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Fact vs fiction: The Offer episode 8 — did James Caan really beat up his Godfather co-star?

The Offer Paramount Plus Miles Teller Dan Fogler
(Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

Al Ruddy (Miles Teller) would surely tell you the devil you know is better than the one you don’t — at least based on his experience in the most recent episode of The Offer, "Crossing That Line." After forming an understanding with Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi) about the relationship between the mob and the production of The Godfather, everything is thrown out of whack following the assassination attempt and Joe Gallo (Joseph Russo) trying to intimidate Ruddy for a piece of the pie.

That is just one of the myriad of problems facing the making of The Godfather this week. Others include trying to scrounge up money so they can go shoot on location in Italy, Robert Evans’ personal life and drug use impacting his work and actor Gianni Russo (Branden Williams) going too far and getting a taste of his own medicine from co-star James Caan (Damian Conrad-Davis). But which of these events in the show — based on producer Al Ruddy’s experiences — actually happened and what has been "tweaked" for dramatic effect?

We’re looking at what is fact and what is fiction in The Offer, episode 8, "Crossing That Line." Check out our previous fact vs fiction pieces for The Offer right here:

Did James Caan beat up his Godfather co-star?

Actors sit and stand on a stoop in The Offer

Gianni Russo (Branden Williams) far left in orange suit filming The Godfather (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

The fiction: We’ve seen Gianni Russo be a live wire a few times already on the show, but he takes it to an unacceptable level in this episode. First, he is inappropriate with a costume designer and then later he goes "method," actually hitting Talia Shire (Cynthia Aileen Strahan) during the scene of domestic violence between Carlo and Connie. When Bettye McCartt (Juno Temple) tells Ruddy and Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) they are livid, but Ruddy has an idea.

One of their upcoming scenes shows Sonny getting payback against Carlo for hitting Connie. Rather than acting it out, Ruddy tells James Caan to go full force with it and really beat Russo up. Bettye goes up to Russo after the scene, punches him in the ribs and tells him to think about that before he ever tries to hit another woman.

The fact: The fight scene between Carlo and Sonny being more real than expected is true, but the reasoning appears to be fabricated.

Gianni Russo has said in multiple interviews, including Entertainment Weekly (opens in new tab), that Caan really did beat him up, ultimately breaking two ribs and chipping Russo’s elbow.

"We choreographed that scene for about a day and a half… Jimmy got a little aggressive, I would say and he improvised a few things like that little billy club he threw at me when I came off the stoop. He hit me right in the head with that, and then he throws me over the railing and he’s biting my hands… when I crawl out, he literally lifted me up with his kick… none of that was supposed to happen."

In an interview with VladTV (opens in new tab), Russo says the animosity between him and Caan stemmed from an incident at a bar, where Caan made a joke that nearly got Russo in trouble with a well-known gangster. Caan has denied that he disliked Russo and said that the fight was improvised, as detailed by The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab).

Meanwhile, in the same The Hollywood Reporter piece, Talia Shire talked about the domestic violence scene. She did not mention anything about Russo actually hitting her, so it appears that was something made up for the show.

Was Robert Evans on drugs?

Matthew Goode as Robert Evans in The Offer

Matthew Goode as Robert Evans in The Offer (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

The fiction: Robert Evans (Matthew Goode) is struggling after his breakup with Ali McGraw (Meredith Garretson). The head of Paramount has been seen in past episodes doing drugs and partying even harder than normal. In this episode, it’s clearly impacting his work. He can’t put together a pitch of Chinatown (1974) to Charlie Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman) and each time we see him he looks more and more disheveled. Ruddy finally calls him out on what is going on and Evans nearly collapses. Was Evans doing drugs while he was the head of Paramount?

The fact: If you ever want to know about the sheer amount of drug use in Hollywood in the late 1960s/1970s, read Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (opens in new tab), of which Robert Evans is a prominent figure. Based on that book, a piece in The New Yorker (opens in new tab) describes Evan’s cocaine use as "prodigious." Despite that, according to Mark Seal's book, Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli (opens in new tab), Evans’ cocaine use (along with some prescription drugs) impaired his performance, during the making of The Godfather, but not quite as much as The Offer depicts.

The breakup between Evans and McGraw stemmed from her sleeping with Steve McQueen and Evans is quoted as not having known about it until after The Godfather premiered. In addition, while Evans was using drugs during the making of the movie, anecdotes indicate it did not prevent him from making his valuable contributions to the movie.

When did Joe Gallo die?

Joseph Russo as Joe Gallo in The Offer

Joseph Russo as Joe Gallo in The Offer (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

The fiction: With Joe Colombo shot and unconscious in the hospital, Joe Gallo swoops in and tries to squeeze Ruddy for money. He threatens Ruddy to give him money, which Ruddy realizes for his and everyone else’s safety he'd better do. However, before that happens, Caesar (Jake Cannavale) shoots and kills Gallo as revenge. So, is this how and when Joe Gallo died?

The fact: While the broad brushstrokes of Gallo’s death in The Offer may be true, a good bit of creative license seems to have been taken. 

Firstly, Gallo did not die while The Godfather was in production. He was shot and killed on April 7, 1972 (opens in new tab), shortly after The Godfather was released. The show was correct, though, in pointing out that it Gallo was killed on his birthday. Also, while it's speculated the killing was an act of revenge for the shooting of Joe Colombo (who survived but was paralyzed), any connection to Colombo is just that, speculation.

Lastly, Gallo did not appear to have any direct connection to The Godfather production.

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

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.