• Film

Paramount and Friends Honor Coppola and “The Godfather” in its 50th Anniversary

It was a night of celebration to honor a classic.

The red carpet was laid out a few meters from the main movie theater of the Paramount studio, which kicked off its year-long commemoration of The Godfather , considered in many lists of filmmakers and critics as the best film of all time.

Director and writer Francis Ford Coppola walked again under that iconic gate of the Melrose Avenue landmark studio in Los Angeles. Coppola was greeted by the new management of the studio, 50 years after the premiere of the film The Godfather (1972).

To commemorate the classic’s half a century milestone, Paramount decided to release a newly restored version in Dolby Vision in theaters for a limited time starting February 25. On March 22, The Godfather and its two succeeding installments will be issued as a limited collector’s edition box set in 4K Ultra HD quality.

“The film is about succession, the responsibilities that you have to our past – the older to the younger – so life can go on. As human beings, we are giving this world – and hopefully – in better shape, than we received to the next generation,” Coppola, 82, told HFPA member Mario Pacheco Székely about The Godfather which won five Golden Globes, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay.

The generational clash was precisely what Coppola experienced at the age of 32 when Old Hollywood had to reinvent itself after the death of the great owners of the studios. The change in tastes from the audience in the 70s was imminent after the Vietnam War disillusionment and Richard Nixon’s resignation from the White House for acts of corruption. The very American dream was in question, with all the blows that the capitalist system brings when a human being covets economic power.

In the midst of all of the above was Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather,” acquired by producer Robert Evans, who began plotting with Paramount how to pull off this adaptation of a mob novel. When Coppola entered the scene, his jeans gave him away as being part of the generation of filmmakers who studied at universities and who viewed Hollywood’s corporate decisions with suspicion.

Coppola and his friends George Lucas and Walter Murch had founded American Zoetrope in San Francisco, which in 1971 was facing imminent bankruptcy. So filming for a large studio was an impossible offer to refuse, as they were seeking to recapitalize.



When he was reading Puzo’s novel, Coppola did not want to extol the owners of the phrase “Cosa Nostra,” but to bet on the need to protect your family at all costs from external attacks. Even when the Corleones – the novel’s central clan – decided to bet on the designs of evil, the public would feel included in that long party table with food that surrounded the patriarch character of Vito Corleone.

Coppola brought out the Italian sensibility in him and knew he could make this migrant story his own.

“I think The Godfather is a beautiful movie. It’s a movie about the importance of family, doing it for a family,” Coppola said, minutes before holding hands with his sister Talia Shire. She starred in the film as Connie Corleone, whose wedding commences the film. The siblings’ father, Carmine, composed some of the music.


Shire said, “I had an audition for the movie, and I shouldn’t have been in the movie because I think it was filled with early conflicts. But you know, we are family!”

Shire proudly added, pointing her hands and eyes to the sky as if drawing a trapeze artist’s rope, “A circus people. That’s what we do. We do the high dangerous tricks, and we are still doing that until this day. And I’m very proud of my children, directors, and writers. That’s what we do.”

Shire was also part of the big discussions Coppola had with Paramount to respect his casting vision of actors for the Corleones. Marlon Brando himself was not initially imagined walking through the doors of the studio to be the patriarch. But the toughest fight was over getting Al Pacino to play the prodigal son Michael, who would eventually take over the family kingdom.

At the 1972 premiere of The Godfather, the metaphors about the dangers of capitalism and the urgency of a legacy by a father who knows his days were numbered were applauded by critics and the public.

But only those closest to the production team had faith in Coppola’s vision and the possibility that Pacino could be the counterweight to Brando (considered an exponent of the acting method), as a son willing to avenge his father and raising his voice against the enemies of the family, while trying to be an ally of his brothers Sonny (James Caan), Fredy (John Cazale) and Connie, advised by the faithful lawyer Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall).



Jon Voight, who with films like Coming Home (1978) and Midnight Cowboy (1969), was part of that generation of actors, and won a couple of Golden Globes for those films, shared, “The Godfather was a piece of a genius from the beginning. I was so excited… I know all these people. I worked with Bobby Duvall and with Al (Pacino), too. Al and I were friends early on, even we hadn’t worked together yet.

“I know several people in this movie. And I was a fan of them all. And then they got together to do it. I just thought it was a brilliant movie. The film has energy. You say The Godfather… and it’s way up there! We all knew it was magnificent, it was going to last, and that we were going to pay tribute just like now, forever. And it is appropriate.”

While Voight reflected that The Godfather put the U.S. on the map as an exponent of the best of cinema, when European cinema was already facing Hollywood with its own film tradition and prestige, Shire smiled as she recalled how the success of Coppola’s film erased the concerns of those who doubted him. The film brought applause, awards and was the highest-grossing film of its era.

The Rocky (1976) actress said, “Francis is a great artist. And he has an understanding as an artist that sometimes a work of art involves giving yourself to it. He left his soul there and then the film has lived in an extraordinary way. I think we all knew it in a similar way, just as you can perceive that a day is beautiful, we knew that something great had been done.

“It is very difficult to make movies. It is very difficult to make something beautiful. There are the films by Buster Keaton that he experimented with, also those by Orson Welles. The Godfather is a gem too, in my opinion, but I’m just the sister talking,”



The Paramount-organized evening was also attended by James Caan, who sat next to Shire and Coppola and shared their filming anecdotes about The Godfather in a moderated session on stage.

Also in the audience was actor Joe Mantegna, whose character of Joe Zasa is one of the villains in The Godfather: Part III. Coppola cast his daughter, Sofia Coppola , to play the teenage daughter of Michael Corleone.

“It has been an honor for me to be a part of The Godfather trilogy and happy to be here to pay tribute to Coppola,” said Mantegna.

Alden Ehrenreich, who was directed by Coppola in Tetro (2009), described the filmmaker’s work style: “With him, it’s like working with family. It’s so casual. He is very intimate. You rehearse together, you eat together. The feeling and inspiration that come from Francis light up the whole room with so much energy. It’s incredible!”

At the special screening, minutes before the lights went out and the music of Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola played in the opening scenes of the lovingly restored The Godfather, Coppola, winner of four Golden Globes, set his eyes on the future.

He said, “My only regret is that we don’t include the young people in the decision-making. We sell to them but we don’t ask their opinion. We don’t give them the right to vote. The more young people have a say, the more we will have great answers. They are wonderful. If we give them great responsibility, they will show us what they can do.”