It may have been more than fifty years since the release of The Godfather, the Francis Ford Coppola film that went down in history and became the feature film that all filmmakers wanted to copy from that moment on. However, the film is still more relevant than ever, and to prove it there is The Offer, a miniseries that has just arrived in Spain thanks to SkyShowtime.
The Offer tells the story behind the production of The Godfather, through ten episodes that end up being as or more interesting than the film itself. It stars Miles Teller (Whiplash, Top Gun: Maverick) as Albert S. Ruddy (Al Ruddy), the young producer who spent his life -almost literally- to make the film a reality.
Beyond Twin Peaks and other great productions that have come thanks to SkyShowtime to our country, The Offer stands as the main reason for moviegoers to approach the platform. Undoubtedly, as a series it is spectacular, but as a documentary of everything that happened in this eventful production it is even more interesting.
Pursued by the real mafia
Fiction takes 10 chapters to tell the intricate story of The Godfather, and no wonder. With producer Al Ruddy as the protagonist, a confident but young man for the industry and with everything to learn, the film became an unexpected success after having to go through dozens of problems.
The biggest of them all was that he had to take on the Italian-American Mafia… and a much more real one than the Corleones. After the success of the original book written by Mario Puzo, the Italian Mafia in New York thought the story would do a lot of damage to their image, and when they found out that a movie would be made by Paramount, things got even more complicated.
They went so far as to send a dead rat to the bedside of Paramount’s director at the time, Robert Evans – nothing to envy the horse’s head from The Godfather – and managed to turn hundreds of thousands of people against the studio before its release.
However, Al Ruddy’s good work as a producer won him the favor of the mafia. Ruddy had to put his life on the line to win over the criminal group and negotiate with them all kinds of favors to get the film to go ahead. He put his life on the line, on several occasions, to do so… and although it ended up working out well, he had to go through all kinds of hardships to get it.
Sinatra threatens to kill the film
Something curious that the series tells very well is the involvement of Frank Sinatra with the Italian-American mafia of the time and how the singer and actor tried, by all means, not to carry out the production. In fact, it was he himself who provoked the mafia to threaten Paramount, and he had his reasons.
In the original book, Mario Puzo created a character based directly on Sinatra: Johnny Fontane. Fontane is one of the most important godchildren of the Godfather, Don Vito Corleone. He is a very famous singer and actor who managed to get his career off the ground thanks to the influence of the Mafia, and he makes clear the methods Sinatra used to get his way in all negotiations.
Fontante plays a crucial role in the book. After signing with a producer who cheats him, he gets Don Corleone to help him “get rid of him”… you can imagine how. However, Sinatra got really pissed off when he read what they were saying about this character that was clearly based on him… and went to work to prevent him from coming out.
Sinatra came face to face with Puzo, and finally pressured the studio to eliminate the character. In the end, Al Ruddy managed to talk Coppola and Puzo -the screenwriters of the feature film- into shortening his role as much as possible, and he ended up being a very circumstantial character.
But The Godfather was not only affected by the mafia, but the studio itself also had a lot to do in making the production as complex as possible. The first problem the film had was that its budget was very tight.
Paramount did a market analysis and agreed that gangster movies were a thing of the past. The last ones at the time had performed very poorly and they didn’t think that was going to change. Thus, they decided to spend only 4 million dollars to produce it, a very tight budget for a feature film of these characteristics.
Since it was a minor production in their view, they decided to hand the job to young Al Ruddy, who had only produced a sitcom and a minor comedy before. But Ruddy was able to surpass expectations and become one of the best producers of the 21st century.
Still, this was only one of the film’s big problems. Ruddy managed to get more money out of Gulf and Western, Paramount’s parent company headed by the eccentric Carlos Bluhdorn. But to do so he had to go through all sorts of pressures and battles that he had to drop along the way.
In fact, the most complex thing for Ruddy was to combine the artistic vision of Francis Ford Coppola, capricious to the extreme, with the business and ultra-capitalist vision of Bluhdorn and Evans. The series tells how he had to impose himself on more than one occasion, and was even fired… only to be reinstated a day later.
A sublime cast
Beyond everything the series tells, a very interesting story that is worth knowing for all those who are curious about how the Hollywood network works, the fiction is worthwhile on its own. The series has a brutal pace and so many plot twists that it seems that it is not based on real events. And the performances are sublime.
Beyond Miles Teller’s good performance as the lead, the entire cast is up to the task. Juno Temple, who we can also see in Ted Lasso, is the indomitable Betty McCartt, Ruddy’s assistant who steals the show on more than one occasion. And Giovanni Ribisi looks like something out of The Sopranos as Joe Colombo.
But the most curious thing is to see the interpretations of the young Marlon Brando (Justin Chambers), Al Pacino (Anthony Ippolito), Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) or Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo). At times you forget that it is a series and it is like seeing all these characters alive again.
In short, this is SkyShowtime’s firmest bet to win over the public and drag them to its platform. It is not clear if it will get the public favor it deserves, since it is a very new platform, but it is certainly capable of winning over anyone.