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Jordan Peele / Francis Ford Coppola

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From whyy in Philadelphia. I'm Terry Gross. With fresh air weekend. Today we conclude our series featuring some of our staff's favorite interviews of the past decade. Aide will hear my interview with Jordan peele recorded in twenty seventeen after he wrote and directed the horror film get out which he described as a social thriller. Part part of being black in this country is constantly being told that we're seeing racism where there just isn't racism that we're not seeing what we think we're seeing. It's a perfect state for protagonist of a thriller. Also today are 2016 interview with Francis Francis Ford Coppola about making his masterpiece the Godfather we spoke after the notebook he made in preparation for the film was published. Some persons nations is strictly. That's on fresh air weekend support for this podcast and the following message come. From the Walton Family Foundation allegation where opportunity takes root more information is available at Walton Family Foundation Dot Org we concluding our series of some favorite interviews news from the decade. That just ended I interviewed Jordan. Peele and twenty seventeen after he wrote and directed the film get out. The film was nominated for an Oscar for a best picture peel won the Oscar for best original screenplay peel was also nominated as best director and he became the first African American writer director. Whose debut film earned more than one hundred million at the box office? Get Out as a horror film with racial anxiety at its center. It's about a young African American American photographer. Chris played by Daniel Colonia. Who's dating a white woman? Rose played by Allison Williams after they've been together for a few months rose decides. It's time for Chris to meet her parents but she says she hasn't told her parents that Chris's black. Don't worry she reassures him. They're not racist in fact. She says her father would voted for Obama for a third term. Chris is not reassured when they arrive at Rose's parent's house the parents played by Bradley Whitford. WOODFORD and Catherine Keener go out of their way to be friendly and to show how much they appreciate black culture but there's something suspicious beneath their genial liberal surface surface. Let's start with a scene from early in the film. Chris and rose are on the way to her parents home in an affluent suburb. She's driving when the car hit sadier. Here they pull over a police officer arrives and asks Chris for his. Id Sir. Can I see your license. Please wait why. Yeah Yeah I know. He wasn't driving. I didn't ask who was driving. I asked to see his. Id why that doesn't make any sense. You don't have to give him your idea because you haven't done anything wrong. Maybe being mason peak anytime there's an incident. We have every right to assault ma'am. I'm good. That headlight fixed and that mirror. Thank you officer Jordan Peele. Welcome to fresh air. I should mention. We can't see Chris. The boyfriend the African American boyfriend cringing being entrance to like disappear during that scene. What are some of the things? The Allison Allison Williams character did wrong. Well you know. Part of the scene gene is about the white girlfriend who's dating the first. Her first black boyfriend getting woke to a certain racial dynamic for the first time so part of this story is washing her wrestle with the racial implications of all these interactions ends that. She's never really had to wrestle with before for Chris or for you know African Americans in this sort of situation or other situations that arise later the experience and the perception of the racial undertones is an is an everyday experience. Right here we see rose sort of coming into into her own woke nests for the first time and whether or not she's onto something with the cop is up to the viewer in a way. See you call it. Your new movie a social thriller is that your coinage social thriller. It is it is I like it. Why did you need a new term? Where'd you need that term? Will you know so people who watch this film tend to You know have a hard time describing what genres as well and I I sort of knew it's not you know we we sort marketed as a horror and I'm a huge horror fan and in. I think you can put together a really good argument. That it's a horror or but you could also put together an argument that it's not that it's closer to a psychological thriller or something but because it's not it's not about the psychology legacy to me as much as it is about society I call it a social thriller. I it's in the same vein to me as the STEPFORD wives. So how did you come up with. The idea. Idea of a social thriller focused around a young African American man who's taken by his white girlfriend to meet her parents and things don't go as has planned for anyone yet. The station period for this idea was you know kind of spanned. Several years and I think one of the most important milestones in that process was just realizing that you know every true Horror Human Horror American horror Has a horror movie that deals with it and allows us to face that fear And accept race hat in a modern sense hadn't been touched. You know it really hadn't been touched in. In my opinion unions night of the living dead fifty years ago. Maybe the with the the film candyman and that to me just all void there so it really started with this notion of like this has to be possible with figure it out. So why the idea of the white girlfriend with a black boyfriend bringing him to her parents. At some point I realized that the movie guess. WHO's coming to dinner was really the perfect? Starting point for this Film I think I think one of the reasons that film was it resonated so powerfully is that it's a universal situation. We'll take race out of it. We can all relate to the fears of meeting our potential in laws for the first time and the the feelings like we might not be what is expected so I just thought it was a great entry point to help make this movie inclusive to help make it something that you don't have have to be African American to emotionally connect to the main character here and the parents when they made the Allison Williams characters boyfriend around trying. Do you like so cool with the fact that he's black. They're masking any discomfort. They might feel by being like overly jokey and overly friendly and you can really see senseless discomfort But they're very liberal and open minded or at least they think they are and and so I wanNA play a scene and it's a little hard to make out what they're saying. There's a lot of jokey ascites here but you. You'll get the kind of tone of it. So Allison Williams has just brought her. Her boyfriend. Home played by Daniel Columbia and the parents played by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford. Are you know again trying to be like super friendly and cool and Bradley Whitford. The father character speaks for us and what he's asking here is like so. How long have you been together? So here we go so so. How long has this been going on for months? Four months five minutes. She's right Adeboye. Better get used to say that please. I'm sorry oh I'm sorry. She's right off exhausting. I WanNa give you tore for the packers doing impact before the tour so you you obviously wanted to put in things that white people sometimes say the black people to make them think like they're really aware of and in sync with African American culture. The you know part live being black in this country. And and you know I presume being Any any minority is constantly being being told that we're being too aware of race somehow. We're we're obsessed with it or We're we're seeing racism where there just isn't racism so it was important to me to first of all put the entire audience on the same page of what it feels like to be aware of these little subtle interactions and the underlying racism. That is sort of like does being even slightly distracted or be made aware of your own a race in a normal conversation. So yeah I I sort of teach the the audience early on that you know Chris played by. Daniel Columbia is He's he's nervous about meeting these parents because and he's nervous that she hasn't told them that he's black from that point forward any little whatever you WANNA call it micro aggression sort of lame reaching out to Make a connection I it becomes aware to the audience and we sort of we get the giggles of awareness from audiences bases so again. You've made a kind of horror film that plays on real racial fears and stereotypes and discomforts and the movie starts with a Young African American American man on the way to visit his girlfriend in her suburb and he's totally geographically. Lost the streets all look the same her dresses on. I think like Edgewood street but edgewood street is right near Edgewood Lane just wondering like who does that. Who Puts Edward Street close to Edgewood Lane? How can you possibly you know where you are? And he's he's a little nervous especially when a car pass him by and seems to be slowing down and watching him. And you know that this character Chris Thinking about Trayvon Martin and you know most people in the audience are probably thinking about trayvon. Martin be you don't have to mention trayvon Martin's name in this and you don't write this scene for me. Is the entry point into allowing a non black audience to relate into real fears that we experience I think after this scene for the rest of the movie everyone knows that there is a threat of racial violence just around the corner and that is the state that black people have have when they feel like there might be perceived as the outsider in the the wrong neighborhood so it was very important to me to just get the entire audience in touch in some way with the the fears in inherent of being black in this country as a starting point. So have you. Have you ever been in the position of being. The black boyfriend brought home to the white girlfriend's parents and the parents didn't know that you were black until you walk through the door you know it's hard to know I had a is dating a white girl. Many years ago and went to meet her parents parents and I do remember asking. Do they know that I'm black. And she said no and that fear you know was presence like Oh gosh you know oh the worst case. Scenario of course is really bad but even if it's just a small adjustment that I have to witness on the parents face it'll just be such a bummer. It'll be such a buzz kill. You know it'll be just something I I dreaded and that to me when I met the parents it was it turned out to be fine. I don't know if she told them or if they were just cool. But that's the reality of how it turned out is actually less important to me than the fact that that's my fear was coming from somewhere somewhere. Very real so in horror films usually like the main character has seen something nefarious areas or is being hunted by a Munster an alien alien but no one believes them and the main character starts to question his or her own sanity and the kind of happens in in your movie get out but it has all these racial overtones to it and I think it's interesting that you're using this form the genre to get at that feeling of uncertainty of not knowing what whether so what someone has set done actually racist overtone or maybe you're overreacting. Maybe you're projecting something that isn't fair you know 'cause that constant uncertainty until we really know what the with the story of that's right right one of the. Did you experience that a lot that uncertainty like. I don't know if that person set is is kind of racist or am. I just like projecting that on I mean I've experienced that that is a woman a lot like that thing that that guy said is that really sexist or does he understand what you just said. You know the that's exactly exactly right. I think we're we're wired at this point to look for these interactions and to to wander into some time sometimes to call him like we see them. But we're also so you know. I think any minority women gay people constantly told. We're not seeing what we are seeing. You know I'm glad you brought up gender under because this thing you're talking about is also present in the Stepford wives sees. Should I say that. Oh you should. If you if you like get out you should absolutely see it. It's one of the most well crafted social thrillers. That there is an in it. Much like in Rosemary's baby with MIA Farrow. The the protagonist is in the state. You're talking about where it's crazy enough. That something awful might be going on but it's also real enough that something just normal an awful might be going on and so what what what ends up happening is we see that that state that you've described as being part of being woman when I described as being part of being African American is being told. We're not seeing what we think we're seeing. It's a perfect state for protagonist of a thriller because because it helps keep the character in this unfolding dire situation longer because he she consort mentally justify why this might be. You know something that they're overreacting or going crazy bound so that was another thing I wanted to make a movie. That satisfies audiences need for a character to be smart. We're listening to my interview Jordan. peele recorded in twenty seventeen after he wrote and directed the film. Get out will hear more of the interview after a break as our end of the decade series continues. I'm Terry Gross in this. Is Fresh air weekend weekend support for this podcast. And the following message come from K.. Buxbaum in support of the David Gilkey Zaba ULITSA Mon- Memorial Fund established to to strengthen NPR's commitment to training and protecting journalists in high risk environments. Let's get back to my twenty seventeen interview with Jordan peele recorded after he wrote and directed the horror film. Get Out. You've said that you knew by the time you were thirteen that you wanted to make a horror film. How did you know that I was is a very scared child? Not You know not so much of life but of the demons that lurked in the dark and horror movies. Movies terrified me you know. I'd I'd love watching them but then at night I would just be up and up in sweats all night. At some point I swear -Tario it was like my mind just shifted in order to cope with these fears. And you know I sort of became became obsessed with this idea of mastering my own fear that if I could do what these great horror people did that I would be wielding this power as opposed was to being a victim to it. That's what happened. I just fell in love with horror films. Let's one of the films that really scared you when you were young. You know one of them that really got me was nightmare on ELM street. There was something about the way that you know Freddie operated with so much malice us and and also the way that those movies you know the sequels especially begins almost being told with with Freddie as the the main character. It was almost as if we were meant to identify with this monster. More than the teens he was he was killing Ling and he had this weird dark sense of humor. Is something about that really disturbed me to my to my core we. We've afraid of his hands. That have these like you know. knifelike fingers that you can slash people with. You're you're so cute. Yes the knife glove yes all right. I was terrified of the knife glove. I was terrified of the idea that you can't escape him by going asleep but really what got me. Was this this sort of urge that you know. The movie was trying to make you relate you you know people were cheer you know Freddie's little you know he'd kill somebody brutally and then say like you know stupid pun you know so you know like a game mover chump. Kills a guy with a video game or something and then like the audience laughs and I I was not on like terrified of Freddie so that that was an interesting period in horror where the audience was sort of invited invited to relate to the monster kind of started with this stalker. Vision idea from the seventies where you know. The camera would be lurking behind the trees. He's watching you know some sorority girl taking a shower and you know that whole world of things is terrifying trying to me. Because it's the asking you identify with your internal Predator. Something it's it's very very disturbing so one of the things that you adr on this is this fear of somebody kind of like invading your brain like not only getting under your skin but like invading your mind and that's been a theme of a lot out of horror films like invaders from Mars if if you've seen that I haven't seen A great one I think is from like the nineteen fifties like aliens land and transplanted Alanthea's things into people's heads. And they. They look like the same person except they look hypnotized and they're not behaving the same because they're under the control of these invaders from Mars But the main character in your movie the Guy He's a smoker and his girlfriend's mother offers to hypnotize him and help help him stop smoking. Because that's one of the things she does in her therapy practice and his friend or Decem. Don't she might get into your mind. This figures into the story three in a larger way that I won't describe but I really watching the film. I was really wondering. Are you a smoker had. Did you try hypnosis I used to smoke I have not tried hypnosis but it is something that you know I think is kind of universally scary to people right this idea that Oh god what when somebody if somebody can probe into my psyche. There's no telling what how vulnerable I'll be and What kind of influence they could have albeit? This is a a stereotype. But it's it's grounded in reality Eh. Black people have a have not had the experience with therapy as a whole that white people have. I AH I. At least. There's there is a heightened fear In the black community of this idea of going to a psychiatrist. It's like no. I'm good I'm going to go to church. You know So that was another reason why I thought this sort of mental probing this whole thing. You know Chris would sit down in this chair are with with missy played by Catherine Keener. You know I could just hear the you know the black people in the audience gone. No no don't do it. Come on get out of that room right. Now get out get out get out you can sort of here feel that and Chris. Himself is is appropriately skeptical of the process as well. Oh so this is like a seems to me like a turning point in your career. It's established you as a writer and director and taken a new kind of away from your other identity as a comic writer and performer. I mean there are some comic aspects in this movie but anybody coming in and just like expecting it to to be a comedy is going to be surprised. Because it's it's it's it's not that Why did you decide to step away? From what what you were best known for her. which is comedy no? I think I've always felt that I would actually be better at this than I was. A comedy comedy It's just one of these things that comes from a deeper place in my my soul And probably just comes from the fact that in order to deal with my own fears I wanted to be able to sort of master them So it's it's really just what I wanna be doing and I love comedy i. I've been in love with with comedy as well from a very early early age and it's a comedy to me is a different way of doing the same thing it's also meant to face our fears and to be able to laugh them off off and away but this thing is just it's just simply my truest passion Jordan. Thank you so much. Thank you Terry. Jordan peele recorded in twenty seventeen. We're going to conclude our series of some favorite interviews of the past decade with Francis Ford. Coppola we spoke in twenty sixteen after the publication of the notebook. He kept when he was making his masterpiece the godfather he told some terrific stories about how he cast and directed the film. The notebook contains his thoughts. That's about each scene including the pitfalls he wanted to avoid. The notebook also includes pages from the novel that the movie is based on Mario Puzo novel the Godfather Not Father Coppola's notes in the margins. The movie starts with these words. I believe in America. America made my fortune. That's the character Bona Sarah who has come to the Godfather. Don Vito Corleone to ask a favor Buna. Sarah's daughter was brutally beaten after she resisted two boys who had tried to take advantage of her bona. Sarah says he went to the police like a good American. The boys were tried in court but the judge gave them a suspended sentence since and they went free that very day now bona. Sarah wants revenge against those boys. The Godfather play Marlon Brando. Offers this response and now me gentlemen. It is but this is the first time ever came council. Remember the last time that invited me the the house for a cup of coffee even though my wife Godmother only child. But let's be frank good in the long run. The friendship afraid to be blended. I didn't want to get into trouble. Stay on the mound come at a good trade men good. Living please is protected during the record. Some long lead the front like me. I come to me and say eh just salonpas. You don't offer Friendship Gafa coming to my house on the day my daughters to marry the near ask the murder money ask you justice that is not just salons. Then she suffered much paid one of Iowa break. You Take Minnesota's respectfully come to me and friendship and the scum of wounded. Donna would be suffering this very day. It's not by chance on the smell. Like itself should make enemies than they would become my enemies and then they will be my friend. Look some day may never come out on the service. The accept this just as a gift on my knowledge. Money Francis Ford Coppola. Welcome to fresh air. It's such an interesting way to start the movie. Because we're starting the movie by looking at a man tight close up of his face. We don't yet know who he is. He's speaking then oppose back. And then we see he's speaking to Brando. And then we hear Brando speak Don Corleone so why. Why did you make that the opening of the movie well actually I was working on the screenplay in a little cottage? One Room cottage in Mill Valley and and I had begun the sequence with the wedding itself. You know the looser shots of the people coming the guests in the forty forty S. And what have you and I had maybe fifteen eighteen pages when a friend of mine. A screen writer named the Bill Cannon. His name was I remember and he came and visited me and I said well you WanNa see the first fifteen eighteen pages and he looked at them. He says you know Francis you did such a good opening on patent. That was such a striking opening for the for the patent movie Couldn't you do something like that. Something more unusual at kind of got you into it and and I thought well there was some truth to that so after he left I had had the idea to begin in this way with the very very close shot of the supplicant Acre one and then slowly reveal all out of the darkness of this the Don Studio as opposed to the brightly lit. Wedding scene The various characters. You know the brand himself his son sunny. And what have you and I re wrote the opening and added to the to the screenplay are there ideas and images stories from your own family that you put in that opening wedding scene. Oh absolutely I I knew nothing about five crime families which had recently Lee become exposed to the public with the publication of the VA LACI paper? But neither did Mario Puzo who was also Italian American but he knew nothing about it and he wanted to write this book Sort of get some money for his family. Thought it could be commercial. And he did everything on research coach He knew nothing he never had met any of these figures any advise me never to meet them which I never did. What about after the movie did you meet any of them them? Mario Apu was just a wonderful man and I always took his advice to heart and Once when I was working on godfather part three which in my mind was the death of Michael Corleone title. I was in this video truck which had only one door and there was a knock on the door and the fellow who was You know sort of helping me and guarding the as it. Whereas came in and says his John Gotti is here? I would like to come pay his respects. And you know I remember Mario Puzo saying never never never know them never meet them. Never be a friend of this. Because they're very charming and I said well we'll tell them tell them on can't possibly do it. I'm busy in the middle of something and and The fellow went out and told him and he just went away You know I I always thought of the the these figures of the crime family sort of like the old myth of Vampires Liars which a vampire can only come into your life if you invite him to step threshold but if you don't invite him that he then they won't. I'm I'm sure people who were in. The mob would be very flattered to hear that comparison to Vampires. Well unfortunately they are Italians and Americans but they we're not the human beings that the acted beyond being like animals. In my opinion we're listening to my twenty sixteen interview with Francis Ford Coppola with we'll hear more of the interview after a break as we conclude our end of the decade series. This is fresh air weaken support for. NPR comes from whyy presenting the podcast. Eleanor amplified and adventure series. Kids love here reporter. Eleanor Atwood crafty villains and solve mysteries as she travels the globe to to get the big story available where you get podcasts or at whyy dot org. Hi It's Terry Gross inviting you to check out our new online archive collecting forty years of fresh air interviews and reviews. You can hear my interviews with people like David Bowie aretha Franklin Johnny Cash John Updike. Tony Oni Morrison searched for names. You're interested in make a playlist for yourself or friends at fresh air dot org. That's fresh air archive dot org. I'm Terry Gross. Back with more of my interview with Francis Ford Coppola about making his masterpiece the Godfather we spoke in twenty sixteen after the publication of the the notebook. He put together while preparing to make the movie the notebook he carried around and referred to throughout the shoot. Did you worry though that the film was setting the right. Ah Ample because the characters became such heroes of popular culture. And they'll were Italian Americans who felt that like you were discrediting Italian Americans. Well you know in truth. I was worried about so many things in making of that movie. I you know I was about twenty nine when I started. I had two kids in one about to be born and had absolutely no money. I was making what had become a more important film than it was when I got the opportunity because the book had continued and you'd become more and more important than I had no power and yet I had real opinions on how it should be done and I was always just trying to luke bluff the the studio to let me do it my way and and I it was just the most frightening and depressing thing experience. I think I've ever had. I'm sorry to hear it. Thank you so much for making the movie in spite of it so You right when you actually. You are invited to direct the movie by by the studio by paramount. You sat down and read the book and you write. I read eagerly but barely finished it. And you almost didn't make the movie because you you didn't really. He liked the book and despite of the Nice things he said about Mario Puzo. What didn't you like about the book? Well I had thought from its title and intriguing logo and the name Mario. Are you puzo that this was a kind of Italian intellectual writer like a kind of You know more obvious something and it was going to be a piece piece about the subject of power and while indeed it was about power. I found the book itself. More like a kind of bestseller attempt like Nursing Wallace Book. People don't remember it but maybe a third. If not more of the Book Concerned This Young Woman Lucy Mancini and her private anatomy problems. uh-huh and love affair with the doctor who fix them and I just couldn't believe How low class that was but that was you know not included in the movie and so it didn't didn't didn't harm the remaining part which we all know? Did you ever tell Mario. Puzo your thoughts about the novel. Sure he knew new and and you know He. He had written a beautiful book called the Fortunate Pilgrim which he felt was the best book he wrote which also was about immigrants but it was very respected by writers and and it was. What's the beautiful book? But it didn't make money you know like so many die in my head toward his children and they wanted to give his children some better life and he wrote this hoping it could make a lot of money for him so it did so you write to yourself in the Godfather Notebook with the Godfather there is always the possibility ability of immediate and sudden violence. That's certainly true. You had to decide how explicitly violent to make. What was your conversation frustration with yourself? About how the violence should be handled. Well I confess that I was very impressed with author pens Money money and Clyde and thought about that one watching Sonny Corleone shot without a doubt and I thought that the the effects the be depiction of violence and money Clyde always had an imaginative. Twist to it that it's one. Think this he someone shoot someone but if there's a detail away the blood turns into mist and I saw that in In in Bonnie and Clyde I thought was just absolutely wonderfully done and I looked up. Who had done the special effects and that wonderful man? Ad Flowers his name was Worked on the Godfather and On apocalypse now and he was just the most You know in the film industry you deal with a lot of people on the crew. Who are sort of genius in the rough life? You know the way they come up with ideas for special effects. And what have you and I've been blessed to To have those people helped me and making Camila films are tremendous collaboration. As you know. It's not it's not a one man show by any means okay. Well perhaps the most at least one of the most most memorable scenes implying violence in the godfather is low horse's head scene. It's the scene good example because it's not done in the movie the way it's done in book. Yes okay so let let's why don't you set up what happens like what what happens in that. Same well It's a famous movie producer. Who is proud of his? It's a stable of a beautiful stallions and priceless. A horse could cost the half a million dollars or more in the forties and They've asked him to cooperate with their their requests to give the singer the role and What happens famously? Is that the the the producer wakes up and he sees a shadow in. I'll describe it. The way it is in the book he sees shadow and he opens his eyes and he looks and he sees the severed head of his beloved and prized stallion. That has been decapitated when I had to direct that I I thought well gee you know maybe it would be interesting if at first the man to trick them to make it think something else that maybe he had been mortally wounded that he he wakes up and he feels something weird and he uncovers the sheet and there's some blood and maybe his leg has been shot shot off or he's been castrated or you know let the audience thinks something else has happened and then as he panics and flings the bloody sheets Away it would then reveals the severed head of the Horse in your notebook you keep a list of pitfalls of things that you're afraid to fall. English should avoid the pitfall to not fall into for this senior right. If the audience does not jump out of their seat on this one you have failed too much in the Cormon horror film tradition would be a mistake and you had worked for Corman early on in your career right One must find the perfect balance of horror without losing the threat of the overall film. Deliver it and get out so You want it a kind of horror element but not to make it kind of cheap horror film. Yeah and also everyone knew they had read the book that was one of the famous scenes of the book. So how could I mislead lead them to think that maybe what they thought was going to happen. wasn't gonNA happen for a second and that's why put the Horse's head in the sheets so that he you could think the blood was his own blood. At first so casting Marlon Brando was just such a really brilliant stroke and stroke of luck as Europa but again him And I WANNA play. Mary Puzo told me in Nineteen ninety-six when I interviewed him about Casting Brando but how Brando got cast in the movie so Can I play that for you. And then okay. So this. Is Mario Puzo. Who wrote the novel? The Godfather speaking with me in nineteen ninety-six about casting Marlon Brando. I'm the guy picked burn. You did pick Brenda all sure I I wrote him a letter and he called me up and we had chat and then I tried to get paramount to take him and they refused and then director came on and picture. I talked to Director Francis Copeland. He managed to talk paramount than to letting Brando play the role but was was my data cache Branko which caused me a lot of trouble before finally got done. What did you say in your letter to Marlon Brando when you were inviting him to play the part? I I think it was something like help. They'RE GONNA kill. We're GONNA kill me. They're gonNA cast things Donnington Danny Thomas's the well he well. He's GonNa buy paramount so we could play the role at that time. Paramount wasn't really worth that much. And then you communist was very richest television and I read an item. He who's GonNa buy paramount pictures so we could play the godfather so I scared me so much value brand though I knew some people who noon so you know I had an entree okay. And he gave me very good advice. He said no studio will hire me. Wait until you get a director and then talking to do. And he's quite right when I talked to the studio they swatting behind Randall. Okay Francis Ford Coppola. You're the director. I suppose Puzo Talk to you and you made it happened can. Can you pick up the story from there well It's true that Mario had always liked the idea of brand. At you know Mario was often bayshore. He was not really on the scene so much. Even a lot of my work with him was sending him drafts in him. Writing notes so Although he had posed the idea of of the Godfather being Brando I don't even know if he told me that Because I just was hit by a a whole bunch of ideas from the studio Danny Thomas was one Ernest Borgnine. It was a whole bunch of of ideas. Even Carlo Ponti was suggested and finally I I came down to the thing about the character of of That character was that you know you couldn't find anyone knew as we had done for all the other parts Alpa. Chino was totally unknown. Johnny Sal was bobby vowel Israel. He wants a lot of New People. Got Big parts but like a man who was supposed to be in sixty sixties couldn't be Lou and like had never been in anything before because what was he doing all those years so finally with my colleague and Casting Fed Reuss. We said well who the two greatest actors in the world so we said well Lonzo Livia and Marlon Brando. Each one had a the difficulty of for that part with Olivier was British. He was perfect. AG looked like he looked like One of the real guys Genovese Genovese And Brando was only forty seven years old. He was extremely handsome as always long flowing blond hair and most important important he had just been in some pictures. Notably one by the great but Pontecorvo called Burn That was a huge each flop tremendous financial flops. Oh the studio felt. That Brando was Supposedly difficult to work with Sort of irresponsible responsible you know would cause big delays. The film was only budgeted for two and a half million dollars. You have to understand. It wasn't like we put throw money around. And my decision decision to make it in the forties and have period cars and shoot in New York was already impacting the cost. That's one of the reasons why I was so unpopular but they also hated my Ki- my casting ideas they hated Al Pacino for the role of Michael and they hated Marlon Brando for the role role of Of of the of the Godfather and I was told categorically by the president of paramount's Francis says the president of paramount pictures I tell you here and now Marlon Brandin will never appear in this motion picture and I forbid you to bring it up again but you one. How did you win when he said I forbid you to bring it up again? I tamed that I just fell on the floor on the carpet. And like you know as if you know what and then I said what. Am I supposed to do if you tell me. I can't even discuss it. How can I be a director? If if if the part I think should be a cast that you wouldn't even let me talk about it and I said all right we'll we'll we'll tell you with the swipe one if he will do the movie for free to if he will put up with. He'll do a screen test and three. If you'll put up a million in dollar bond that he will in no way have any misbehavior. That causes the You know the overrun of the picture budget. Then you can do it so so I said I accept you know so at least they were saying if I did. Three things have a screen test if I could get him to do the movie for nothing and if I could Having put up a million dollars which is absurd But but at least I said I accept meaning. Okay now I can talk about it. So did he do the movie for free. No I called him up and I said to Marlon Marlon you know of course. This is an Italian American. You know. Wouldn't it be fun if we could like do a little experimental and kind of Improv and see what playing an Italian might be like. That was my way to talk to an actor essentially asking for a screen test. But I didn't put it in those ways and I knew that if I could do something with this little screen tests that was convincing the the absurd idea of him doing it for nothing. Although they didn't pay much more than nothing I think their pay scale which was an insult And obviously the putting up a bond onto prevent misbehavior. was you know. Sometimes you know you you you you you say you accept terms meaning that you just have a way to continue so the important thing was to do some sort of a little screen tests that I could get on tape and show till all these executives so you played this kind of little trick and he did he did Improv on. Or whatever on on on film for you what did he bring two that audition that he didn't realize wasn't always heard the rumor that Marlon Brando didn't like loud noises and he always wore things in his era. It took a couple of my colleagues from San Francisco from this period of you know having young filmmakers all Africa and I told them all to dress in black and no one was to speak speak with sign language so we descended on Marlins House early. In the morning he wasn't up and these inge's went to different quantities and set up their cameras. And I also brought a whole bunch of Italian sausage and little Italian cigars and Provo Lonnie and little things and I put them in dishes around it just without even saying what I was doing and then the door opened. They said he was going to wake up in the door but now came this beautiful man in Japanese happenings robe with fluid flowing blonde hair. And I'm shooting all of this and he came out and he didn't talk very much he you know he's he's Marlin was brilliant Leeann man and he just knew what was going on instantly and he I remember he came in he took his hair and he rolled it up and made it sort of like a bun in the back in any took shoop Polish in the made a news mumbling the whole time and he made the shoe Polish and made his hair black and then he put on the shirt that I had brought an. I remember him. Uh folding the pell lillies those guys always. Dental Appel is always folded. He said and And right in front of my eyes with the and then he said all he's shot in the throat in the story so as you talk like this throat and he started doing that and and and and right in front of my is. He transformed himself into this character. And I couldn't I couldn't believe it. And then he started picking up the sausage in eating it and he he just gravitated to the props and was using it to create a kind of Talionis the way he did it and the whole time he was going like this he was going uh-huh on wasn't saying anything which was funny because his phone rang I has this was his home. This phone rang and he picked up the phone when the guy who has it called. What are they gonNA thing but when it was all done I had this tape and it was quite remarkable? People were afraid in the studio that Brenda would be hard to work with and he would create problems. Did any happened not at all he was. It was a joy to you. You know you don't talk talk aloud to Marlin you. SORTA just give them like I would take a cat and put it in his hands or I would have some Italian props or you know you you. You don't direct him by talking talking about acting you. What he likes to hear his make it more angry? They make it less angry Sweeter you know he doesn't WanNa have any acting kind of talk but he the He knows what he's doing was apprentice idea to Steffi's cheeks or that he'd look really Jolie yes he said he wanted to look like bulldog Francis Ford Coppola. Thank you so much for talking with us about the Godfather from making the godfather and for insisting on the things that you wanted to make it as good as it is your thank you so much for your wonderful program which Dr enjoyed throughout many years. Francis Ford Coppola recorded in two thousand. Sixteen if you've enjoyed our series of some favorite interviews from the decade that just ended check out our new archive website which has decades of interviews some dating back. As early is the seventies when fresh air was a local show in Philadelphia. You can search by name or subject you can make playlists. It's that fresh air archive dot org. That's fresh air archive dot org in this edition of Fresher weekend was produced by Heidi Soman. Fresh Air's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our Technical Director and engineer is Andrea Bentham. Our interviews and reviews user produced an edited by Amy Salad. Phyllis Myers Roberta shorrock Sambergen. Lorenzo Theresa Madden Moves. Eighty Seth Kelly Andro Wolfram molly receiving Nesper as our associate producer of digital media. I'm Terry Gross.

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