‘The Offer’: Everything to Know About the ‘Godfather’ Paramount+ Drama
Ironically, similar to production of the film it is discussing, "The Offer" had a rough road to completion.
Paramount+ is about to make you an offer you can’t refuse. The streaming service announced back in 2020 that, along with their rebranding from CBS All Access to Paramount, that they would be bringing audiences a limited series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.” The move was met with some raised eyebrows as it seemed like a push for the burgeoning streamer to mine from its extensive, existing intellectual property.
In an ironic twist, similar to production of the film it is discussing, “The Offer” has had a rough road to completion. In 2021, “Top Gun: Maverick” star Miles Teller was brought in to replace Armie Hammer as Albert Ruddy. After that, the series had to pause production after one of the cast tested positive for COVID-19. But, thankfully, the show did go on and now audiences are just a week away from seeing what is on tap with “The Offer.”
With Paramount+ making this series it’s hoped that it might inspire a deeper dive into Paramount’s expansive legacy of titles. With classic films still largely unavailable on streaming services, it is hoped that a show like this could foster an appreciation for classic cinema and the movies that made Paramount one of the major studios of its era.
1. What is “The Offer” about?
“The Offer” is based on the experiences producer Albert S. Ruddy had while working on Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel about an Italian American mob family and their in-fighting between each other as well as with other Mafioso. The film had a lot of challenges out of the gate, starting with the fact that Puzo’s novel angered Italian Americans and, most especially, the Mafia. A key reason why the word “mafia” isn’t found in Puzo’s text was to head-off complaints from the Columbo crime family. According to Ruddy, the Mob threatened the production, salted deals between the production and actors, and generally did not want to see the movie get made.
With a production like that it is easy to see why show creator Michael Tolkin was interested. Tolkin told Vanity Fair earlier this year that adapting the true story was a no-brainer. “What sealed it for me was when Al said, ‘Every day of making ‘The Godfather’ was the worst day in my life,’ and that told me we had a show,” Tolin said. ”For every character in the film, getting it made or stopping it from being made was at the core of their actions, and it was a matter of life and death to them.”
2. Who stars in “The Offer”?
Miles Teller will play producer Albert S. Ruddy. Dan Fogler stars as director Francis Ford Coppola, with Matthew Goode playing Paramount Studios chief Robert Evans, and Juno Temple portraying Rudy’s secretary Bettye McCartt. Giovanni Ribisi is notorious mobster Joe Colombo, who campaigned against the film for its “hatred and prejudice” in its portrayal of the Italian-American community. Colin Hanks and Burn Gorman play studio executives.
“Rocketman” director Dexter Fletcher helms several episodes of the series and serves as an executive producer alongside series creator Michael Tolklin, showrunner and co-writer Nikki Toscano, and the real-life Ruddy.
3. Is This a Remake of “The Godfather?”
The film is not a remake of Coppola’s film, thankfully enough. It seeks to look at the making of the movie itself. Interestingly, while “The Offer” is the first production to look at this specific film, it is not the last.
Towards the end of 2020 Deadline reported that director Barry Levinson was also planning something about the making of “The Godfather,” called “Francis and The Godfather.” This would be a film, compared to “The Offer,” which is a limited series. Back in September it was announced that “Moon Knight” star Oscar Isaac would play Coppola, with Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Evans. The film is based on a Black List script by Andrew Farotte. At this time there’s been no word on “Francis and the Godfather” short of it being in pre-production.
4. How many episodes are there?
The series consists of ten episodes around an hour long. The episodes will drop weekly.
5. Where can I watch “The Offer?”
“The Offer” will be exclusively available to watch on Paramount+ starting April 20.
6. Can I watch “The Godfather” on Paramount+?
Weirdly enough, you cannot watch “The Godfather” on Paramount+ nor the two sequels that followed, 1974’s “The Godfather: Part II” and “The Godfather: Part III” from 1990. It’s unknown if the service hopes to work out a deal to offer the trilogy at some point on their service. In the meantime, you can rent the first two films at online retailers like Amazon, as well as Francis Ford Coppola’s director’s cut of “Godfather 3.”
Peter Bart: ‘The Offer’ Spins A Mafia Tale About ‘The Godfather’ That’s Really More Fiction Than Fact
By Peter Bart
April 14, 2022 12:30pm
It is a story steeped in action and intrigue, but is it true?
The Offer, a new 10-part series starting April 28 on Paramount+, delivers an “inside” account of the making of The Godfather. It is a story about stalwart filmmakers who defied bullets and death threats from Mafia soldiers to deliver their great saga.
But not really. The TV series, written by Michael Tolkin, is loosely based on incidents and anecdotes supplied by Albert S. Ruddy, who produced the movie. They are vivid anecdotes, but they are at odds with the accounts of principals who made the movie — of which I am one — and who encountered a different reality.
The Italian-American activists who took an interest in the project in fact revered Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel and were desperate to find a way of mobilizing the film to raise funds for their own causes and charities. “The principals of the movie were celebrated, not threatened,” recalls Nick Pileggi, who reported on the film for The New York Times and New York magazine and was the only reporter invited to visit the set and speak with the creatives.
RELATED STORY From 'The Godfather' Trilogy To 'Patton' & 'Apocalypse Now', Francis Ford Coppola Shares His Oscar Memories Pileggi recalls the presence of important “wiseguys” who were eagerly monitoring the climactic scene in which Marlon Brando is gunned down – an exterior shot filmed on location in Little Italy. “They were applauding,” he recalls. “They loved the movie.” Pileggi later wrote the book Wiseguys and co-wrote the screenplay for Goodfellas.
At that moment I was serving as Paramount’s vice president for production under Robert Evans, the studio chief. With Evans’ endorsement, I had decided to option The Godfather novel (still incomplete) and to ask Francis Coppola to direct it (which took some persuasion). I am depicted by an actor in the Paramount+ series, but the studio officially declined to screen the series for me or for other principals, and this is not intended as a review.
I’ve found that my recollections of the filming of The Godfather are fully consistent with those of Coppola; Gray Frederickson, his key production supervisor; Fred Roos, the casting guru; and with others in the Godfather group. That includes Evans, who passed three years ago but was very specific in his own record of the shoot. There was zero consultation with these individuals from The Offer.
Five decades after its release, The Godfather is being widely heralded as a great American movie. It recently was honored yet again amid the confusion of the Oscar ceremony. With its upcoming series, Paramount is taking bows for having financed the movie and its two sequels. It also might be prompted to issue disclaimers for its distorted account of The Godfather’s development and production. A mythic movie deserves an accurate history.
From the outset, Bob Evans, though a fan of gangster lore, was worried about making “just another Mafia movie.” While he shared my respect for Puzo’s novel, it had not as yet been published and acclaimed.
In signing Coppola, my “sell” to studio colleagues was that we would set out to make “a gangster art movie.” Coppola was a gifted young filmmaker, I argued, who could create a highly stylized $7 million production – one that could remain under the radar until it was completed.
Once Puzo’s book became an international bestseller, that scenario abruptly changed. To Charles Bluhdorn, the ambitious conglomerator who owned the studio, the youthful Coppola now seemed like the wrong director. The Godfather was instantly a glitzy project needing a famous director and a major star – certainly not Marlon Brando, whose recent films had been financial flops. If all this fell into place, Paramount could re-establish itself as a major studio.
Fortunately, Bluhdorn’s strategy floundered, but the concept still haunted Coppola even as he started shooting. Jack Ballard, who headed physical production at the studio, was convinced Coppola was ill-equipped to guide the film, second-guessing his decisions and blocking scenes even as Ruddy was consistently absent from the set. Ballard also warned Coppola that that “the studio” (ill-defined) was intensely critical of his work — indeed, actions already were underway to replace him with a new director.
In reality, only Evans and I had been watching dailies. Both of us were convinced that, despite a few glitches, the scenes were downright brilliant.
But while Coppola was fighting off Ballard’s interference, Ruddy was focused on other issues. It seemed that some landlords were nervous about the young filmmakers who were shooting a gangster movie in New York’s Italian neighborhoods, and had declined use of their properties as locations. Further, the growing buzz about the hot new novel also was fueling gossip about its characterization of Italian-Americans. Would their community be stigmatized by supposed Mafia ties?
An ambitious real estate salesman named Joe Colombo cast himself as a watchdog for the Italian-American cause, advising followers to avoid cooperation with the New York-based production. Colombo let it be known that, given the power of his Mafia family, he would make demands for a more sympathetic screenplay and would go directly to a representative of the production.
In Ruddy’s mind, the situation was becoming a looming threat. The Mafia was on alert. He warned his assistant that it would be wise to shift offices and rotate cars. There would be threats and pursuits. Bullet holes allegedly were found on an assistant’s car.
With alarm bells ringing, Paramount’s corporate headquarters now reportedly was receiving bomb threats. Evans received a telephone threat at his New York hotel, a gravelly voice warning him, “We don’t want to break your pretty face, so shut down the film.”
Was any of this really happening? Evans himself assured me that no such call had been received. His then-wife, Ali MacGraw, reiterated again last week that she had never witnessed threats of this sort.
Surely a key target would be Frederickson, who worked beside Ruddy as his production deputy in charge of locations and budgeting. Frederickson told me last week, “None of this was happening to my best recollection.”
Was Al Ruddy on an island of his own making? Concerned about the safety of the crew, I’d decided to contact Sidney Korshak, asking how he would characterize the alleged enemies of our production. A close friend of Evans, Korshak was known to have contacts in the mob community. His response: He could not detect any dangers to the shoot or to Evans.
Ruddy, meanwhile, was pursuing his own strategy to contain what he felt was an ominous situation. He decided to speak at an event of the Italian-American Civil Rights League. He would also arrange a summit meeting with league leaders.
The results of his summit were duly reported by The New York Times: Ruddy unilaterally had agreed to let the league review The Godfather’s shooting script and dictate appropriate changes, which he promised to implement. Ruddy also had promised to turn over proceeds from the film’s New York premiere to the league’s hospital fund and would announce this commitment at a press conference.
Upon reading the Times’ report of Ruddy’s promises, Bluhdorn went into a rage, summoning the producer to his office. “You have wrecked my company,” he shouted. No corporation with thousands of shareholders would surrender control of a high-profile movie to a private organization, whether or not it was Mafia connected, Bluhdorn insisted.
The upshot: Bluhdorn announced that Ruddy had been fired. He didn’t care if this sent a message of confusion.
Within days, Bluhdorn shifted into self-protective mode, his tirade forgotten. Ruddy would be back on the movie, with a promise to stay mute and abandon his secret deals. Ballard, too, was firmly reminded that he reported to Evans and Bart and that The Godfather would continue shooting with Coppola firmly at the helm.
Ultimately, of course, The Godfather opened to an extraordinary reception and long lines of ticket buyers. A deal for a sequel soon was concluded, but Ruddy would not be involved in any capacity.
While The Godfather’s dramatic saga over the years has moved millions of filmgoers, the TV narrative about its supposed production crises may ultimately be listed under the genre of science fiction.