I don’t care what my colleagues might think about the new, limited series “The Offer” — a look at the making of the historic film, “The Godfather,” but I loved it!
“The Godfather” is one of the most successful films made and it has stood the test of time because it employed a solid, storytelling structure. This might raise questions about our world’s need to engage in storytelling as a species because long before films and novels, there were stories around the proverbial fire and illustrations on cave walls.
Former producer and Paramount executive Robert Evans, played in this series by Matthew Goode, is our guide in the saga of how “The Godfather” actually got made. At the time, Evans was Paramount Pictures’ vice president, and part of his job was answering to a board of investors who were always looking for new and exciting ways to fire him. This was a period of great financial uncertainty, and the company was struggling. They emphasized the staggering difference between what Evans does and what these “titans of industry” do for work.
Evans, here, isn’t just fighting to get his movies made, the passionate man with a golden touch was fighting the good fight for all movies to get made. He was standing on his proverbial soapbox, advocating for each and every storyteller who dreamed of working in film.
Wearing his signature big, black glasses with a perpetual, warm California tan, he was like a hungry dog with a juicy bone: “You have to feed their souls,” he says, pacing around the corporate boardroom. He tells them with assurance, tagged with a warning that America is broken. Citing that the people don’t trust big business or politics. His speech back then sounds like America now, and movies then (and now) drop the viewer into a world far away from their own. Movies entertain and provide an escape—“We’ll feed their souls until they’re fit to burst,” he promises, and movies (in general) have made good on his promise.
Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorham) made the decision to keep Paramount in the Gulf & Western bulging portfolio, and Evans kept his job (that day). The big picture under discussion was
“The Godfather”—eventually directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Al Pacino—which is essentially a film about American families. Available on Paramount+ limited, “The Offer” is based on Oscar-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy’s extraordinary, never-before-seen experiences of making “The Godfather.” The series stars Miles Teller as Albert S. Ruddy, Matthew Goode as Robert Evans, Juno Temple as Bettye McCartt, Giovanni Ribisi as Joe Colombo, Dan Fogler as Francis Ford Coppola, Burn Gorman as Charles Bluhdorn, Colin Hanks as Barry Lapidus and Patrick Gallo as Mario Puzo. The series begins on April 28 and runs through June 16.
Is “The Offer” going to appeal to a casual fan of the film or would it be more of an attractive offer for a cinephile scholar? Or will it fulfill the casual television viewer as they get a peek into how movies are made?
In the role of producer Al Ruddy, Miles Teller brings great weight to a computer programmer who created the now legendary television show “Hogan’s Heroes.” Ruddy has the right stuff for Hollywood. He wrote himself out of a dull life where he would have been chained to a 9-to-5 desk job. Using his instincts he hires Bettye McCartt (Juno Temple) as his secretary, a big-brained woman who would have eventually run a studio if she were born in another era.
Ruddy flies to New York to pitch Charlie on his vision for “The Godfather”—the bestseller the studio purchased for a bargain. He wants to turn the book into a film, but Hollywood thinks that gangster movies are dead.
Ruddy is a problem solver, a real producer and he wants Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) to write the screenplay, but Paramount has a hard and fast rule about authors adapting their own material.
Instead, he pushes for the indie-minded auteur, Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) to direct. The casting of the lead becomes another interesting chapter in this saga—tucked inside a saga—as they attempt to trim the screenplay, deal with dallies, and try to anticipate what viewers will like or not like.
The stakes are high for Ruddy, and his relationship with Evans goes up and down as they attempt to make “The Godfather” into a movie.
“The Offer” series creator and writer, Michael Tolkin (“The Player,”) adds an interesting subplot that is wrapped around the Colombo crime family, and the Italian American Civil Rights League. In the center of both of them is the infamous crime figure, Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi) who is against the movie but eventually, with Ruddy’s influence, becomes an important and powerful ally. But becoming a friend of a known mob boss comes with its own set of risks and challenges. Now, for the fans of the iconic movie “The Godfather,” there are many interesting facts shared, like how the cat that curled up on Marlon Brando’s lap wasn’t in the screenplay and how the infamous severed “horse head” found in a reluctant producers’ bed may or may not have been real.
There’s a lot of value in listening to how Coppola and Puzo discuss the screenplay and the look at how movies were made in the 1970s, which isn’t that different (sadly) today. There is a sincere nod to the magic of making movies and the highlighting of the need to want this more than anything else in your life.
But what really makes “The Offer” such a fun ride is that we get to understand what a producer does, and doesn’t do, via the experience of Al Ruddy who managed to do the impossible which was to produce a classic, ever-green film that will live—forever—“The Godfather” and I, for one, am forever grateful to him for standing strong inside the tempest and helping the storytellers share their vision.