Frank Sinatra vowed to play ‘Godfather for its director’ as movie origin questioned
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Nicknamed Ol’ Blue Eyes, Sinatra remains one of the world’s most enduring figures, who was a giant in the worlds of both music and cinema. The star, who died in 1998, collected a string of Grammy Awards for his music in his life, and won an Oscar for his acting talents, for his role in From Here to Eternity. Though he is often not as fondly remembered for his acting as he was his voice, Sinatra also secured a Golden Globe win, earning acclaim for his role in Pal Joey.
But what is often unknown to many Hollywood fans is that Sinatra had promised to play a role in The Godfather, despite his apparent objections to the film itself.
The Godfather, based around the Corleone crime family, starred the likes of Tinseltown heavyweights Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan.
The film’s impact remains well-documented, and it is ranked second on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Great American Films of All Time.
In March, fans marked the 50th anniversary since its release in 1972, resurrecting with it the vow Sinatra made to Coppola, as well as his fury with producers.
The Godfather is based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel of the same name, and while it was being adapted for the silver screen, Sinatra fell out with the writer when accusations the story was based on his life surfaced.
The pair came face-to-face during a now-infamous encounter at Hollywood eatery Chasen’s, an argument that will become the centrepiece of new Paramount+ series The Offer, created by Michael Tolkin.
According to USA Today, Tolkin said when reflecting on his new series last month: “The only story I knew about making ‘The Godfather’ was that Mario Puzo got into a fight with Frank Sinatra at Chasen’s.
“So I had five minutes in the show written, and I just needed nine hours and 55 minutes more to fill it in.”
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Since the film’s release, reports continue to surface that aspects of Sinatra’s life were included in The Godfather, an accusation that caused friction with the singer and his lawyers.
This included when his legal team demanded advanced copies of the film’s script.
Mark Seal, author of 2021’s Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather, said: “In many ways, Sinatra loomed over the ‘The Godfather’ production from afar.”
The publishers of the scripts declined Sinatra’s requests, and after it was made public many commented how the character Johnny Fontaine could have been modelled on the crooner.
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Fontaine was well-known for his hard-drinking, womanising attitude to life, and who turned to The Godfather to help revive his lagging singing career with a movie role.
Reports suggest that Sinatra’s anger towards Puzo affected the writer.
In The Godfather Papers and Other Confessions, Puzo described Sinatra as “an idol.”
He added: “I felt depressed.
“I thought Sinatra hated the book and believed that I had attacked him personally.”
However, later Puzo would claim Sinatra warmed to the movie, and even told Coppola he would have had a role in The Godfather.
In the book, published in 1972, Puzo said Sinatra told Coppola: “Francis, I’d gladly play the Godfather for you.
“I wouldn’t do it for those guys at Paramount. But I’d do it for you.”
The Godfather was a blockbuster, breaking many box office records to become the highest-grossing film of 1972.
The Godfather has received overwhelming critical acclaim and is seen as one of the greatest and most influential films of all time, particularly in the gangster genre.
It won three Oscars, including for Brando as Best Actor, though he famously turned down the honour.
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