Synopsis : The Offer is based on Oscar®-winning producer Albert S. Ruddy’s extraordinary, never-revealed experiences of making “The Godfather.” The all-star cast includes Miles Teller as Albert S. Ruddy, Matthew Goode as Robert Evans, Juno Temple as Bettye McCartt, Giovanni Ribisi as Joe Colombo, Dan Fogler as Francis Ford Coppola, Patrick Gallo as Mario Puzo, Burn Gorman as Charles Bluhdorn and Colin Hanks as Barry Lapidus.
The 10-episode event series is created and written by Oscar® and Emmy-nominated writer Michael Tolkin (“Escape at Dannemora,” “The Player”) and also written and executive produced by Nikki Toscano (“Hunters”), who also serves as showrunner. In addition to Tolkin and Toscano, two-time Oscar®-winner Albert S. Ruddy (“Million Dollar Baby,” “The Longest Yard,” “Hogan’s Heroes”), Miles Teller, Russell Rothberg and Leslie Greif serve as executive producers on the series alongside Dexter Fletcher (“Rocketman”), who also directed the first block of the series.
An Exclusive Interview with Actor Patrick Gallo
Q: Mario Puzo wrote “The Fortunate Pilgrim” prior to “The Godfather” which is about his mother raising seven kids. How much did you research Mario Puzo, prior to his writing “The Godfather?”
PG: I read as much as possible. I really wanted to find him within his work. I felt that this was really the best place to fish out all the beautiful things about him. Because he cared so much about his work, he put everything into it, and he was a poet. All of that stuff lives within his words and the way he put them on the page. As deep as possible — I felt that that was the best way to find him.
Q: Yeah, his roots are there, particularly considering his creation of the family dynamic for “The Godfather.” It makes sense to have that come out.
PG: I think everything he did led up to that point; it had to. It just does with art. Whether it’s conscious or not, everything that happened before goes into whether it’s a stroke of a key or not. It comes into the art whether you like it or not. With anything, he needed all of that work to fuel what would eventually become a great commercial success.
Which, he didn’t really care all that much about. That’s not to say that he wasn’t happy with the money that came in from it. But he was an artist, really, a pure artist, and that meant the world to him.
Q: Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo were actually writing the screenplay together for “The Godfather” — that “dynamic duo”, picking each other’s brain, in a way. That’s so fascinating. Can you talk about creating that dynamic with Dan Fogler, who plays Francis Ford Coppola?
PG: It started with the fact that we were both very, very excited about doing what we were fortunate to be hired to do, which is play Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola. So starting off there.
Then it was this opportunity to be friends, hang out and get to know each other — for Patrick and Dan to get to know each other and create a friendship that just seeped into our work as actors. Then it was just there, it was effortless. When we came to the set, and it was Mario and Francis but underneath it was Patrick and Dan. We had inside jokes, we knew we looked at each other a certain way.
We could read each other in a way that reflected a rich respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. That was Puzo and Coppola. There was a mutual respect artistically, and a trust, and Danny and I established that as ourselves. We were very lucky actors that we were able to have that and bring it to set every day.
Q: Did you discover anything when they picked each other’s brains, that you found fascinating? Something that is not in the series?
PG: It’s a hard question to answer. It’s a little bit in the series, the idea that they both came from these different places. I think Coppola was out to prove that he could do it, but through a guise of angst and frustration, grudgingly taking on this project. Even though everybody was saying, “You can’t do it,” and other people were saying, “You have to do it.”
And for Puzo, it was like, “I’m this great success. I wrote ‘The Godfather’ and suddenly all this success that I’ve worked for my whole life, now it’s there.” Then suddenly I have to prove myself, that I can write this screenplay, that I’m not just looked at as an author; that I can actually be a screenwriter. So there were these interesting different challenges that they had. But both challenges at the same depth of complexity.
Q: I really find the relationship between Mario and his wife, Erika to be very interesting. She seems to have a say about what he says. Can you talk about that relationship?
PG: He loved her very much. Like in a lot of situations, your significant other can see what you’re not seeing all the time. A lot of times, and this goes back and forth— even between me and my wife — where it’s like I can see certain things she can’t see and vice versa.
When you realize that that exists between you two in your relationship, it’s the rare person that can make you pause. I think that is that person that loves you and can stop you and say “Hold on a minute. You need to think about this a little bit differently. Because it’s going to affect me, and I have something to say.”
When she spoke, he respected her and listened to what she had to say. I think that she had a lot to do with him giving himself a little more freedom to experiment with things that maybe he didn’t necessarily believe in, but that led him down a new road that completely changed his trajectory as an author.
Once again, that’s trust, and love, and saying, “There’s one person in this world that I’ll let tell me what I might need to do.” And that was Erika. Victoria Kelleher, who plays Erika in the show, she had that. I saw that in her. When I was doing those scenes with her, I loved her. I really did.
Q: I was fascinated by Michael Tolkin’s own script. He told me that he talked to Al Ruddy, who is still alive. What was fascinating about Tolkin’s script and the perspective that he had about “The Godfather”? It takes you totally where you don’t expect because there are so many things involved in making the film that we don’t really associate with “The Godfather” film.
PG: I know that Michael was very inspired by the story of Puzo and Sinatra, and that was really the catalyst for the whole story. I don’t want to speak out of school, because I don’t really know exactly how it became Ruddy’s perspective, and that was the path Michael took to writing the script. I don’t know exactly how it got to that. But interesting, for sure. Michael Tolkin knows the path.
Q: In the series, Mario wrote the letter to Marlon Brando. I don’t know if that was actually true. Did you research what he actually wrote about it or any relationship that happens afterwards? What was the relationship with Marlon?
PG: Brando was very, very moved by that. At that time he wasn’t getting a lot of deep love from the business. He really wasn’t working, and people were afraid of him. I think that that was like a really unexpected injection of respect to Brando.
He loved that: that Puzo had the courage to send that letter and say “Hey, man, I really, really love your work and I really want you to do this.” And I think Brando respected that Puzo had the courage to do that, to just reach right out and say, “Hey, can you do this? We’d really love for you to do it with you.” I think that that Brando loved Puzo for that reason. Puzo saw him, once again, as an artist and nothing more.
Q: The John Fontaine character in “The Godfather,” a lot of people believe that he is Frank Sinatra. In the series, Mario refutes that – it’s not Sinatra. Did Mario ever meet Sinatra to discuss or argue about that?
PG: Yeah, they had come into contact with each other two or three times in different restaurants, and never really made a deep connection. Just the, “Hey, how’re you doing?” kind of a thing. Not terribly crazy to meet each other, frankly. Sinatra had issues, and so was never super-warm — at least from the stories that I know about and the stories that I’ve heard of. They were semi-cold interactions. And that was it. That was it.
Q: I’m pretty sure you loved “The Godfather” growing up. What makes this film so iconic now? After you’re working on this “making-of” series, and knowing the perspective on Mario Puzo that you have, what do you think makes the film so special for so many people?
PG: I think that it reflects the show that we’re doing, which was so much that they had to go through to make it. When you go down through this process of making a film, it’s riddled with challenges, sandbags, boulders and explosions that just deter and detour every single choice you make. When you can pull a piece of art out of that kind of landscape, it’s going to be a beautiful piece of art. When you’re faced with all those challenges, I think that’s because of that.
Mario wrote this incredible book about these incredible people from a perspective that was not seen at that time. You know, gangster movies — James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson — they made great films, but they were very much on the surface, the simple things about it. He’s a tough guy, they’re going to get money, someone’s going to get killed, The End.
This was about family, about how there was a love and a trust, and there was also betrayal. These are the things that we deal with every day in our own families. And when Mario put that in the layers of a story about, you know, “the Mafia”, it changed how people were looking at it. It made it very real — frighteningly real.
When you can trust it like that, without thinking about it, and just go, “I believe everything that’s happening with these people because they’re real” — that’s what makes it an unbelievable film. It’s that you believe everything that’s happening, that’s being discussed, every situation that every family member is dealing with –- on their own and collectively —between Fredo and Sonny and Michael, and things they’re wrestling with. It’s really an unbelievable way to put truth into art. Puzo did it, with the book and the screenplay, and Coppola ingeniously put it on film. Rare moments.