How Al Pacino Almost Lost His Role In The Godfather

Al Pacino's role as Michael Corleone in "The Godfather" trilogy is one of his most iconic characters, but the role was almost given to someone else — and in fact, Pacino initially didn't want to play the part in the first place. Director Francis Ford Coppola had a disagreement with Paramount producer Robert Evans on who would play the iconic role. Evans wanted a big star as Michael Corleone, someone like Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, or Ryan O'Neal, per The Sydney Morning Herald. However, Coppola's first choice was always Al Pacino. Though he didn't have a lot of movies under his name at that time, he was a renowned stage actor.

Pacino was hesitant to take the part, doubting that he could do the character of Michael Corleone justice. In an interview with The Guardian, he recalled how he didn't want to do "The Godfather." "No one wanted me. Except for Coppola who was, I thought, a bit mad. He just wanted me. Even I said, 'What are you doing Francis? They don't want me,'" Pacino said. He eventually took the role with some convincing from Coppola. When filming began, however, the big bosses weren't impressed with Pacino's performance and attempted to fire him from the movie.

"What the hell is this kid doing?"

Shooting for "The Godfather" started in the early months of 1971. While looking at the daily shots, Paramount bosses did not like Al Pacino's acting. In a Washington Post interview, Pacino recalls the executives saying, "What the hell is this kid doing? And he's short to boot." He also said that they described his acting as "anemic." It was then that he found out that they wanted to fire him after just two weeks into filming the movie (via GQ).

His acting, however, was all calculated, as he wanted his Michael Corleone to transition throughout the movie. "It was a kind of detachment. And then so that when the character finally emerges, you say 'where did that come from?' That was what I was really going after," he said (per Digital Spy). Pacino almost wanted to quit "The Godfather" after learning that he wasn't wanted, but Francis Ford Coppola encouraged him to stay.

It was the infamous restaurant scene wherein Michael Corleone kills McCluskey and Sollozzo that finally convinced execs that Al Pacino was the perfect Michael Corleone. It was also a pivotal point in the storyline, and Pacino's portrayal of Corleone was far from "anemic" (via The Sydney Morning Herald). Al Pacino went on to portray Michael Corleone in two more "The Godfather" movies, which boosted his career in the film industry.