The Offer: the incredible story of how The Godfather was made, between the threats of the mafia and those of Hollywood

“Gangster movies are dead,” says one of the characters in The Offer, the miniseries available from Thursday 28 on Paramount+ that tells the behind-the-scenes of the production of The Godfather, one of the most important films in the history of cinema, as well as the film that categorically demonstrated that gangster films made in Hollywood had a few lives left. That exchange between Barry Lapidus (Colin Hanks), one of the Paramount studio executives, and producer Albert S. Ruddy (Miles Teller) lays the groundwork for what will be seen in the development of the miniseries: a battle between those who watched to the cinema as a business and those who dreamed of making films beyond the money that could be earned with them. And how the huge box office and critical success it achieved The Godfather he proved that one thing need not exclude the other.

Fans of Francis Ford Coppola’s film know that the path of the novel written by Mario Puzo from the page to the big screen was not easy. There are many chronicles of the time and retrospectives written about the disputes between the director and the studio, the fights fought by Robert Evans, head of Paramount, to save the project from the requests of his greedy bosses, the difficulties in putting together the cast and for dodge the sabotage attempts of the Italian mafia, worried about the contents of the film and the bad press it would give them in North American society.

Matthew Goode plays producer Robert EvansParamount+

However, few know that behind the solution to each of these problems was Albert S. Ruddy, a novice in Hollywood cinema who, thanks to his ignorance of the rules and his curious and restless spirit, managed to get the film made. The ten episodes of The Offer they tell, from Ruddy’s point of view, how that seemingly futile attempt turned into an unexpected box-office hit, an Oscar winner and a legend that, fifty years after its release, continues to fascinate global audiences.

Miles Teller plays Albert S. Ruddy, the producer who promoted the making of the iconic film
Miles Teller plays Albert S. Ruddy, the producer who promoted the making of the iconic filmParamount+

As if it were a curse that reappears every half century, the production of the miniseries also ran into an obstacle that was about to end the project. Announced with great fanfare as one of the great attractions of the then brand-new Paramount+ platform, owner of the rights to the entire saga of The Godfather, the miniseries originally starred Armie Hammer. When the scandal broke out around his personal life and the actor from death on the nile became unemployable, The Offer It went from generating expectation to causing concern. Determined to tap their own library of classics into the streaming arena, however, the producers quickly found a replacement in Teller, a very different performer from Hammer who nonetheless lands his portrayal of Ruddy as an ambitious and charming outsider determined to conquer Hollywood.

Juno Temple in a scene from The Offer
Juno Temple in a scene from The Offer

“His life story has it all, it’s extremely entertaining, constant fun. My own life, although I enjoy it a lot, I think I could not fill even half an hour of television drama, ”Teller explained in a press conference via zoom in which LA NACION participated. There the actor also said that in his meeting with Ruddy himself, 92 years old, he was able to glimpse the drive that he had in the early 70s and that he continues to have today. “When I met him he told me: “Boy, if this acting thing is still interesting to you, I have two projects that I think could help you! of creating his own Ruddy since the producer, beyond having been the driving force behind the making of The Godfather, is not known to the public. At least not at the level of the rest of those responsible for the film starting with Coppola, Puzo and Evans. The latter wrote his own version of the events in his unmissable biography The Kid Stays in the Picture. Thanks to the brilliant performance of British actor Matthew Goode (The Crown), the legend of the sophisticated producer who is said in the miniseries to have “more contacts than God”, remains intact.

Other stellar appearances such as those of Al Pacino (Anthony Ippolito) and Marlon Brando (Justin Chambers), complete a story full of well-known twists and turns, such as the close and risky link that the film’s producer had to establish with the Italian mafia in New York for the project to come to fruition.

Before landing in Hollywood, the miniseries dedicates its first scenes to a colorful celebration in the streets of the Italian neighborhood in Manhattan. It is the day of San Gennaro and the street parade has benefactors as generous as they are dangerous. From the sidewalk, the “good guys” watch the crowd while the bosses sit at the table to decide who will be the next godfather. First on the list is Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), a key player in the production of the film that began to take shape some time later in Los Angeles, a world away from the rigors of Sicilian mafia territory. When Colombo and his people – alerted by Frank Sinatra, represented in Puzo’s story by the character of Johnny Fontane – found out about the book and the intention to bring it to the screen, they wanted to prevent what, they said, would be a new attempt to Hollywood for painting Italian immigrants as criminals. A prejudice that, in his case, was more than justified.

The juxtaposition between Ruddy and Evans’ subterfuge in the Hollywood world and the mob’s methods of getting their way provides one of the most entertaining story lines in the miniseries and in the historic run of The Godfather. A film whose behind the scenes lives up to the story that finally came to be seen on screen.