ST. LOUIS – It’s the 50th anniversary of the release of “The Godfather.” The mob drama is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time and not only established star Al Pacino as a leading man, but also reinvigorated Marlon Brando’s career and solidified director Francis Ford Coppola as one of the premier auteurs of his day.
Looking back, it seems impossible to imagine the movie set anywhere else but post-World War II New York City. But did you know if studio executives had their way, the movie would have been set in then-modern 1971 and filmed and set in St. Louis?
Imagine Luca Brasi “sleeping with the fishes” in the Mississippi River? Or Paulie Gatto getting shot with the Gateway Arch in the background?
Over the years, Coppola has given interviews explaining that Paramount Pictures wanted the adaptation of Mario Puzo’s crime novel filmed in modern times in order to save money. Execs had a similar motive for wanting the film shot in St. Louis. Far cheaper to film in the Midwest—and, eventually, a studio lot—than in the Big Apple.
Coppola had to fight studio executives to not only get the film made his way, but he convinced them to increase the budget (which, depending on who you ask, ranges from $1 million to $2.5 million) to somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million.
The movie went over budget anyway.