casting disagreements, budgetary restrictions, and Coppola was almost fired – plenty of drama, then, to bring to life in a new limited series.

The Offer, inspired, of course, by the famous line from the film, portrays the making of The Godfather from the perspective of those behind the camera. Speaking to Vanity Fair, series creator Michael Tolkin (whose previous work includes prison break drama Escape At Dannemora) has revealed the initial nugget of information that inspired the show. “All I knew about the making of The Godfather was that Mario Puzo got into a fight with Frank Sinatra at Chasen’s,” Tolkin says, of Sinatra's reported dislike of singer character Johnny Fontane. “So I had a five-minute scene and all I needed was nine hours and 55 minutes more.”

Miles Teller heads up the cast as producer Albert S. Ruddy (also now executive producer on The Offer), and Tolkin has described how a lengthy interview with Ruddy was a major part of his research for the project. “What sealed it for me was when Al said, ‘Every day of making The Godfather was the worst day in my life,’ and that told me we had a show,” Tolkin explains. “For every character in the film, getting it made or stopping it from being made was at the core of their actions, and it was a matter of life and death to them. So that’s not a gangster story, that’s a human story. That’s what gave the book and the movie so much power. Everyone is fighting for their existence.”

Starring alongside Teller are Juno Temple as Ruddy’s secretary and right hand woman Bettye McCartt, Matthew Goode as Paramount Studios chief Robert Evans, Dan Fogler as Coppola himself, and Giovanni Ribisi plays real-life mobster Joe Columbo, who was determined to shut down production entirely. As The Offer showrunner Nikkia Toscano tells Vanity Fair, “At the beginning of our story, we come to learn that the mafia has a very active interest in making sure that The Godfather never gets made.”

Paramount+ will be making viewers The Offer they can’t refuse on 28 April in the US. The streaming service does not have an official launch date here in the UK.

You can read more about the making of The Godfather in our current issue celebrating the film’s 50th anniversary, which includes the major new interview with Coppola, talking through classic scenes with cast members Talia Shires, Robert Duvall and James Caan, a feature on the legacy of John Cazale and rare BTS images. On newsstands now, or order a copy online here.

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