Being that The Godfather is embedded so deeply in the minds of movie goers as one of history’s greatest pieces of cinema, it’d be hard to imagine it…as something else.
Hollywood is such a fickle place; a small butterfly effect might created a much different finished film, with other actors playing such coveted roles as Michael Corleone. To even entertain the thought might even be called sacrilege by those hardcore fans of the franchise. If it hadn’t been director Francis Ford Coppola’s tenacity, studio executives would have assembled a much different movie.
As part of a larger series of special features that appear in The Godfather boxset, we actually have a chance to watch Al Pacino, James Caan and Martin Sheen audition for the coveted role of Vito Corleone’s son. Interestingly, the studio did not want Pacino, who was an unconventional actor and hadn’t yet garnered any valued star power. Coppola had to fight for his choices, all the while defending his role as director.
Below are two featurettes: the first documents the auditions for the part of Michael; the second is a three-parter explaining just how close the production got to being shut down completely.
Source: The Film Stage