Fact vs fiction: The Offer episode 9 — was the Italian mafia involved in The Godfather?

Miles Teller in The Offer
Miles Teller as Al Ruddy in The Offer (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

A frequent complaint about new movies is that they are too long (we even did some research and found out that yes, movies are getting longer), but some movies truly make the most of that extra runtime, with one example being The Godfather. The Godfather (at two hours and 55 minutes, per IMDb), is an epic that demands its lengthy runtime as it portrays the operatic saga of the Corleone family. But did Paramount want to shorten the movie?

This is just one of the questions that come up in the penultimate episode of The Offer, the Paramount Plus limited series about the making of The Godfather. Also in the episode, Al Ruddy has to solve problems with the mafia yet again — first in Sicily and then back in New York. However, what in this latest episode of The Offer really happened and what has been made up?

We’ve done some research on what is fact and what is fiction in The Offer episode 9, "It’s Who We Are." Check out our previous fact vs fiction pieces for The Offer right here: 

Was the Italian mafia involved in The Godfather?

Juno Temple in The Offer

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

The fiction: Al Ruddy (Miles Teller) found that he could not make The Godfather in New York without the help of Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi) and the mob. Though the partnership worked out, as a slimmed-down production headed to Sicily, the producer was happy to put the mob ties behind him. Or so he thought.

Arriving in Corleone (yes, it is a real town), Ruddy is soon introduced to a man who can get them whatever they need. Ruddy is immediately uneasy about this and asks their Italian assistant director if he is mafia, to which the AD replies yes. As working with one mobster was enough for him, Ruddy takes the production out of Corleone and finds another town that has no real mafia influence.

The fact: The Godfather production did discover that the Sicilian mafia was a heavy influence in Corleone, but the production’s interaction with them didn’t happen as it did in The Offer.

In the show, Ruddy is introduced to the mafia connection while everyone sits down for a nice meal and is specifically asked to meet with them the next day. According to Mark Seal’s book, Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli, the crew found out about the mafia presence in Corleone when production designer Dean Tavoularis caused a stir by taking pictures. A judge had been assassinated and it was believed the killer was hiding out in Corleone and many thought taking pictures would draw the ire of the mafia.

However, per Seal, that wasn’t even the main reason that The Godfather production team chose not to shoot in Corleone. Seal describes the town as "too urban, too crowded" to meet the vision Coppola had for the scenes. Instead, they ended up filming in the town of Taormina (also famously used in 1988's free-diving movie, The Big Blue).

Did Paramount try to cut The Godfather’s runtime?

Dan Folger in The Offer

Dan Folger in The Offer (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

The fiction: With Robert Evans (Matthew Goode) out of commission because of his spiraling drug and personal problems, Barry Lapidus (Colin Hanks) arrives on the studio lot to take over the day-to-day operations. He brings a strictly business approach to all of his decisions, one of which includes cutting The Godfather down by 30-45 minutes, to make it closer to two hours and therefore allowing more showings in a day and boosting its potential box office take.

Coppola (Dan Folger) and Ruddy obviously disagree but seem to be fighting a losing battle. That is until Evans returns (after a pep talk from Ruddy) and convinces everyone that the longer cut of The Godfather is the better movie and the only way that it will succeed.

The fact: So a couple of things right off the bat. First, while (as detailed previously) studio head Evans was dealing with drug problems and a bad back during the production of The Godfather, he did not appear to go AWOL at any point, at times even working on The Godfather from a gurney. Also, Barry Lapidus is not a real figure, but a combination of different Gulf + Western/Paramount executives. One of them likely being Frank Yablans.

Yablans was Paramount’s head of distribution at the time of The Godfather. In an interview with Peter Bart, Ruddy recalled the debate over The Godfather’s length with Yablans. The producer said that Evans was a fan of the two hours 50-minute version of the movie, but Yablans declared, "I’m not putting out any movie at two hours and 50 minutes. Tell them to cut a half-hour." They did and after watching the shorter cut, Evans said that the movie felt longer at two hours and 20 minutes than it was at two hours and 50 minutes. Ruddy suggests that it’s because you lose the nuance that makes audiences care for the characters.

Of course, the longer version of the movie won out and Evans, Ruddy and Coppola were proven right.

Was there a special screening of The Godfather just for the mob?

Jake Cannavale in The Offer

Jake Cannavale in The Offer (Image credit: Nicole Wilder/Paramount+)

The fiction: With the movie nearing completion, attention is starting to go to the premiere and Caesar (Jake Cannavale) is asking when the mob guys who helped out with The Godfather are going to get their tickets. Ruddy knows that Paramount will never let members of the mob attend The Godfather’s big premiere, so what is the producer to do? Well, he absconds with a print of the movie and holds a private screening for a bunch of gangsters in New York. They love the movie.

The fact: The Offer pretty much nails this detail. According to a Vanity Fair story, because Paramount wasn’t going to let mobsters attend the official premiere, Ruddy did sneak a print of The Godfather to New York for a private screening. Those in attendance loved the movie. So much in fact that Ruddy said the projectionist at the screening got a $1,000 tip.

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

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 Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.