Inside Francis Ford Coppola’s New Cut of “The Godfather Part III”

AKA "The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone"

On the set of The Godfather: Part III
Andy Garcia and Al Pacino on the set of The Godfather: Part III, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Francis Ford Coppola has a fondness for recutting his movies, sometimes dramatically. That’s included multiple versions of Apocalypse Now, as well as a reworked take on The Cotton Club. Coppola’s track record with these new versions is far more successful than some of his peers. Writing at Polygon, Jeremy Smith noted that “[n]o filmmaker has made better use of the Director’s Cut format than Francis Ford Coppola.”

Coppola’s latest project? Reworking The Godfather Part III into a new form, with a new title: The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. In a recent review, critic Brian Tallerico gave high marks to the new version. “Overall, this version feels even more elegiac—a true coda instead of just another part of the same story,” he wrote.

A new article at Deadline offers Coppola’s look back on the film, as well as on his work retooling it. The article also features astute observations from some of his creative collaborators, including Al Pacino, who compares the reworked film to another ambitious film in which he starred, The Irishman.

Coppola’s commentary on the film covers a lot of ground, from the casting of his daughter Sofia to the disputes that broke out over Al Pacino’s haircut. One particularly interesting part of the conversation surrounds the re-cut film’s new title — which, Coppola explains, reflects his original intention for the film.

“When I did want to call it The Death of Michael Corleone at the time, Frank Mancuso ran Paramount and he was very kind and supportive of me, while at the same time he tried to be a good executive,” Coppola recalled. “And was adamant we not call it anything but The Godfather Part III. Because his role in this was to turn it into a franchise, that would lead to part four and part five.”

At a time when franchises abound on screens large and small, it’s a refreshing piece of candor — and, perhaps, a comment that points to another artistic way forward.

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