August 8, 2022

With Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather celebrating its fiftieth Anniversary this yr and Paramount releasing an unbelievable new 4K field set, I just lately bought to do one thing I by no means thought would occur, I spoke with James Caan about making the film.

Whereas I’ve executed numerous interviews since beginning Collider, I’ll admit to being a little bit nervous earlier than getting on the cellphone with Caan. One of many causes is as a result of I’ve been watching his work my total life, and I used to be getting the uncommon alternative to speak with him about The Godfather, one of many biggest and most influential films ever made.

Fortunately, he couldn’t have been nicer and shared some tales that I’d by no means heard together with why he liked working with Marlon Brando, how he satisfied Lenny Montana, who performed Luca Brasi, to do a gag whereas filming, and what it means to be a part of a movie that folks wish to discuss fifty years later. As well as, as an enormous fan of Michael Mann’s Thief, he shared what it was like working with him on the film and the way he ended up directing Conceal in Plain Sight.


Lastly, if you happen to’re a fan of The Godfather, the brand new 4K field set is unbelievable, and the movies have by no means seemed higher.

Try what he needed to say under.

COLLIDER: Initially, sir, I simply wish to begin with a thanks for giving me your time. I’m an enormous fan, and I feel it is nice I get to speak to you at present.

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JAMES CAAN: Nicely, thanks. I am going to let you recognize about your finish once we’re by.

I’ll recognize that. Please do decide me.

CAAN: Yeah, okay.

If somebody has truly by no means seen something that you have executed earlier than, what’s the very first thing you need them to look at, and why?

CAAN: I feel I as soon as made a run for about 68 yards on 25 Energy. No, I do not know. I like Thief so much. Godfather, Thief. I imply, I solely have favorites that I labored on just about. It is like 130 of them, I feel.

James Caan in The Godfather
Picture through Paramount Photos

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I used to be truly going to get to Thief throughout this interview, however I am going to simply ask it now. I am an enormous fan of that film and I really like the opening, and the way in which it is shot, and the music. Do you’ve gotten fond recollections of that shoot?

CAAN: We labored lots of hours over there, as a result of it was day and night time taking pictures. I loved the character, however normally the character, though you do not prefer to take it residence with you, I by no means do, or by no means tried to, did not depart itself to having an excessive amount of enjoyable. You understand what I imply? There was nothing humorous about him or having enjoyable. This was a man who had this good a part of his younger man life taken from him by going to jail for stealing $40 and have become the thief, so… Now I forgot the query. Did I’ve enjoyable?

Yeah. What it was like taking pictures with Michael Mann and making Thief.

CAAN: Nicely, you recognize what, he is a workaholic, to begin with. He is powerful. However I like anyone… want them to any person who would not like what they’re doing, or would not imagine in what they’re doing. Michael believed he had an thought, and he caught to it. You understand what I imply? So there was a motive for all the things he did. We might work from, for example, Monday we might begin at six o’clock, work until seven, eight o’clock. Then the following day he’d name us 12 hours after, so we might are available in at 8:00 and go residence at 9:00 or 10:00, and are available in 10:00, and it might go all the way in which like that until Friday’s we had been coming in at… Friday or Saturday we might are available in at 4 or 5 o’clock within the afternoon and work all night time by. So he squeezed each bit he might out of the week. And it was a reasonably powerful shoot, nevertheless it was so on edge. Every thing was edgy. You understand what I imply? Every thing.

Picture through United Artists

Fortunately that the movie turned out nice. You directed Conceal in Plain Sight in 1980, and it was your solely time behind the digicam. I’ve all the time questioned, did you consider directing extra after that?

CAAN: After I determined to direct Conceal in Plain Sight, the explanation I advised them that I needed to have a particular man, a particular director, with a method to direct it first, like Hal Ashby, however he wasn’t obtainable. Then they requested me to direct, that is how that occurred. I mentioned I might direct it. And I made a number of situations, they usually had been met.

What I did was I took 149 scenes and thought, if you happen to shot it conventionally, the place you shoot a grasp after which a 4 shot, then a two shot, then singles, it might appear to be a ping pong match with 149 scenes, and inside these 149 scenes one other 400 cuts, it might appear to be a ping pong match. It is simply too many cuts. So, I made a decision I just about needed to shoot all of it in just about masters and solely have a closeup. That is the second factor I had, I solely needed to see somebody’s face after they had been considering of one thing, when it was necessary that I see their face, not simply to indicate their face. That each closeup had a which means to it. So, it was actually sort of good. It turned out very nice.

Additionally, I did not need the actors main our feelings. Have you learnt what I imply? With tears of their eyes or music within the background or no matter it was. I had a close-up of their face. And I needed them to be considering, not essentially what they had been speaking about, however what we mentioned. So for instance, the scene that I used to be making an attempt to debate with you earlier, I used to be exhibiting that there was this downside that she had, the place she bought married, and he or she says, “I needed to let you know this.” She mentioned, “Tom, I bought married.” That was in the course of the park.

And also you see me throw up my arms, I say, “Married?” Proper? And as I throw up my arms, I begin pulling the digicam again. That is the very last thing you hear is, “Married,” however you see them nonetheless speaking, and this digicam is shifting again and again. You do not hear a phrase, you simply see all of the individuals going to work, and it is coming again and again and again and again till it involves the road, it crosses the road, and because it crosses the road, a bus wipes us clear. The bus simply cleans it.

They did not must know the story, the viewers, they only knew that was an issue, nevertheless it was an issue to them, and it wasn’t an issue to anyone else within the film. You perceive? To not anyone on the road. It wasn’t an issue to anyone however these two individuals.

I fully get it.

CAAN: So, there was a motive for that. And no matter individuals thought there was, it was. It did not matter. It did not alter the result of the film or the characters. I imply, little issues like that. And that is the place I bought into enjoying music over a closeup.

hide in plain sight james caan

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I actually wish to ask you about The Godfather as a result of the fiftieth anniversary. For the reason that film got here out, The Godfather has been The Godfather, one of the vital iconic films in film historical past. Everyone is aware of this movie. However what was it like truly earlier than the film got here out, if you first had been approached to be a part of it, did you guys have any thought that you simply had been making one thing so particular?

CAAN: No. I most likely did a little bit greater than anybody else, as a result of I did two or three photos with Francis. I did The Rain Folks once I was 28 years outdated with Francis. I knew what he might do. I imply, I favored him so much, clearly. Then, if you hear Brando, that most likely… I used to inform these guys, “In the event you’re not impressed with Brando, you are filled with shit.” Excuse me for all the women listening on the market, shit is the phrase I used. And you’ll be filled with it, as a result of anyone that claims they weren’t influenced by him is a liar. You understand?

And even the cash was not likely good. That was much more surprising. It was 1945 New York, and that price some huge cash to decorate New York. However the issue, they went by $420,000, I feel, simply in checks alone. Francis known as me one night time, he was in New York and I am in California, and he calls me, he says, “Jimmy, I would like you to return in and check.” “Check what? You bought to Porsche you need me to drive across the block?” He says, “No, they need you to check. They need you to play Michael.”

You talked about Marlon. Clearly, like everybody else, I’m an enormous fan. Are you able to share a little bit bit about what it was like truly working with him and possibly what stunned you?

CAAN: The primary assembly was once we had this lunch that Francis made for everyone, the forged. And I bought along with him and began laughing, and we wound up laughing on a regular basis. I made him chuckle. I do not know why. I imply, each three minutes he began laughing at me. I simply liked the man. I imply, he was simply very delicate, very a lot a man, actually an excellent man, loves music, loves ladies. Yeah, he was simply any person I seemed as much as as an actor, for certain, extra so than anyone else.

the godfather marlon brando james caan
Picture through paramount

While you had been making the movie, was there a sequence or a scene that ended up being an actual ache within the ass to get proper?

CAAN: Yeah. That is considered one of my favourite issues is Lenny Montana, who performed Luca Brasi. He is available in on the marriage ceremony. This reveals you the way shiny and quick he’s too. He knocks on the door and the door opens and it is on the marriage ceremony, inside, when all the fellows are coming in, the baker and everyone there asking favors. Brando opens the door and it is Luca Brasi, and Luca says, “Don Corleone, I’m honored to be right here on the day of your daughter’s marriage ceremony. Might your first baby be a masculine one.” So, he’d do this. I imply, he sounded identical to that. So Francis comes out to me, he says, “Jimmy.”


He says, “Do one thing with him.”

I mentioned, “What? What are you speaking about?”

He says, “No, come on, you bought to do one thing with him. Make…”

He was simply so stiff. And I mentioned, “Nicely…”

He says, “Simply do it.”

So, I thought of it, and I bought a chunk of tape, common white tape, I mentioned, “Lenny, I wish to put this in your tongue.”

He mentioned, “What?”

I mentioned, “I will put it on.” And I put F U on it. Proper? We wrote it out although, the entire thing.

And he mentioned, “Oh, please, Jimmy, do not make me do that.”

I mentioned, “Lenny, you are going to do that. Please do that. I promise you everyone’s going to chuckle. It will be good.”

“Please, Jimmy, do not make me do that.”

He was like a little bit child, this 300-pound man. So anyway, I did it. Lastly, he did it, and he opened door and he mentioned, “Don Corleone,” and everyone began laughing, since you might see the F U on his tongue. And Brando laughed. Everyone laughed. They thought it was nice.

Then Francis mentioned, “Okay, come on, let’s go. Let’s shoot it now.”

So, we go and shoot it. And he is available in and he says, “Don Corleone,” and Brandon opens his mouth and says, “Luca.” And he had F U too. “Fuck you too,” he wrote on his tongue. So I imply, that was a little bit after. The remainder of the time we labored, we labored fairly laborious. It was good. However I had lots of enjoyable. Francis let me go. He was… All of the bada bing and all that. He known as and yelled at me only a yr or so in the past, why did not I ever franchise bada bing? He says, “You’d’ve been a jillionaire.”

“As a result of I am silly, that is why. And I wanted you, the genius, to inform me like 50 years later.”

the godfather james caan al pacino
Picture through Paramount

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What is it truly like being a part of a movie that the whole planet has seen, everyone loves, and other people nonetheless wish to discuss 50 years after you made it?

CAAN: Nicely, it feels, to me, nice. I imply, I am joyful there’s one thing they’ll bear in mind about me. That, and the good play I made behind second base as soon as in Central Park. Yeah, I am very happy with it, and I am very happy with Francis. The forged was nice. And that simply added to my one large factor about making an excellent film. In the event you get individuals collectively that like each other and genuinely like one another and have an excellent time, invariably the film is nice and higher. And I feel audiences can inform that they like one another whereas they’re watching the movie. Have you learnt what I imply? And I feel it makes it a greater movie. And all of us favored one another and had a good time.

Are you the kind of individual that may watch your performances? As a result of I’ve spoken to so many actors and so many say that they do not wish to watch themselves on display.

CAAN: They’re all filled with shit. They do not wish to watch it if it is dangerous. I can get that. I imply, I could not stand it. I might need to exit and beat up a wildcat or one thing. I do not know. No, I do not thoughts watching it. I like watching it, in fact, watching it when it comes out, and that may dictate if I ever watch it once more. However yeah, I imply, there’s a number of that I am further happy with. Let’s put it that means. These ones I might watch greater than as soon as.

the godafther cast
Picture through Paramount

I assume considered one of them is Thief.

CAAN: Sure. Nicely, I’ve to say Conceal in Plain Sight. However yeah, The Gambler. And oddly sufficient, I like little humorous issues like Humorous Woman. There’s a number of that I like that I had fun in. And it is all the time those that I had fun in, as a result of I had extra enjoyable watching Alan Arkin, for instance, or any person else, be humorous. So, I watch what I like, and if I prefer it so much, I am going to watch it twice.

Sir, I might ask you one other thousand questions, however I am out of time. I actually wish to simply say sincerely, thanks for speaking with me, and I want you nothing however the perfect.

CAAN: Thanks a lot.


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