Francis Ford Coppola, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Talia Shire and Robert Duvall watched The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974) with an audience of 6,000 on the closing night of the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday.
Coppola said he had not seen the movies “for years”, adding that watching them again had been “a very emotional experience”.
“I forgot a lot about the making of it and thought about the story, and the story used a lot of family and my personal stuff.”
The two films tell the tale of a Sicilian orphan who formed the Corleone crime family after moving to the US at the turn of the 20th century.
They became movie classics and won nine Oscars but Coppola told the audience that Hollywood studio Paramount had initially wanted to set the movies in the 1970s and make them “cheap and quick”.
He added that he had nearly been fired and had to fight hard to be allowed to cast Pacino as Michael Corleone and Marlon Brando, who died in 2004, as the Godfather.
Coppola said the studio had eventually relented on condition that Brando do a screen test and put up a million dollar bond that he would not cause trouble during production, something he had a reputation for doing.
Three weeks into shooting, the studio decided they “hated” Brando, Coppola said.
“They thought he mumbled and they hated the film… It was very dark.”
Pacino said he had initially wanted to play the part of Sonny and thought that it was “either a dream or a joke” after hearing Coppola wanted him to play Michael.