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Fact vs Fiction: The Offer episode 3 — did Joe Colombo read The Godfather script?

Dan Fogler as Francis Ford Coppola in The Offer
Dan Fogler as Francis Ford Coppoloa in The Offer (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

In The Offer episode 3, producer Al Ruddy comes face to face with one of the biggest obstacles to making The Godfather film, real-life gangster Joe Colombo. It’s a meeting that the show had built up, as Colombo railed against the movie and Ruddy pushed ahead — warning signs be damned. But, did this meeting ever happen?

The Offer is a series that depicts the making of the Hollywood classic based on the experiences of its producer Al Ruddy. In episode 3, "Fade In," we see how Ruddy (Miles Teller) turns an adversary into an ally, how Bettye McCartt (Ted Lasso's Juno Temple) is able to control almost any situation, Robert Evans (Matthew Goode, Downton Abbey and A Discovery of Witches) fight for his job at Paramount Studios and then fight Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) over the script and casting Al Pacino as Michael.

We’re separating what’s fact and what’s fiction in The Offer episode 3. Check out our previous fact vs fiction recaps for The Offer episode 1 and episode 2.

Did Joe Colombo read The Godfather script?

Giovanni Ribisi as Joe Colombo in The Offer

(Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

Al Ruddy has to talk himself out of perhaps the most difficult situation yet when he is brought face to face with Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi). Though Colombo isn’t outwardly threatening, Ruddy (and we viewers) know the potential danger that comes from one wrong word to Colombo. Ruddy convinces Colombo that if he reads the script of The Godfather he’ll see that the movie they are making isn’t depicting Italian Americans negatively. However, Colombo can’t even get through the first page (reading a script isn’t exactly like reading a book) and says that all he wants is the removal of the word mafia, which he claims doesn’t exist. Ruddy agrees. It turns out to be an easy fix, as Coppola later tells Ruddy mafia only appears once in the script. 

Just like that Ruddy turned one of the movie’s biggest threats into an ally. But did this really happen?

Broadly yes, but The Offer does take a few liberties with Ruddy and Colombo’s meeting. 

In Mark Seal’s Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli (opens in new tab), which The Offer is based on, he details that Ruddy wasn’t just grabbed off the street and brought to Colombo. Instead, their meeting was meticulously arranged with informal meetings held by others long before Ruddy and Colombo met. Ruddy had also already said they would delete any mentions of the mafia in the script and gave the Italian American Civil Rights League (set up by Colombo) the right to review the script before he met with Colombo. When the meeting between Ruddy and Colombo finally did happen, it wasn’t the one-on-one as in the show. The meeting was in front of more than 600 members of the League, Seal details. 

As far as Colombo reading the script, the scene appears to be accurate, per Seal's book. Colombo didn’t understand script formatting, told his subordinates to read it and eventually just trusted Ruddy to do what he said he would do.

Yet perhaps the craziest thing that happened in real life, the show doesn't even cover. After that initial meeting, Ruddy was summoned by Colombo and then had a press conference (opens in new tab) sprung on him where he said that The Godfather was working with the League, which made many people believe that the movie producers were openly working with the mob. 

Who is Bettye McCartt?

Juno Temple as Bettye McCartt in The Offer

Juno Temple as Bettye McCartt in The Offer (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

The role of Bettye McCartt has seen Juno Temple bring a kind of Keeley Jones from Ted Lasso vibe to The Offer. She plays McCartt as a determined and savvy Hollywood player and an invaluable partner and confidant for Miles Teller’s Ruddy. But who is Bettye McCartt? Was she a real Hollywood figure? 

She most certainly was.

McCartt came to Hollywood in the 1960s, moving from Oklahoma with her children— according to her obituary in The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab). She began working at 20th Century Fox as a publicist before working for Al Ruddy as his assistant on The Godfather. She did not receive a production credit for the movie but did get one on Ruddy’s follow-up movie, The Longest Yard.

However, McCartt made her mark in Hollywood elsewhere, as the talent manager to many well-known actors. She was the owner of Agency for Artists and a partner at the McCartt, Oreck & Barrett Talent Agency. Some of her clients throughout her career included George Clooney, Tom Selleck, Maureen O’Hara and Anthony Quinn.

Listen to Juno Temple talking about McCartt’s Hollywood legacy right here with Awards Daily (opens in new tab):

Did Robert Evans call Al Pacino a "shrimp"?

Matthew Goode and Miles Teller in The Offer

Matthew Goode and Miles Teller in The Offer (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

Robert Evans spends most of episode 3 fighting to keep his job at Paramount while rumors he is going to be ousted circulate. 

This appears to be an entirely fabricated storyline. Evans led Paramount from 1967 to 1974 and continued working with the studio as a producer until 2019, per Forbes (opens in new tab). As the storyline ends with Evans maintaining his position, it’s likely the producers just wanted a little extra drama with Evans this week.

In the show, after surviving his battle with Gulf & Western exec Barry Lapidus (Colin Hanks), almost immediately Evans goes into another fight with Coppola over the casting of Al Pacino as Michael. We saw in episode 2 that director Coppola wanted Pacino to play Michael and he's done a screen test to show to Evans. Barely two seconds into it Evans, enraged, shoots down the idea and says that "shrimp" will never be in the movie. Was Evans so adamantly against casting Pacino in what is now considered one of the actor’s most iconic roles?

Yep. Whether he called him a shrimp is another story, but according to a Vanity Fair (opens in new tab) article, Evans was quoted as saying, "A runt will not play Michael." For the record, Pacino is 5 foot 6 inches tall.

Evans had Robert Redford, Ryan O’Neal, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty in mind to play Michael. The battle for Pacino was one of the biggest between Coppola and Evans. So expect to see more about it in upcoming episodes.

All episodes of The Offer are now available to stream on Paramount Plus in the US and UK.

Michael Balderston
Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun.