According to the biography of Brando “Someone: The reckless life and remarkable career of Marlon Brando” by Stefan Kanfer, the actor first heard of “The Godfather” in 1970 when Mario Puzo sent him a handwritten letter. According to Puzo, Brando was “the only actor who could play the Godfather with that quiet power and the irony was the asking part.” Coppola’s private note said Brando was his first choice, if not only choice for the role. According to Kanfer’s document, Brando’s interest was stimulated because he saw the film as an opportunity to satirize the American corporation, “The Mafia is the best example of capitalists we have. ” With Brando eager to play the lead role, why is Paramount giving him such a high rating?
While Brando’s talent was undeniable in the 1970s, he also became famous for his prima donna behavior, he was past his physical peak and he had a string of failures with his name. Managing Director at Paramount suggestions many other actors, including Coppola’s second choice Sir Laurence Olivier, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Conte (who will play the villain Don Barzini instead).
It doesn’t matter if Brando isn’t Italian. Robert Evans, head of Paramount, believes that Italian authenticity is the key to “The Godfather” success. Coppola is was hired as a partial director because of it (Peter Bart, Paramount’s vice president of creative, thought the young director would make a good deal, too). Brando, however, was born in Nebraska “mostly Irish” family, a far cry from Vito who was born in Italy, raised in New York.
When executives related to Coppola’s wishes, they attach three conditions. First, Brando will work for a reduced salary. Second, the actor would have to put down a $1 million deposit to discourage him from slowing down production with his antics. And third, he will have to take a test on the screen.
https://www.slashfilm.com/997994/francis-ford-coppola-caught-lightning-in-a-bottle-with-marlon-brandos-godfather-screen-test/ Francis Ford Coppola Catches Lightning in a Bottle With Marlon Brando’s Godfather Screen Test