MARIO PUZO’S THE GODFATHER, CODA: THE DEATH OF MICHAEL CORLEONE
Scen.: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola. F.: Gordon Willis. M.: Barry Malkin, Lisa Fruchtman, Walter Murch. Scgf.: Dean Tavoularis. Mus.: Carmine Coppola. Int.: Al Pacino (Michael Corleone), Diane Keaton (Kay Adams), Talia Shire (Connie Corleone Rizzi), Andy Garcia (Vincent Mancini), Eli Wallach (Don Altobello), Joe Mantegna (Joey Zasa), George Hamilton (B. J. Harrison), Bridget Fonda (Grace Hamilton), Sofia Coppola (Mary Corleone), Raf Vallone (cardinale Lamberto). Prod.: Francis Ford Coppola per Paramount Pictures. DCP. D.: 158’. Col.
I would guess that it’s difficult for people to quite understand what happens in those few months before a major motion picture is released. This is true for all movies but especially when it is a big costly production and one with much expectation, such as what was released almost 30 years ago as The Godfather: Part III. Many diverse collaborators come together (or disagree) because of the extraordinarily large commitment they’ve made either financially or creatively in this one complex effort that is about to be judged. No one is really sure what will happen, but we know that the initial release will most probably determine the success or failure of the work throughout its life, whichperhaps was years in the making. In this specific case, the film was going to be released on Christmas Day, which was fast approaching, and so I found myself in the middle of hundreds of decisions as the director, which of course is where I wanted to be.
I had certain misgivings, as one always does, but one certainly was the title of the film. When we wrote it, Mario Puzo and I titled it The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. In musical terms, a coda is like an epilogue, it’s a summing up, and that’s what weintended the movie to be: a coda, an epilogue and summing up of the two preceding films, almost an illumination of what those two filmsmeant. I’ve always regretted that the film couldn’t be called that, and this led me to re-approach the entire project, like pulling on athread poking out of a very complicated sweater that is annoying you, and ultimately finding yourself reweaving a new incarnation of it.
So here, as a result of the opportunity that Paramount Pictures has given me to achieve what Mario and I had intended, is Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, a film that has a different beginning, a different ending that makes the title all the moreclear (and ironic), many scenes repositioned throughout, and in a version that gives the picture, I think, a new life, and provides an entirelynew experience, which does in fact act as a coda to the first two films.
I feel comfortable in saying that I have new pride in this third film and its wonderful cast of actors, and am prouder than ever of The Godfather Trilogy.
Francis Ford Coppola