‘The Offer’ explores the challenges of making a movie about the mafia
“The Godfather” (1972) was a groundbreaking movie that established Al Pacino as an acclaimed actor and confirmed that Marlon Brando was among the best of his generation’s stars.
Almost as fascinating as the mafia story is how the movie was produced against a backdrop involving the future of Paramount Pictures, Hollywood politics and the mafia’s real-life violence.
The story is told in a compelling way in “The Offer,” streaming on Paramount+, with new episodes on Thursdays. (You can watch the previous episodes there as well.)
“The Offer” is based on Albert S. Ruddy’s experience as he went from producing “Hogan’s Heroes,” a CBS sitcom set at a World War II POW camp, to getting Hollywood to take him seriously as a movie producer. He persuaded Robert Evans, head of Paramount Pictures, then owned by Gulf+Western, to let him produce a movie adaptation of Mario Puzo’s bestselling novel, “The Godfather.”
Mr. Ruddy, who’s an executive producer of “The Offer,” found he had to fight for his creative vision in the face of obstacles such as Mr. Evans, who objected to casting Mr. Pacino as Michael Corleone, and the temper and impatience of Charles Bluhdorn, the Gulf+Western chairman. He also had to deal with the mafia, who had the power to shut down the movie’s production with its control of the unions.
All this was happening while the mafia was having its own internal war.
“The Offer” succeeds because of its commitment to showing all the people with all of their human strengths and flaws. It’s an honest depiction of what it takes to make a movie on something as controversial as the mafia, and it shows what can be done creatively when a movie producer, his director (Francis Ford Coppola) and screenplay writers (Mr. Coppola and “Godfather” author Mario Puzo) stick to high standards of quality, regardless of the obstacles.
Actor (and “The Offer” executive producer) Miles Teller effortlessly becomes Mr. Ruddy, the calm center of the Hollywood storm.
Matthew Goode is dramatic and effective in playing Mr. Evans, the studio head who loves Hollywood and its women and parties. His girlfriend at the time was Ali MacGraw, and he produced the movie that starred her, “Love Story.”
But some of the best acting is by Burn Gorman, who portrays Mr. Bluhdorn, the erratic, temperamental Gulf+Western chairman who was stubborn enough to get his way but willing to listen to another point of view. He was a complex, real-life player in Hollywood, perhaps best-known for buying Desilu Studios and its properties “Star Trek” and “Mission Impossible” and bringing all that under the Paramount Pictures banner in one of the smartest business moves in history.
Playing Barry Lapidus, Mr. Bluhdorn’s business-minded sidekick, is Colin Hanks.
Mr. Lapidus’ goal was ensuring the financial future of Gulf+Western. That goal clashed at times with the creative goals of Mr. Ruddy and Mr. Coppola, played with enthusiasm by Dan Fogler.
Also effective is Patrick Gallo as Mr. Puzo, the author who demonstrated he would write screenplays. Besides co-writing “The Godfather” with Mr. Coppola, Mr. Puzo went on to write the story for the 1978 “Superman” movie starring Christopher Reeve.
“The Offer” stands out for its look at the challenges of filming in New York City and the challenges Mr. Ruddy faced in convincing the mafia not to oppose his film. He develops a friendship with mafia leader Joe Colombo, played with an effective mix of calmness and decisiveness by Giovanni Ribisi.
On top of all this, “The Offer” explores the start of women gaining some influence behind-the-scenes in Hollywood movies. A key example is Mr. Ruddy’s assistant Juno Temple, played brilliantly by Bettye McCartt. Ms. Temple went well beyond the job description of an assistant in helping to get “The Godfather” produced.
And it’s sheer fun to watch actor Justin Chambers playing Marlon Brando — and Mr. Chambers playing Mr. Brando playing Don Vito Corleone.
It was also good casting that “The Offer” found someone who looks and sounds like Mr. Pacino from the 1970s: Anthony Ippolito.
“The Offer” is a must-see movie for “Godfather” fans and people interested in how movies end up on the big screen. Each episode is followed by behind-the-scenes interviews with the producers, directors and actors.