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Al Pacino becoming a star


Bankable actors do not always have the chemistry
Walter Murch Film-maker
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And it was the genius of Francis [Ford Coppola], who went to the wall to get that particular casting, which is very risky because Brando was supposedly box office poison at that time. He'd had a series of flops. Not many, but enough to convince Hollywood that he was not bankable anymore. And he was difficult, which is even worse than being not bankable. And these other guys were, who are they? You know, we want Robert Redford. The original casting that the studio wanted was Robert Redford as Michael, and Laurence Olivier as the Godfather. And Francis turned it down. 'What, you mean, you're going to turn down the chance to work with the greatest actor in the world, and the biggest star in the world?' 'Yes, he's not right for the film.' The studio gets mad, but eventually Francis, just by power of his... You know, he has a sort of Godfather-y, Jedi mind trick of being able to convince people that this is the best idea.

And the success of the film is testament to that. But if you think of, you know, it's hard, but imagine the film with Laurence Olivier and Robert Redford. They're not part of the same... The dynamic between them is very different. Laurence Olivier is a great actor, but he's a classically trained British actor playing an Italian mobster. 'Okay, I think I can.' But Robert Redford, who is a talented actor, and a star, and, 'Okay, I think, maybe, I hope.' And a lot of films are made on that hope. I hope it will work because on paper it looks great, they're bankable, great people. But it's all about the internal chemistry of it.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Lancelot, First Knight, The Godfather, Hollywood, Richard Gere, Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando, Laurence Olivier

Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017