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Fact vs Fiction: The Offer episode 5 — was Paramount up for sale?

Burn Gorman as Charlie Bluhdorn in The Offer
Burn Gorman as Charlie Bluhdorn in The Offer. (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

Even when Al Ruddy gets a win, it seems like he is immediately faced with two more problems on The Offer, the Paramount Plus original series on the making of The Godfather. That is the case once again in The Offer episode 5, "Kiss the Ring." But what about the challenges in the episode are fact and what are fiction?

In "Kiss the Ring," Ruddy (Miles Teller) has to convince Robert Evans (Matthew Goode) to help him get Al Pacino (Anthony Ippolito) out of his contract for another movie so he can do The Godfather (he does); the cast, now fully assembled, meets for a dinner; the movie’s budget is ballooning and Paramount sends in an overseer named Jack Ballard (Paul McCrane); all the while, Charlie Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman) and Barry Lapidus (Colin Hanks) consider selling Paramount. On the mob side of things, Joey Gallo causes problems for Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), who again shows why he is a powerful ally, but one that puts Ruddy in a difficult position when Colombo calls an impromptu press conference talking about the League’s close association with The Godfather, which did really happen.

We’re separating what’s fact and what’s fiction in The Offer episode 5. Check out our previous fact vs fiction recaps for The Offer episode 1, episode 2, episode 3 and episode 4

Was Gulf+Western looking to sell Paramount?

Colin Hanks sits at a desk in The Offer

Colin Hanks as Barry Lapidus in The Offer. (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

One of the big questions on everybody’s mind in episode 5 of The Offer is if Gulf+Western is going to sell off Paramount Pictures. The conglomerate founded by Charlie Bluhdorn purchased Paramount in the '60s when it was struggling, but despite hits like The Odd Couple and Love Story, it wasn’t doing much better when The Godfather was being made. Lapidus leads the charge for selling Paramount and Bluhdorn seems willing, if not leaning, toward selling. Did this really happen?

Yes, Paramount Pictures was at risk of being sold by Gulf+Western, though the timeline appears to be off. In Mark Seal’s Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli (opens in new tab), the author details two instances where Paramount could have been sold off. The first was in 1966 when the war movie Is Paris Burning? flopped. Bluhdorn gave his own personal touch in trying to make that movie a hit, but despite the efforts the movie was panned. Fun side fact, Is Paris Burning? was co-written by Francis Ford Coppola.

The second time Paramount was potentially on the chopping block was in 1969. Like in The Offer, it was the board pressuring Bluhdorn to sell; Seal cites a BusinessWeek article at the time with the headline "Some Glitter Is Gone at Gulf+Western." But rather than Love Story being the example of a hit that couldn’t save the studio (Love Story wouldn’t come out until December 1970), it was Rosemary’s Baby. Not to mention that The Godfather was about two years away from starting production in 1969; heck Puzo’s novel had only been out for a couple of months.

Ultimately, Gulf+Western did not sell Paramount Pictures, though we’ll save the details as to how and why as The Offer is likely going to answer those questions itself.

Did The Godfather cast have that dinner scene?

Justin Chambers makes a toast in The Offer

Justin Chambers as Marlon Brando leads a cast dinner. (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

After all the struggles with casting, Coppola (Dan Fogler) and Ruddy finally secure Pacino and have the Corleones all set. To celebrate, they have a dinner at an Italian restaurant where all of the actor’s quickly fall into their roles, led by Marlon Brando (Justin Chambers) but picked up on in an intense exchange between James Caan (Damian Conrad-Davis) and Gianni Russo (Branden Williams), as they nearly scuffle but eventually make Russo kiss Brando’s "ring."

Did the cast fall into their roles in this way over an Italian meal? Apparently so. Al Pacino has been quoted saying (opens in new tab), "The most interesting thing that happened is that at the dinner [was] everybody went into their role. … we retreated into our characters."

Coppola would add, "[A]fter that dinner, it was done. They were a family."

Of course, families sometimes like to play jokes on each other. A Vanity Fair (opens in new tab) article recounts that after the dinner, Caan and Robert Duvall were riding in a car together and stopped next to Brando in another car. Duvall egged Caan to moon Brando, which he did. The legendary actor got a big kick out of it.

Were mob members part of The Godfather crew?

Jake Cannavale and Miles Teller in The Offer

Jake Cannavale as Caesar and Miles Teller as Al Ruddy in The Offer. (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

We’ve already seen Joe Colombo inserting his influence on The Godfather from the outside in previous episodes and again in episode 5 on Congressman Biaggi (Danny Nuci), but the show alludes that the mob wasn’t just an external presence, but that there were actually gangsters that found their way into production jobs for the movie. Is this true?

It’s hard to be definitive, but it seems like this one may be more fiction than fact. Though Colombo and the Italian American Civil Rights League did provide assistance to the production, there’s little evidence that anyone ever actually worked as an official member of the crew. Peter Bart, who was a Paramount executive when The Godfather was made, wrote in The Week (opens in new tab) that "several of the bad boys found their way onto the set," but then said a “peace treaty” was arranged. The mob's help to The Godfather appeared to be more along the lines of encouraging local businesses to participate and people wanting a part in the movie.

Many known gangsters did make their way onto the set visiting or watching the actors — including Russell Buffalino and Carlo Gambino, according to Mark Seal — but they were not part of the production.

The only people that had mob experience that made their way into the movie were actors, among which were Gianni Russo, who played Carlo, and another actor we’re certainly going to be talking about for a future episode.

New episodes of The Offer are released on Paramount Plus every Thursday.

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.