Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 mob masterpiece, The Godfather, is an undisputed all time classic, but it didn't get made without its fair share of drama.
The movie is full of feuding Mafia families, gangster shootings and vicious fist-fights, but there was almost as much action going on behind the camera as there was in front of it. With actual mobsters on set and real death threats sent to producers, it's perhaps not surprising that the film has such an authentic feel.
So, without further ado, here are the 8 most incredible stories behind the making of The Godfather:
1. The severed horse head was real
In one of the most memorable and talked about scenes of the all time, John Marley - who played movie producer Jack Wolz - awakes to find his prized stallion's head sitting in his bed. Marley screams in horror, but his shock was actually completely genuine - Coppola told him they would use a fake head, though it was switched for a real one they obtained from a dog food company at the last minute!
2. Some of the cast members were real life gangsters
Gary Fredrickson, the movie's associate producer, claimed that Lenny Montana, who played Luca Brasi (pictured above), confessed to him that he'd once worked as a Mafia bodyguard and arsonist. I'm not sure I would be comfortable sharing that kind of information, myself.
3. Marlon Brando wore a mouthpiece for the whole shoot
Don Corleone's iconic jawline was originally augmented in his audition by stuffing cotton wool in his cheeks, as Marlon Brando wanted to look "like a bulldog" for the role. When it came time to actual filming, he used a steel dentist-made mouthpiece that that took 3 hours to apply every day. Now that's dedication.
To this day the mouthpiece is on display at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York.
4. The Crew had a million dollars worth of equipment stolen
The Italian-American Civil Rights League fiercely protested the production of the movie, led by former contract killer, Joseph Colombo. Though the protests began peacefully enough, it wasn't long before intimidation tactics started to be used. Gianni Russo, who played Don Corleone’s son-in-law Carlo Rizzi, had quite an interesting story to tell:
[The Colombo family] had idiots around them who would do anything. Francis [Ford Coppola] went to Little Italy to do some tests before filming in a movie mobile, like an Airstream. They went in for lunch and when they came back the truck was gone. A million dollars’ worth of equipment.
5. Death threats were sent to a studio executive
Paramount higher up Robert Evans was sitting in his hotel room with his wife Ali McGraw and their son Joshua, when all of a sudden they received an unexpected phone call. The mysterious voice on the other end reportedly told him:
We don’t want to break your pretty face, hurt your newborn. Get the f*ck outta town. Don’t shoot no movie about the family here. Got it?
He's a braver man than me for continuing production.
6. Al Pacino's pay check increased by over 1500%
Being a relatively unknown actor at the time, Al Pacino received a measly $35,000 for his role as Michael Corleone. But after his career sky-rocketed, he was able to demand a $600,000 salary for The Godfather: Part II. That's quite an impressive raise!
7. The Godfather broke New York's water supply
Two years after its theatre release, The Godfather aired on NBC over 2 consecutive nights from 9-11pm, but the Municipal Water Authorities didn't expect the severe repercussions this scheduling would have!
At 11pm on both evenings, the city's water supply experienced overflow problems due to all the toilets flushing at the same time. Everyone was so hooked to the crime thriller, every bladder in the state was holding on!
8. The cast bared their bums for all!
On screen, the cast were fighting for family blood, mob territory and hard cash - but off camera, there was a wholly different, much more immature, competition taking place.
Marlon Brando, James Caan, and Robert Duvall amused themselves between takes by attempting to out-moon one another! That's right, these high class actors exposed themselves in a butt-naked game.
As you might expect, it was Brando who stopped the competition dead by getting out his backside during a massive wedding-reception scene. The rest agreed this couldn't be topped and awarded the victor a belt buckle with the words 'Mighty Moon King' engraved on it. Well done, Marlon!