The portrayal of Al Pacino in the Paramount+ series The Offer, about the making of The Godfather, has come off as very different from the Pacino audiences know, but it’s more accurate than they realize. The Offer follows the journey of producer Albert S. Ruddy in getting Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather made, which was a challenging endeavor, to say the least. In The Offer‘s cast of characters, Miles Teller plays Ruddy, with Matthew Goode as Robert Evans, Juno Temple as Bettye McCart, Giovanni Ribisi as Joe Colombo, Dan Fogler as Coppola, and Anthony Ippolito as a young Al Pacino.
Al Pacino was a relatively unknown actor at the time The Godfather was being cast, having only appeared in Jerry Schatzberg’s The Panic in Needle Park in 1971 and starring mostly in theatrical productions, for which he won two Tony Awards prior to The Godfather. Coppola was impressed with Pacino and saw him as the only option for the role of Michael Corleone, even though others like Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, and Robert De Niro tried out for the part. After the success of The Godfather, Pacino’s career took off and his acting persona changed dramatically with roles in films like Scarface, Dog Day Afternoon, Glengarry Glen Ross, Heat, and Scent of a Woman (for which he won an Oscar). Pacino is frequently associated with boisterous energy and his loud delivery, but it wasn’t always that way.
In The Offer, Ippolito plays Pacino at age 30, just as he was beginning his career as a Hollywood actor, and not the intense presence he is known for today. Ippolito’s Pacino is shy, quiet, and affable, exuding low confidence in his abilities as an actor, even as he is pursued by Coppola and Ruddy, who see him as their best option for Michael. The actor plays Al Pacino with a passive, nasally tone to his voice, which is quite similar to the real Pacino at the time. Ippolito’s Pacino seems open to playing the part, but he’s not convinced he’s right for it. This attitude poses an interesting look at an actor who had not yet blown up in Hollywood and had nothing to lose, which created an air of apprehension in taking on the role of Michael Corleone.
In early audition videos for The Godfather, Pacino plays Michael Corleone quite differently than the way he comes across in the final film, showing that Coppola had much to do with shaping the young actor into the stoic Don-to-be. In those auditions, Pacino comes off similarly to how Ippolito plays him in the dramatized The Godfather show: shy, reserved, nasally, and almost embarrassed by the notion of acting. His performance as Michael Corleone in those early auditions and rehearsals was woefully underdeveloped in comparison to what Pacino would ultimately bring to the role onscreen, which found him far more confidant, intense, and quietly menacing. For audiences that know Pacino from the various roles he’s done throughout the years, Ippolito’s performance may seem weird, but it’s very much how Pacino carried himself in those early days.
In an old 1973 interview talking about his role in a theatrical production of Richard III (via YouTube), Pacino still has a bit of shy nervousness but seems more confident and more serious than he did in the audition tapes for The Godfather movie. Still, it’s not the Pacino that would later grace the screen with enigmatic and powerful performances, as the fuse had been lit, but would explode with later films. Pacino has said in the past that the role of Michael Corleone changed everything for him, serving as “the bolt of lightning” that kicked off his career. Referencing those early audition tapes, Pacino said that his head was “in another space” at the time and that he felt “out of place” in his early films. “It was a facade that got me through these auditions. Because great actors were auditioning for this thing,” Pacino said in a recent interview, continuing, “For whatever reason, he wanted me and I knew that. You could feel that. And there’s nothing like that, when a director wants you. It’s the best thing an actor could have, really.” (via New York Times)
Pacino would play Michael Corleone again in both The Godfather: Part II and The Godfather: Part III, both directed by Coppola. His performance in the first sequel was more akin to that of the first, but Part III saw a more energetic and emotive performance, which could have been due to the 16-year gap between the films and well after the events of The Offer. Pacino would go on to develop his intense acting persona long after The Godfather series ended, with countless memorable performances, right up to his recent appearances in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood. The actor will next be seen in Taylor Hackford’s Sniff with Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, and Danny DeVito.
Next: The Offer: Joe Gallo And Mobster Link To The Godfather Explained