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Oscar Madness

Can you imagine the Godfather trilogy without Marlon Brando and Al Pacino bringing its iconic characters to life?

It’s tough to picture somebody else uttering those famous lines, but it turns out plenty of future Hollywood legends almost did just that.

To kick off this week’s look back at What Could Have Been with some of Hollywood’s most memorable movies, let’s take a trip back in time to reveal some of the surprising people who were ALMOST involved with the trilogy’s production over the years.


Laurence Olivier

  • LAURENCE OLIVIER

    Olivier was one of director Francis Ford Coppola’s top two choices for the role of Don Corleone. However, Olivier was unavailable and would in fact make another 1972 film, “Sleuth.” The decision wound up working out for Olivier – sort of. He earned a Best Actor nomination for the role but lost to Coppola’s other choice for the Don in “The Godfather” – Marlon Brando.

Danny Thomas

  • DANNY THOMAS

    While Coppola originally had his sights set on Olivier for the Don Vito Corleone role, Paramount had a much different vision for the role as it eyed Danny Thomas as one of its top choices. Thomas, a film and TV star best known for his TV series “Make Room For Daddy,” was the only comedian in the mix for the very dramatic role.

Dustin Hoffman

DUSTIN HOFFMAN

Al Pacino may seem like the perfect choice to play Michael Corleone, but he wasn’t the first one offered the part. That honor went to Hoffman, who was a hot commodity at the time on the heels of the smash successes of “The Graduate” and “Midnight Cowboy,” but he turned down the role.

Robert Redford

  • ROBERT REDFORD

    Another hot name in the mix for the Michael Corleone role was Redford, who was a rising star thanks to the success of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Paramount production chief Robert Evans wanted Redford for the part, but Coppola nixed it because he felt Redford could never pass as Italian.

Paul Newman

PAUL NEWMAN

Redford’s “Butch Cassidy” co-star, Paul Newman, was also nearly a part of the Godfather legacy. Newman auditioned for the role of loyal consigliere Tom Hagen but didn’t land the part, which ultimately went to Robert Duvall.

Steve McQueen

  • STEVE MCQUEEN
    Another interesting contender for the Tom Hagen role was McQueen, who eventually teamed up with fellow Godfather also-ran Paul Newman two years later in “The Towering Inferno.”
Mia Farrow

  • MIA FARROW

    Farrow, who had recently starred in “Rosemary’s Baby” for Paramount, auditioned for the role of Michael Corleone’s wife Kay. But she lost out on the part to Diane Keaton, a relative newcomer in just her second role.

Anthony Perkins

ANTHONY PERKINS

Best known for his role in “Psycho,” Perkins auditioned for the role of eldest Corleone son Sonny, which wound up going to Paramount’s favorite choice, James Caan.

Julia Roberts

  • JULIA ROBERTS

    In “The Godfather, Part III,” Coppola’s first choice to play Michael Corleone’s daughter Mary was Roberts, but that plan fell apart due to her other schedule commitments. Those commitments included a starring role in another 1990 film – “Pretty Woman.”

Winona Ryder

  • WINONA RYDER

    With Julia Roberts unavailable, Coppola cast Ryder (who had just starred in “Heathers”) in the role of Mary. But when Ryder wound up having to leave the project, Coppola turned to his own daughter, Sofia Coppola – who would later win an Original Screenplay Oscar of her “Lost In Translation” script.

How do you think The Godfather Trilogy would have been different if any of these actors had been cast? Tell us in the comments below:

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