Under increasing pressure and facing bankruptcy due to his production company American Zoetrope’s inability to create a hit, acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola took on the difficult task of creating a follow up to perhaps the greatest two films of all time.
The film I am referring to, of course, is The Godfather Pt III, which was released in 1990 to mostly positive reviews and several Academy Award Nominations, including best picture.
The plot had an aged and remorseful Michael Corleone (played extremely well by Al Pacino) trying to legitimize the Corleone family by investing money into a broke and corrupt Catholic Church. Meanwhile, his daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola) enters into an incestuous affair with the late Sonny Corleone’s (played in the first Godfather film by James Caan) illegitimate son Vincent Mancini (a superb Andy Garcia).
Despite some suggestions, The Godfather Pt III (from here on referred to as GFIII) should not be considered a total bust. Al Pacino, Andy Garcia (who received an Academy Award nomination), Talia Shire, and Diane Keaton were all marvellous in their roles, the cinematography by Gordon Willis was excellent, and Coppola provided deft direction.
However, a number of glaring flaws stopped the film from becoming a masterpiece in tis own right, instead of the unwanted pest to its highly acclaimed predecessors.
Here are my top flaws from GFIII, and the necessary steps which Coppola should have taken to rectify them.
No Robert Duvall
Robert Duvall – who played the Corleone’s adopted son and consigliere Tom Hagen in the first two Godfather films – was curiously absent from GFIII.
Naturally, his reluctance to reprise his groundbreaking role came down to money, with Duvall angry that Pacino was offered a much larger fee than he was. So he walked, and Coppola – in all of his foolishness – let him.
With Duvall in the picture, an interesting dynamic could have been made between Tom Hagen and Michael Corleone. Perhaps the constant rejection by Michael, along with Michael’s killing of their brother Fredo in The Godfather Pt II, could have given the gifted Hagen the incentive to break away from the Corleone’s and start his own family (as an Irish mobster of course, since his ethnicity would have prevented him from having his own family in the Mafia), which would have led to a showdown between Michael and Tom over who will rule the streets.
If the Godfather series has proven anything, it is that a bloody family feud makes for riveting viewing. And it does not get any better than Michael Corleone VS Tom Hagen.
One thing that always made me feel icky about GFIII was the incest relationship between Mary Corleone and her cousin – and heir to the Corleone family – Vincent Mancini.
While Coppola should be applauded for not being too clichéd in using the rebellious daughter – instead of the usual rebellious son – as a major plot point, the idea of two cousins getting it on does not make for enticing viewing.
Let us say the Corleone VS Hagen storyline was in place, perhaps a Romeo and Juliette style romance could develop between Mary Corleone and Hagen’s son – played by a strong Irish looking actor such as Sean Penn – whilst their fathers are at war. Remove the Vincent Mancini character, have Andy Garcia recast of Michael’s faithful son Anthony, and a feud could also develop between a protective Garcia against a lovelorn Penn. It may sound a bit formulaic, but I’ll be damned if it won’t be fun.
The Casting of Sofia Coppola
A major grievance in the GFIII was Coppola’s casting of his own daughter Sofia as Mary Corleone, the innocent yet rebellious daughter of Michael Corleone.
Originally Winona Ryder was cast in the role, but she pulled out at the last minute due to exhaustion (Coppola would later cast her in Bram Stokers Dracula). Pressed for time, Coppola decided that his daughter – who had zero acting experience and was about to act alongside legendary thespians Al Pacino and Diane Keaton – would be the perfect choice for the role. His decision proved to be a costly one.
With such a high profile role, there would have been an abundance of young actresses fighting to take on that role. Julia Roberts was Coppola’s dream choice, and would have been very good in the role. But I personally would have loved to see Marisa Tomei, as she conveys beauty, purity, and could pass for Al Pacino’s daughter.