The long road to bring The Godfather to life is the stuff of Hollywood Legend: The adaptation of Mario Puzo's bestselling novel was fraught with protests against the film, budget woes, and casting clashes between the studio and a director who was getting a no-confidence vote by Paramount execs. Yes, Francis Ford Coppola was skating on very thin ice during the production.
"There was a director in the wings, who was gonna take over in case Coppola didn't work out,” says Robert Duvall, who played Corleone family consigliere Tom Hagen in the film, which marks its 50th anniversary today.
Duvall tells ABC Audio that the then-32-year-old filmmaker had to endure "great pressure" to bring his vision to life, "and because of that I gained a tremendous amount of respect for Francis Coppola for working under those conditions."
He adds, "He stuck to his guns and made the film he wanted to make, and as an actor I was certainly alongside of him."
In the end, Coppola and his cast turned in a film that would become one of the most revered, beloved and quoted pieces of modern cinema, and made stars out of actors like Al Pacino, James Caan, Talia Shire and John Cazale. It didn't hurt Duvall's career either, plus he got a chance to work with Marlon Brando, who starred in the now-legendary role of Don Vito Corleone.
"[It] wasn't that intimidating, it was nice, because once you got in a scene with him, it became equal," Duvall says of working with the iconic actor. "He was very giving. So it was a give-and-take process that worked out fine."
The Godfather Trilogy, newly restored in 4K Ultra HD, is now available on Blu-Ray from Paramount Home Entertainment.