‘The Godfather’ with Ryan O’Neal? 5 things you didn’t know about Hollywood’s greatest film

Marlon Brando, left, and director Francis Ford Coppola get ready to film a scene in “The Godfather.”Anthony Pescatore/TNS

Author Mark Seal, who spent 26 years in Dallas, has written a new book about the making of one of Hollywood’s greatest films — “The Godfather.”

We learned so much about the making of this 1972 movie, some of which may surprise you. So, listed below are what we consider the five most fascinating facts about the making of “The Godfather” that we didn’t know, until we read the book and interviewed the author, who once wrote for The Dallas Morning News.

Here is our list of the Fab Five Facts about “The Godfather:”

1. The title of the book, “Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli,” is based on what?

It’s a line in the film. The crime family, headed up by the godfather, played by Marlon Brando, dispatches a pair of hit men to finish off an adversary. Once the dastardly deed is done, one hit man barks out instructions to the other on what to leave in the blood-splattered car and what to take: “Leave the gun, take the cannoli” — which is nestled in a handsome gift box.

2. Where did Seals’ initial interview with Paramount executive Robert Evans take place?

In bed. Evans invited the author to bed, and why? Because a fire had destroyed the screening room in his home years earlier. So, they watched the movie from Evans’ bed.

3. Who were two actors considered for the roles that were played by Brando and Al Pacino?

Ernest Borgnine, who had starred in a 1960s sitcom called “McHale’s Navy,” was considered for the part of Don Vito Corleone, for which Brando won an Oscar. Studio execs felt that Brando, according to Seal, was “a washed-up has-been” at 47. Brando had won an Oscar for best actor in the 1955 film, “On the Waterfront.” A year later, Borgnine won the best actor honor for the movie, “Marty.” Evans also floated the idea of having Ryan O’Neal, who had starred in the 1970 hit, “Love Story,” play the part of Michael Corleone, for which Pacino was nominated for an Oscar.

4. The Italian American Civil Rights League was concerned about the depiction of Italian Americans in “The Godfather.” What one word was omitted from the script that allowed the filmmakers to reach a settlement with the group?

That one word is “Mafia,” which is never mentioned in any of the three “Godfather” movies.

5. How many Academy Awards did “The Godfather” win?

Nominated for 11, it won three: for best picture, best actor (Brando) and best adapted screenplay (which was co-written by author Mario Puzo, from whose book, “The Godfather,” the film was adapted; and Francis Ford Coppola, who directed “The Godfather”).

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