Al Pacino Was Once Almost Fired From His Best Movie

Al Pacino was nearly fired from The Godfather, which would have been the biggest tragedy in cinema history.

By Douglas Helm | Published

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The Godfather and its subsequent entries are often included in the Best Movies of All Time conversation (well not really Godfather III, but anyway). You would think that anyone watching the actors in these films would have realized that no one else could play the roles as well, but it seems like Al Pacino almost got the boot multiple times throughout the first film. Fortunately, Francis Ford Coppola was able to keep him on.

Recently, Al Pacino spoke at a screening of a restored version of The Godfather for the film’s 50th anniversary. According to Pacino, one scene saved him from getting fired from the role of Michael Corleone — the scene where he wacks another mobster and a crooked cop at the restaurant to fully commit to the family. He said “They were going to let me go. Francis said, ‘I want you to know, I believe in you.’ Francis pushes that scene forward. The studio liked it.” Apparently, Pacino’s performance in that scene was enough for the studios to put their trust in Pacino and Coppola, allowing them to make the move their way.

Al Pacino went on to detail other interesting tidbits about his time on The Godfather, including the instance that made him realize how special the movie was going to be. During the Q&A session, Pacino talked about how he saw Coppola crying after shooting the Don Vito Corleone funeral scene. Apparently, they couldn’t shoot anymore because the light had gone away and the studios felt that had enough, so Coppola couldn’t do another setup. Pacino said “They wouldn’t give him another shot. I thought, huh, this may be a great film. When you have that kind of passion that you are bawling your eyes out because of one extra shot.”

Obviously, the passion was worth it and so was keeping Al Pacino on as Michael Corleone. The movie won the Best Picture Oscar, along with Best Actor for Marlon Brando and Best Adapted Screenplay. Pacino, James Caan, and Robert Duvall all got Supporting Actor nods, and the film received various nominations for Best Costume Design, Sound, Film Editing, Original Score, and Best Director for Coppola. Of course, it’s also evidenced by the fact the film has easily stood the test of time and is beloved by movie enthusiasts everywhere.

It’s interesting to know that Al Pacino almost missed out on the role that truly launched his career. Who knows what incredible Pacino roles we would have missed out on if he had been fired? Following The Godfather, Pacino would star in movies like Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, Heat, and so many other classic movies. It would be a shame if we never got to see Pacino take on these unforgettable roles. Pacino has another upcoming role that we should be seeing soon, with Sniff expected to release in September of 2022. Sniff is a thriller about a retired detective being pulled back to face the kingpin known as Harvey Stride. Pacino will be playing the kingpin, with Morgan Freeman, Danny DeVito, and Helen Mirren rounding out the rest of the cast. After that, Pacino will be taking on Shakespeare as King Lear in an upcoming film adaptation directed by Michael Radford.