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‘The Godfather Part II’ — 12 Surprising Facts About the Best Sequel of All Time

Find out how Martin Scorsese almost became the director and other interesting facts. 


Released in 1974, The Godfather Part II, is an epic crime drama, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It stands as a towering achievement in filmmaking, captivating audiences with its intricate storytelling, compelling characters and unparalleled performances.

Building upon the success of its predecessor, The Godfather, this sequel not only lived up to expectations but exceeded them, solidifying its place as one of the greatest films ever made.

The Godfather Part II continues the saga of the Corleone crime family, weaving a complex narrative that spans decades and continents. The film explores the parallel rise of Michael Corleone (portrayed by Al Pacino) as the new Don of the family empire and the early life of his father, Vito Corleone (played by Robert De Niro), as he establishes himself as a powerful mafia boss in 1920s New York.

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As Michael navigates the treacherous world of organized crime, he must confront betrayal, ambition, and the ghosts of his past, all while seeking to secure his family’s legacy.

The Godfather Part II was produced by Paramount Pictures and the screenplay was co-written by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo, based on Puzo’s novel The Godfather. The film received widespread critical acclaim upon its release and garnered numerous accolades.

Here, we look at the surprising behind the scene facts of The Godfather Part II.

1. A sequel was planned from the start

Robert De Niro (1974) (The Godfather Part II)
Robert De Niro (1974)

The early buzz on the original movie, The Godfather, was so positive that a sequel was planned before the original feature was even finished filming.

2. Salaries increased in The Godfather Part II

Al Pacino and John Cazale (1974)
Al Pacino and John Cazale (1974)

Al Pacino earned $25,000 in the first film, but was paid $500,000 plus a 10% share of the profits for this film.

Talia Shire was only paid $1,500 for playing Connie in the first film, but she received $30,000, with a $10,000 bonus for the second.

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3. Short and sweet on set

Diane Keaton and Robert Duvall (1974)(The Godfather Part II)
Diane Keaton and Robert Duvall (1974)

Filming only took one hundred four days.

4. Sequel just as good as the first

Al Pacino (1974)
Al Pacino (1974)

This was the first film sequel to receive five Academy Award nominations for acting. Talia Shire (Best Actress in a Supporting Role), Lee Strasberg (Best Actor in a Supporting Role), Michael V. Gazzo (Best Actor in a Supporting Role) and Al Pacino (Best Actor) all were nominated, and Robert De Niro took home the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

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5. And the Oscar goes to…

Diane Keaton (1974)(The Godfather Part II)
Diane Keaton (1974)

Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only actors to win Oscars for playing the same character.

6. Language other than English

Al Pacino (1974)(The Godfather Part II)
Al Pacino (1974)

Robert De Niro is one of only eight actors (Sophia LorenChristoph WaltzRoberto BenigniBenicio Del Toro, Penélope Cruz, Marion Cotillard and Youn Yuh-jung) to win an Academy Award for a role primarily in a language other than English, since almost all of his dialogue in this film is in the Sicilian dialect of Italian.

In fact, De Niro only speaks 17 words of English in the entire film. He spent four months learning to speak the Sicilian dialect of Italian in order to play Vito Corleone.

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7. Key parts were rewritten in The Godfather Part II

Al Pacino (1974)(The Godfather Part II)
Al Pacino (1974)

A test screening of the film garnered negative reactions from the audience. They found cutting back and forth between Michael and young Vito confusing and bothersome. Francis Ford Coppola and his editors decided to decrease the frequency of the transitions in order to make the parallel stories easier to follow.

Lee Strasberg became ill during shooting, but instead of delaying production, Roth’s character was re-written to be an ailing old man.

8. Based on the book or new?

Lee Strasberg and Al Pacino (1974)
Lee Strasberg and Al Pacino (1974)

Though it claims to be based on the novel by Mario Puzo, only the scenes about the young Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) are based on the book. The story revolving around Michael (Al Pacino) is unique to the film.

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9. Comeback for Brando?

Robert De Niro (1974(The Godfather Part II)
Robert De Niro (1974)

Marlon Brando was scheduled to return for a cameo in the flashback at the end of the film but he did not show up for shooting on the day the scene was filmed. Francis Ford Coppola re-wrote the scene without Vito, and it was filmed the next day.

10. Al Pacino called the shots in The Godfather Part II

Francesca De Sapio and Robert De Niro (1974)(The Godfather Part II)
Francesca De Sapio and Robert De Niro (1974)

Production nearly ended before it began, when Al Pacino’s lawyers told Francis Ford Coppola that he had grave misgivings with the script, and was not coming. Coppola spent an entire night re-writing it before giving it to Pacino for his review. Pacino approved and the production went forward.

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11. Historically accurate

Robert De Niro (1974)
Robert De Niro (1974)

When little Vito arrives at Ellis Island, he is marked with a circled X. Ellis Island immigrants were marked with this if the inspector believed the person had a mental or physical defect.

Originally, the actors in the flashback scenes wore pants with zippers. Then it was pointed out that the zipper had not been invented at that time, so some scenes had to be re-shot with button-fly trousers.

12. And the director of The Godfather Part II is…

Diane Keaton and Al Pacino (1974)
Diane Keaton and Al Pacino (1974)

Francis Ford Coppola had a lot of challenges directing the original film, The Godfather, and asked to pick a different director for the sequel, while taking the title of producer for himself.

He chose Martin Scorsese, who the film executives rejected. Thus, Coppola agreed to direct the film, with a few conditions. This included: that the sequel be interconnected with the first film with the intention of later showing them together; that he be allowed to direct his own script of The Conversation (1974); that he be allowed to direct a production for the San Francisco Opera; and that he be allowed to write the screenplay for The Great Gatsby (1974).

Once granted, Francis Ford Coppola was given nearly complete control over production. This was not the case with the first film. In his commentary, Coppola said this resulted in a shoot that ran very smoothly despite multiple locations and two narratives running parallel within one film.

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