Robert De Niro spent four months learning to speak the Sicilian dialect in order to play Vito Corleone. Nearly all of the dialogue that his character speaks in the film was in Sicilian.
Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only two actors to ever win separate Oscars for playing the same character. Brando won Best Actor for The Godfather (1972) and De Niro won Best Actor in a Supporting Role for this movie, both in the role of Vito Corleone.
Francis Ford Coppola had a horrible time directing The Godfather (1972) and asked to pick a different director for the sequel, while taking the title of producer for himself. He chose Martin Scorsese, whom the film executives rejected. Thus, Coppola agreed to direct the film, with a few conditions.
When little Vito arrives at Ellis Island, he is marked with a circled X. Ellis Island immigrants were marked with this if the inspector believed the person had a mental defect.
In the scene in which young Vito negotiates with Signor Roberto on the street, a passerby interrupts to say hello to Vito. Carmelo Russo was an extra who was supposed to just walk by, but he improvised speaking to Vito. Francis Ford Coppola did not like that Russo interrupted the scene. But Robert De Niro liked that it showed how much people in the neighborhood respected Vito and he convinced Coppola to keep Russo's line.
Though it claims to be based on the novel by Mario Puzo, only the scenes about the young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) have any basis in the book. Only one chapter in the book is devoted to Vito's youth and young adulthood. The story revolving around Michael (Al Pacino) and family in Las Vegas is entirely unique to the film.
This was the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The second, and as of 2017 the last, was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). It is also the only film with a prequel storyline to be nominated for Best Picture.
Originally, the actors in the flashback scenes wore pants with zippers. One of the musicians pointed out that the zipper had not been invented at that time, so some scenes had to be re-shot with button-fly trousers.
Francis Ford Coppola, having nearly been fired several times from the first film, was given a Mercedes-Benz limousine from Paramount Pictures as a reward for the record success of The Godfather (1972) and an incentive to direct a sequel. He agreed on several conditions, that the sequel be interconnected with the first film with the intention of later showing them together; that he be allowed to direct his own script of The Conversation (1974); that he be allowed to direct a production for the San Francisco Opera; and that he be allowed to write the screenplay for The Great Gatsby (1974), all prior to production of the sequel for a Christmas 1974 release.
The door to Vito's olive oil business was rigged so that it would not open if a nail was inserted into the lock. Coppola kept this a secret from Leopoldo Trieste, who played Signor Roberto, and his difficulty in opening the door was real. Coppola wanted to film Trieste, a known Italian comedian, improvising his way through the scene. When Genco opens the door, Frank Sivero surreptitiously pulls the nail out.
Hyman Roth's character is loosely based on real-life mobster Meyer Lansky. Lansky, who at the time of the film's release was living in Miami, reportedly phoned Lee Strasberg and said, "Now, why couldn't you have made me more sympathetic? After all, I am a grandfather."
Though never explicitly stated in the film, Anita Colombo (the old woman evicted from her apartment that a young Vito helps out) is the grandmother of Sandra Corleone, Sonny's wife.
Marlon Brando was scheduled to return for a cameo in the flashback at the end of the film but, because of the way Paramount Pictures treated him during The Godfather (1972), he did not show up for shooting on the day the scene was filmed. Francis Ford Coppola re-wrote the scene without Vito, and it was filmed the next day.
The line in the film, "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer" was voted as the #58 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
There was much debate over whether Robert De Niro should grow a mustache for the scenes where young Vito is a few years older, but De Niro couldn't decide. In the end, De Niro tossed a coin. For the scenes where Vito returns to Sicily, he even gained weight and wore a smaller version of the dental appliance Marlon Brando wore in the first film.
Robert De Niro is one of only six actors (with Sophia Loren, Christoph Waltz, Roberto Benigni, Benicio Del Toro, and Marion Cotillard) to win an Academy Award for a role primarily in a language other than English, since almost all of his dialogue in this film is in the Sicilian dialect of Italian.
Originally, it was supposed to be Clemenza who agrees to testify against the Corleones. According to Francis Ford Coppola, Richard S. Castellano (who was the highest paid actor in The Godfather (1972)) wanted to write his own lines and wanted a large salary increase. Consequently, his character was replaced by Frankie Pentangeli (Michael V. Gazzo), who received an Oscar nomination for the performance. But according to Ardell Sheridan, Castellano refused to regain the fifty pounds required to for the role due to health reasons, so Coppola decided to replace him rather than have a thinner Clemenza.
According to Francis Ford Coppola in the DVD commentary, Michael V. Gazzo gave such a great performance as Frankie Pentangeli in the rehearsal of his testimony scene that Coppola wanted to start filming it immediately, but everyone had to break for lunch. During the break, Gazzo got drunk and was unable to perform as well as he had in rehearsal.
James Caan asked that he be paid the same amount of money to play Sonny Corleone at the end of the film in the flashback as he was paid to do The Godfather (1972). He got his wish.
In an interview, Gordon Willis admitted that he sometimes "went too far" in his use of dark photography. He particularly noted the scene in which Michael asks Mama for advice as an example. As a result, when the 2008 "Coppola Restoration" was being performed, the restoration experts had to turn to Willis to find out how he intended the scenes to be shown.
Al Pacino caused problems throughout production, demanding a massive salary and heavy script re-writes. He frequently complained about Francis Ford Coppola's slow pace, yelling "Serpico (1973) only took nineteen days!" and threatened to quit.
Francis Ford Coppola considered bringing Marlon Brando back to play Vito Corleone as a young man, convinced that he could play at any age. As he worked on the script, though, he remembered Robert De Niro's exceptional audition for The Godfather (1972) and cast him without offering the part to Brando.
Danny Aiello's line, "Michael Corleone says hello", was completely ad-libbed. Francis Ford Coppola loved it and asked him to do it again in the retakes. Aiello later claimed (on Gilbert Gottfried's podcast) that, due to being nervous about working with Coppola, he didn't hear himself when he said the line and, to this day, has no idea why he said it.
Michael V. Gazzo was cast as Frankie Pentangeli only one day before shooting began.
Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay even though half of the script was adapted and half was original. The story of Michael Corleone is original, while the story of the young Vito Corleone came from The Godfather novel, but was not used in the first film. SAG rules decree that any screenplay for a sequel is a "screenplay adapted from another source".
Lee Strasberg became ill during shooting, but instead of delaying production, Roth's character was re-written to be an ailing old man.
The language spoken by the actors in the flashback part is not formal Italian, but a combination of southern Italian dialects (mostly Sicilian).
The early buzz on The Godfather (1972) was so positive that a sequel was planned before the film was even finished filming.
Talia Shire was only paid $1,500 for playing Connie in The Godfather (1972). For this movie, she received $30,000, with a $10,000 bonus when the box-office receipts hit $27.5 million.
The musical play performed in the film, "Senza Mamma", was an actual early twentieth century play composed by Francis Ford Coppola's grandfather, Francesco Pennino.
The ship shown transporting the young Vito Corleone to New York City was the Moshulu. That ship is now a restaurant docked at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia.
Production nearly ended before it began, when Al Pacino's lawyers told Francis Ford Coppola that he had grave misgivings with the script, and was not coming. Coppola spent an entire night re-writing it before giving it to Pacino for his review. Pacino approved and the production went forward.
In an early version of the script, an ongoing story line was Tom Hagen having an affair with Sonny Corleone's widow. This was later discarded, but the line where Michael Corleone tells Hagen that he can take his "wife, children and mistress to Las Vegas" was kept.
Robert De Niro auditioned for and was almost cast in The Godfather (1972) in a minor role. When Francis Ford Coppola was casting this film, he saw Mean Streets (1973) and knew he wanted De Niro for a major role in this sequel.
Lee Strasberg came out of retirement to play Hyman Roth after a specific request from Al Pacino. He was unwilling at first, but agreed to do it after a forty-five-minute meeting with Francis Ford Coppola's father, Carmine Coppola.
A test screening of the film garnered negative reactions from the audience. They found cutting back and forth between Michael and young Vito confusing and bothersome. Francis Ford Coppola and his editors decided to decrease the frequency of the transitions in order to make the parallel stories easier to follow.
Although Nino Rota's score for The Godfather (1972) was withdrawn from an Oscar nomination because he re-used the same theme from his previous score for Fortunella (1958), he was still awarded the Oscar for Best Original Score for this movie, even though it used the same love theme from the first film.
Unlike with the first film, Francis Ford Coppola was given nearly complete control over production. In his commentary, he said this resulted in a shoot that ran very smoothly despite multiple locations and two narratives running parallel within one film.
While the word "mafia" is never spoken in The Godfather (1972), it is heard three times in this film, during the Senate hearings. Senator Geary says, "These hearings on the Mafia..." The committee Chairman says, "You are the head of the most powerful Mafia family in this country." Michael Corleone in his statement says, "Whether it is called 'Mafia' or 'Cosa Nostra' or whatever other name you wish... "
The golden telephone presented to Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista is based on an actual event. You can see the actual gold-plated (not solid gold) telephone in Havana's Museum of the Revolution (formerly Batista's Presidential palace). The replica made for the movie looks pretty much like the original. No reference to the film is made in the information card of the telephone on display.
Filming was delayed for a month after Al Pacino developed pneumonia on location in Santo Domingo.
According to Francis Ford Coppola on the DVD commentary, G.D. Spradlin wrote many of his own lines, including his anti-Italian speech to Michael.
The unnamed Senators in the committee were played by people who were primarily screenwriters and producers: William Bowers, Roger Corman, Phil Feldman, and Richard Matheson.
One of Francis Ford Coppola's conditions on returning to direct was that Robert Evans have no involvement whatsoever with the film, as they had frequently clashed while making the first film.
This was the first film sequel to receive five Academy Award nominations for acting. Talia Shire (Best Actress in a Suporting Role), Lee Strasberg (Best Actor in a Supporting Role), Michael V. Gazzo (Best Actor in a Supporting Role) and Al Pacino (Best Actor) all received nominations, while Robert De Niro took home the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
The plot thread with Senator Geary is a direct reference to The Godfather (1972), when Vito laments that he wanted Michael to be a "big shot" who "pulled the strings." In particular, he had hoped Michael would become a Senator. Michael assured him, "We'll get there, Pop." At the opening of this film, we see Michael explicitly rebuffing the demands of a U.S. Senator, turning the tables, by making demands of his own.
Anthony Corleone was played by James Gounaris, who was previously played by, and named for, his younger brother Anthony Gounaris in The Godfather (1972).
Vito's birthday is December 7. Sonny curses at the "Japs" for dropping bombs in Hawaii on his father's birthday.
When Francis Ford Coppola decided to replace Richard S. Castellano, Willi Cicci was planned to be the sole testifier against the Corleones before the character of Pentangeli was created.
The line in the movie, "Michael, we're bigger than U.S. Steel" was voted as the #54 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.
In the original script, Tom gains Senator Geary's support by paying off his gambling debts.
After the first film, Francis Ford Coppola joked that the only sequel he'd make is Abbott and Costello Meet The Godfather (1972). It took a lot of convincing by Paramount Pictures to change his mind.
In this movie, and in his previous film Mean Streets (1973), Robert De Niro is seen running over the rooftops of Little Italy during the annual Feast of San Rocco festival.
Timothy Carey, who had turned down the offer to play Luca Brasi in the original, was offered the role of Don Fanucci in this film. While performing his audition at Paramount Pictures, in which Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese were present, Carey pulled a prop gun loaded with blanks out of a pastry box he had with him, and fired a shot at Coppola, before pretending to commit suicide. Reports differ as to whether Coppola immediately offered Carey the role, or whether Carey was removed by security. In addition, the actor made several monetary demands that caused him to be passed over.
Vittorio Storaro turned down the chance to be the film's cinematographer, as he felt that a sequel would never match the original The Godfather (1972).
Francis Ford Coppola originally wanted fellow director Elia Kazan to play Hyman Roth, but Kazan passed on the opportunity. On the DVD commentary track, Coppola detailed how he visited Kazan with the request, and remembered that Kazan was bare-chested. As an homage, Roth (Lee Strasberg) is bare-chested when Michael Corleone visits him. But in a later scene, when Michael is talking to Roth in his Havana hotel room, Roth obviously has a plenitude of gray chest hair.
In his DVD commentary, Francis Ford Coppola claimed The Godfather: Part II (1974) was the first numbered sequel in film history. In fact, the British film Quatermass 2 (1957) was the first. This movie is the first U.S. film sequel to use such numbering though.
Although James Caan (Sonny Corleone) played the elder brother of John Cazale (Fredo Corleone), he is five years younger in real life.
In the original script, Don Ciccio was named Don Francesco. "Ciccio" is a Sicilian nickname for Francesco. He is still listed as Don Francesco in closing credits.
The paper currency that Vito hands to Signor Roberto is historically accurate. The bills used are series 1914 large size ten dollar Federal Reserve Notes. Large size notes measure 7-3/8 by 3-1/8 inches compared to the small note, printed from 1928 to the present, measuring 6-1/8 by 2-5/8 inches.
Just as in the first film (and in the novel), there are elements of the story based on the lives of New York gangster "Crazy" Joe Gallo and his brothers. In this film, when Frank Pantangelli is ambushed in the bar and nearly garroted by the Rosato brothers, that incident was based on an attack by Carmine "the Snake" Persico against Crazy Joe's brother, Larry Gallo. As in the film, Larry was lured to the bar for a "sit down" meeting with Persico, who was his friend. Both Larry Gallo in real life and Frankie Pentagili in the film received a lucky C-note from their adversary. Pentangeii took the gesture as an insult, but Gallo was happy when he received his gift. Larry was then garroted by members of the Profaci Crime Family, with whom the Gallos and Persico were a part of, in retaliation for Crazy Joe trying to instigate a mutiny within the family. Also as in the film, Larry Gallo was saved by a policeman who wandered into the bar, thus stopping the execution. Also, in both real life and the film a different policeman was wounded in the subsequent shootout as the failed murderers made their getaway. Although the name of the bar in the film was not mentioned, in real life the attempted murder took place in the Sahara Bar on Utica Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Was voted the seventh greatest film of all time by Entertainment Weekly, thus being the most highly ranked sequel on their list, and only six rankings behind its predecessor.
Bruno Kirby, who plays the young Clemenza (who was played by Richard S. Castellano in The Godfather (1972)) played Castellano's son in the television series The Super (1972).
Mario Cotone, the film's Sicilian production manager, was cast as Tommasino due to his resemblance to Corrado Gaipa, who played Tommasino in The Godfather (1972).
The orchestra that plays in the band shell during the party scene at Lake Tahoe was actually the Al Tronti Orchestra that played nightly for big names like Elvis Presley and Tom Jones at the Sahara Tahoe Casino/Hotel on the South Shore of Lake Tahoe while this film was being shot. Al Tronti himself sits in the orchestra in the front room (only seen in shadow). He wasn't allowed to appear as the orchestra conductor since he looked "too Italian" and the orchestra in the movie was supposed to be a West Coast group that not able to play any traditional Italian music.
Robert De Niro became the only actor to win an Oscar for taking over another actor's Oscar-winning performance. He was not, however, the first or last such actor to be nominated for this. Gérard Depardieu was nominated for Best Actor in Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), a role that had already won an Oscar for José Ferrer. Like Brando, Ferrer had played his role in English. Like DeNiro, Depardieu played the role in the character's native language; in this case French. Years later, Jeff Bridges would be nominated for his performance in True Grit (1969). John Wayne had won his only Oscar for his performance in the original film, which also featured Robert Duvall.
According to the chart shown during the hearings, the Corleone family's buttonmen and soldiers are: Luca Brasi (deceased), Chris Pennari alias "The Manager", Donato Tolentinicci, Gaetano De Luna alias "Gary Dee", Roberto Nelenza alias "Thunder Bob", William Cicci, Pauli Gato (deceased), Nino Arneldi alias "The Patch", Victor Vinatonni alias "Vicky Veal", Calogero Radeni, Rafilo Gernzo, Carmine Caronda alias "The Plunge", Francis Forducci alias "The Kid", Ricardo Simmini alias "Powder", Frank Corteale, Ettore Radeni alias "Oily Hand", Salvatore Plumari alias "Sally Pee", Samuel Corocco, Angelo Granelli alias "The Trojan" (in jail), Gino Corsetta (in jail), Bartolo Neni alias "O'Neal" (in jail), Joeseph Bronski alias "Joey Jail" (deceased), Natale Parri alias "Fat Nat", Alphonse Barino alias "Al Barret", Gino Fredonna alias "Pretty Boy" (deceased), Sabastino Sabela (in jail), Lawrence Tippirri, Gaetano Sirillo, Tony Dinegio alias "Tony Ding", Carmen Della, Frank Darra alias "Frankie Dare" (in jail), Alphonse Evolloni alias "Al Ove" (deceased), Peter Leone alias "The Lion" (in jail), Cassandros Fracca alias "David Gelly", Charles Locirno (deceased), and Cristoforo D'Binna.
Michael's unnamed bodyguard is listed simply as "Michael's bodyguard" in the closing credits. But in the shooting script, he is named "Bussetta".
John Cazale appeared in only five films, and all of them involved Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and/or Francis Ford Coppola. This, however, is the only Cazale film to involve all three.
Robert De Niro was able to appear on-screen with three of his "children" in other films. He appeared with Al Pacino in Heat (1995), Righteous Kill (2008), and The Irishman (2018); John Cazale in The Deer Hunter (1978), and Robert Duvall in True Confessions (1981).
In a scene set in 1960, Tom Hagen says that nobody could kill the President of the United States and Michael Corleone replies that anyone could be killed. Of course three years later, President John F. Kennedy was killed, and there are some theories that the Mafia was involved in the assassination.
The Havana hotel that Michael stays in is the Capri. The location was the El Embajador Hotel in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The film cast includes five Oscar winners: Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall and Sofia Coppola; and seven Oscar nominees: Talia Shire, Michael V. Gazzo, Lee Strasberg, Danny Aiello, James Caan, Gary Kurtz, and Roman Coppola.
Francis Ford Coppola re-wrote the entire script over a weekend because Al Pacino said he didn't like the original and would not do the film. Apparently, he later said to Coppola that he hadn't actually disliked the first script all that much, but knew it could be better.
Al Pacino worked extensively with Marlon Brando and Richard S. Castellano in the first film, but he worked with neither of their replacements in this film. Many years later, however, he would have the chance. He appeared together with Robert De Niro in Heat (1995), Righteous Kill (2008) and The Irishman (2018). He also appeared with Bruno Kirby in Donnie Brasco (1997).
1998: Voted #1 in TV Guide magazine's list of the 50 Greatest Movies on TV and Video (August 8-14 issue). The Godfather (1972) ranked #7.
Senator Pat Geary and his wife, Patt, are loosely based on Senator Jack (John F.) Kennedy and his wife, Jackie. Another theory is that Senator Geary is modeled after Senator Pat McCarran, who was a United States senator from Nevada in the early 1950's. The main Las Vegas airport is named McCarran Airport after him.
This was the last film printed in the U.S. in the classic "imbibition" Technicolor dye-transfer process, which produced better color accuracy and longevity than color print films of the time. The British and Italian lines were not shut down until a few years later. The British equipment was purchased by the Beijing Film and Video Lab in 1978, and used to print Chinese color films until the early 1990s.
Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Gangster" in June 2008.
Don Fanucci says that, in order to show proper respect to him, Vito and his friends should allow him to "wet his beak a little", by giving him a share of their profits. This is Sicilian slang, meaning "to get a piece of the pie", a common expression often used to indicate the extortion activities committed by Mafia members.
The Lake Tahoe house and grounds portrayed in the film are Fleur du Lac, the summer estate of Henry J. Kaiser on the California side of the lake. The only structures used in the movie that still remain are the complex of old native stone boathouses with their wrought iron gates. Although Fleur du Lac is private property and no one is allowed ashore there, the boathouses and multimillion-dollar condominiums may be viewed from the lake.
One of two Robert De Niro movies to win Best Picture. The other one is The Deer Hunter (1978).
When Michael goes to see Hyman Roth at his house in Miami, the football game on the television is USC vs. Notre Dame, a major rivalry. In 1958, the year the scene takes place, Notre Dame defeated USC 20-13.
In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #32 Greatest Movie of All Time.
When Robert De Niro won his Oscar for this film, Francis Ford Coppola had to accept it on his behalf. De Niro was busy filming 1900 (1976). That film also featured Sterling Hayden; who had appeared in The Godfather (1972); and Gérard Depardieu who, like De Niro, would be nominated for an Oscar for playing a role (Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)) that had already been played by another actor (Jose Ferrer).
During the first scene in Michael's office, when he's speaking with Senator Geary, a copy of John F. Kennedy's book "Profiles in Courage" is clearly visible on the desk behind Al Pacino.
The boat in which the young Vito Corleone arrives in New York is called the 'Moshulu.' It is visible in Rocky (1976) during the training montage, and in the ending of Blow Out (1981). It is now a floating restaurant in Penn's Lansing, Philadelphia.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Talia Shire was the only Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee that year that was from a Best Picture nominated film.
Vito Corleone has a father named Antonio, and a grandson named Anthony. Robert De Niro's middle name is Anthony, just like his father.
Features the only Oscar nominated performances of Lee Strasberg and Michael V. Gazzo.
The only film in which Robert De Niro won an acting Oscar for his performance in a film which won Best Picture.
The only film that year to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress Oscars.
The plot thread with Sen. Geary is a direct reference to "The Godfather" when Vito laments that he wanted Michael to be a "big shot" who "pulled the strings." In particular, he had hoped Michael would become a Senator. Michael assures him, "we'll get there, Pop." At the opening of Part II, Michael explicitly rebuffs the demands of a US Senator, turning the tables by making demands of his own.