It's pretty well documented that The Godfather may not have even been made without the help of some real-life mafia figures at the time. Once word hit the streets of New York that Paramount was making a movie based on Mario Puzo's The Godfather, there was outrage from the Italian-American community, and much of that was impacting the production in the form of potential union walkouts, work stoppages and suddenly unavailable locations. Producer Al Ruddy took matters into his own hands by winning the support of Joseph Colombo Sr. (a move that almost cost him his job), head of New York's Colombo crime family, who helped calm the Italian-American community in a deal that involved certain mafia-related words being removed from the script.
In addition to Colombo's help (apparently Colombo associates went door-to-door in Staten Island to make sure locals would support the movie while they filmed the exhaustive wedding sequence at a house nearby), Marlon Brando also worked with members of the Bufalino crime family to help shape his role as Don Vito Corleone, who many say most closely resembles Bufalino boss Russell Bufalino. And when tons of extras were needed for the film's iconic wedding scene, members of both the Colombo and Bufalino crime families were on hand, eventually leading to what Brando later called "the most critical error of his life."
In this great interview with Brando (available in four parts on YouTube), the actor talks to Connie Chung about much of his career, and for most of the chat he just seems disgusted, angry and incredibly matter-of-fact about pretty much everything. At one point he actually asks Chung how much longer she's going to "invade" him, calling her a "piranha." It's tremendous stuff. There are a few parts, though, where he opens up with a funny story, like when he talks about getting his nose broken by a stagehand during some boxing practice while between performances of A Streetcar Named Desire, or about the time he mooned a bunch of real-life gangsters while filming The Godfather.
The infamous mooning came at the end of a long day while filming the wedding sequence. Brando recalls, "Everyone was drinking and I really got ripped; completely snockered. And so I mooned the audience, and it was all Mr. Bufalino's family. I didn't know at the time otherwise I wouldn't have done it, naturally. I didn't mean it as a insult, it was a joke, but I was so drunk I could hit the floor with my hat."
You can watch Brando tell the story in part one of the video below (at around the five-minute mark), and we've included the other parts too because once you start watching this thing there's no way you'll be able to stop. You can also read a great story over at Neatorama about the time Brando came face-to-face with John Gotti, and more about the role the mafia played in making The Godfather over at the New York Times.
The man was definitely one of a kind.
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