We’re taking a look back at the first casting thoughts of the legendary director Francis Ford Coppola as he assembled an all-star cast for his 1972 timeless classic, The Godfather.
The handwritten notes show Coppola sizing up a range of actors for some of the best roles in the film. The casting for the film, which has gone on to cement itself around the feet of the greatest films in history, was a notoriously difficult thing to manage.
Francis Ford Coppola was known for his strong views, and he wasn’t shy about who he did or did not think was right for certain parts. While the director would always be pushing for the artistic merit of specific selections like the inclusion of Marlon Brando, the studio would highlight his and other selection’s personality faults. Coppola got his way in most instances.
The studio was keen to avoid Marlon Brando’s wild personality and had suggested a list of leading men to take the role of Vito Corleone. Actors such as Laurence Olivier and Danny Thomas were both considered for the lead role of Vito Corleone—The Godfather himself.
For the role of his son, Michael Corleone, Coppola considered Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Ryan O’Neal, and Jack Nicholson but settled on Al Pacino, despite the studio hesitance over Pacino’s stature.
The differences between the director’s vision and the studio’s projections would eventually align to create one of the finest films of all time. But, with that said, we can’t help but wonder what The Godfather might have looked like with Laurence Olivier as The Don and Dustin Hoffman as his son—the landscape of cinema would look very different.
See below Francis Ford Coppola’s original handwritten casting notes for his 1972 epic The Godfather.