Article published on May 11, 2016.
Reading the episodic ramblings about The Godfather on Nudge, I fell on the mention of ‘brave casting’. Sorry, but there is nothing brave about it to my mind at all. If you have a film script, then it naturally goes with the territory to have a storyboard compiled, this gives the filmmakers a clue as to any casting directions.
Let us take Marlon Brando for example – this guy has made any number of films, some controversial, The Wild One or Last Tango in Paris or Missouri Breaks. He was outspoken at various media circus functions about the decline in the American Bison numbers, the plight of the Native American and so on. His daughter and son tragedies etc etc. Now this guy is well known, not perhaps because of how it should be but still a ‘celebrity’ nevertheless.
Who in their right mind would turn Brando down for consideration? He was not exactly setting the world on fire with film offers galore pouring through the door, no, he was basically washed up at the time. His fame is reflected in the minimal time on screen in the Superman a film of 1978 and the money he earned, but the onscreen acting is very minor indeed. I seriously believe that Brando was somewhat thankful for the chance to be in a film, any film, he possibly kow-towed to the producers and stayed a good boy for once, the self inspired cotton wool in the jowls worked in his favour – as it also did for seemingly thousands of impersonators. As far as casting for The Godfather is concerned, we have the benefit of hindsight of course ‘Wasn’t Brando good in the film?”. Well yes he was, but maybe somebody else could have done it equally as proudly, and, dare I suggest, cheaper.
For instance, a name that maybe does not exude the same amount of gravitas as Brando is Lorne Green. Yes, the man who played Ben Cartwright senior in the Bonanza series, think about it a moment. He had the required ‘class demeanour’, the jowly look, the acting ability and so on, but not the box office draw perhaps. If this is so, then any casting is a moot point as far as brave or inspired is concerned. Each participant in The Godfather is required, first, to look right as far as the Mediterranean skin tones are concerned then to dress convincingly and [only] then to act convincingly. Obviously they did the job well, as we firmly believe that the cast was 100% correctly inspired, but others could have done the job just as well but never had the chance.
The Road To Perdition has Paul Newman as a mobster, Edward G Robinson also played a mobster, Cagney, Bogart and so on, each in his own way became the ultimate public enemy, believed to be the perfect casting by millions, and almost became typecast in the role. Maybe Meryl Streep might not make a convincing Godfather(ess), but even there we could have a possible female mobster as mentioned in other books.
To find the previous correspondence simply search with The Godfather