10 Things You Didn’t Know About “The Godfather” Including the Horse’s Head Was Real!

The Godfather Wedding Scene

Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" which premiered on March 15, 1972, remains one of the great movies of all time. It is aging a bit, but it still holds up. Here's a few interesting tidbits about the movie:

1. The organization Who Shall Not Be Named

Despite the fact that everybody knows it exists and that The Godfather was about it, the word Mafia never once is uttered in the movie. (via Yahoo)

2. Danny Thomas as Don Vito?

Ernest Borgnine, Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles, Danny Thomas, Richard Conte, Anthony Quinn, and George C. Scott were considered by Paramount Pictures for the role of Vito Corleone. Burt Lancaster wanted the role but was never considered. (via IMDB)

3. A dog food manufacturer provided a real horse's head


They used a real horse head in the infamous bed scene. The production designer made arrangements with a dog food manufacturer that used old horses to give them the head of a horse that had been scheduled to be killed. One day it arrived packed in dry ice and they had to scramble to film the scene. (via DestinationHollywood)

John Marley, who plays big time Hollywood producer Jack Waltz in the film, no doubt had less-than-fond memories long after his scenes were completed. When it came to filming the scene, Marley gave a very convincing frightened reaction, since the false head used in rehearsal was replaced by a real one. (via Suite101)

4. Luca Brasi was the real deal

Lenny Montana, the actor who played Luca Brasi, was an ex-wrestler and body guard for real-life mobster Joe Colombo. Director Francis Ford Coppola saw Montana one day when Colombo visited the set and immediately cast him as Brasi. His experience as a pro wrestler helped him quite a bit during the scene when he died.  Lots of practice at being pinned in the ring helped.

5. Moe Green = Bugsy Malone

Moe Greene (Alex Rocco) is credited in the movie with helping to build Las Vegas. He's clearly an analogue for Bugsy Siegel, the Jewish mobster who was an associate of Meyer Lansky's (as Greene was with Hyman Roth), and who is credited with putting Las Vegas on the map by building the Flamingo, the hotel/casino/nightclub that was the model for every modern-day resort on the Strip. In the film, Greene is famously shot to death through the eye at his casino for having moved against the Corleones. In real life, Siegel was shot over the cost overruns of the Flamingo, and he was killed by four shots from a sniper while sitting on the living room couch of his girlfriend's home in Beverly Hills. (via Moviefone)

6. The actors learned from real mobsters

Actors researched their roles by hanging out with real mobsters. Brando prepared for his role by meeting with a Bufalino gangster. Pacino, Caan, and Duvall have all acknowledged meetings with mobsters, as well, with Caan becoming especially familiar with Carmine "The Snake" Persico and noting "how they're always touching themselves. Thumbs in the belt. Touching the jaw. Adjusting the shirt. Gripping the crotch." (via ACMC)

7. James Caan scared everyone


During the opening wedding scene, Sonny Corleone (James Cann) whose hot temper had already risen with the appearance of the FBI at his sister’s wedding, takes out his frustrations on a photographer. Caan improvised the whole segment where he snatches the camera and after throwing it to the floor shakes the photographer violently by his lapels. The extras look genuinely terrified because they are. (via Suite101)

Also, when Sonny (Caan) fought his brother-in-law Rizzo (Gianni Russo), Caan broke two of Russo's ribs when he hit him with the trash can. Caan didn't like Russo and some think that is why he took it so far.

8. Marlon Brando's unique style was on display

  • Marlon Brando did not memorize most of his lines and read from cue cards during most of the film.
  • He modeled his speech after mob boss Frank Costello who he saw testifying in a trial on TV.
  • When he auditioned for the part he stuffed his cheeks with cotton. During the filming of the movie he had a dentist make him a mouth piece to simulate that effect.
  • Brando was playing pranks on the set all the time. One of them was when he was being carried into the house, up the stairs, on a stretcher. He put weights under him to make it much harder on the actors carrying him.

9. The first million dollar baby

“The Godfather” earned $85 million in its initial release and became the first movie to gross a million bucks a day. While the studio took 84 percent of the profits, producer Al Ruddy got 7.5 percent, Coppola 6 percent and Puzo 2.5 percent, making them all millionaires. (via PlanetPeschel)

10. The role of Johnny Fontaine was not based on Frank Sinatra, and Sinatra was pissed!

According to Mario Puzo, the character of Johnny Fontane was NOT based on Frank Sinatra. However, everyone assumed that it was, and Sinatra was furious; when he met Puzo at a restaurant he screamed vulgar terms and threats at Puzo. Sinatra was also vehemently opposed to the film. Due to this backlash, Fontane’s role in the film was scaled down to a couple of scenes. (via tv-facts)