When I first watched the film and the end credits rolled for The Godfather Part III (1990) I felt numb, like I had been hit by a truck. Just under three hours later I sat exhausted, stunned, horrified that he had gone so terribly wrong with the film.
Here’s the thing.
I trusted Coppola after learning that Paramount balked at paying Robert Duvall, at that time an Oscar winner, half as much as Al Pacino was going to get, who had not yet won an Oscar. Duvall felt cheated and said to them he was worth at least half as much as Pacino. Coppola agreed, but Paramount drew a line in the sand believing Duvall would cave to be part of the film. He did not. He walked away leaving the director scrambling and forced to shut down production to do a re-write. The cost of shutting down the film for the re-write was actually more than it would have been to pay Duvall what he wanted.
A few years later I had the immense pleasure of being handed a copy of the original script The Godfather Part III – The Death of Michael Corleone and it was superb, with Hagen (Duvall) portraying a huge role in Michaels betrayal and downfall. THAT film would have been a masterpiece, that film would have won Best Picture. But instead, Paramount would not pay an Oscar winning actor his price, a fair price at that, and they were forced to re-write the entire story without one of the key characters of the first two films.
That was only the beginning of the nightmare that became The Godfather Part III (1990). Winona Ryder had been cast as Mary Corleone, daughter of Michael and a key role in the film, but arrived in Rome to shoot exhausted having shot two films back to back. Her health was an issue and she withdrew from the film, devastated that she would not be part of the film. Coppola was asked to replace her with Madonna and he refused, choosing his own daughter Sofia for the part, which terrified the other actors. Al Pacino and Diane Keaton went to the director and asked him to re-think, that she was not ready for such a role but he held fast to his choice. It turned out to be a disaster of a choice.
And finally he had to contend with the change in Al Pacino and his acting style. Something had happened to Pacino in the eighties, and his style had changed, became all about volume. It was as if he was saying to the world, watch me ma I am acting!!!! Gone was the quiet brooding that made him so electrifying in the first two films, gone was the danger he simply suggested with a glance, and in their place was a brash and loud Pacino. This Michael did not resemble the Michael of the first two films at all. AT ALL. It was over the top, loud, and brash, not the Michael we knew at all.
Even parts of the script were simply stupid. When the family is in Sicily, where Michael is constantly a target he slips past his bodyguards and takes his ex-wife on a drive through the country!! Should I even get started on the romance between the first cousins Mary and Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) the bastard son of Sonny, murdered in the first film. What of the new lawyer, a near silent performance from forever tanned George Hamilton in place of Duvall…I mean come on. And of course the moment on the steps when Mary is killed and turns to her father and says Dad…before falling dead. What follows is powerful, that horrible silent scream from Pacino, but the moments before are simply silly.
The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974) make up two of the greatest films in the history of the cinema, masterpieces both, as good today as they were the day they were released.
There is no third film…it was never made.
In my world, there is no The Godfather Part III (1990)…it does not exist, it has no bearing on the Corleone saga, which for me stopped at the end of Part II.
I have watched the film one other time since that first viewing, just to be fair, just to know for sure my hatred for the film was well placed…and I was right…it is.