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Al Pacino – the perfect fit


Horizontal casting
Walter Murch Film-maker
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There's another weave which is what you might call horizontal casting, which is the relationships between the actual people who are cast and does that mirror the relationships between the people in the play. And in that case, the relationship between Robert Redford and Laurence Olivier is not good horizontally because they come from different cultures, neither of them is Italian and etc.

So when Francis cast Marlon Brando in the role of the Godfather and cast four actors who had grown up acting in New York in the 1950s, the model for them as actors was Marlon Brando. He had acted on stage in New York in the late 40s, maybe a little in the early 50s. And then he had left to go to New York [sic – should be: Hollywood] leaving this kind of empty space that these other actors who were slightly younger, ten years younger than Marlon, came in to fill. And each one of them in a sense was interpreting Marlon Brando in their own ways. Sonny was the tough Streetcar Named Desire Brando. Al Pacino was the introspective, moody, broody Brando. Fredo was the kind of goofy Brando, something slightly wrong with him. And Robert Duvall was the earnest, focused, business-like Brando. So when you got these five actors sitting around a table, their relationships with each other were... mirrored exactly the relationships between the characters in the film. So Brando was the Godfather of all of these actors, and each of them was like a brother who was competing with each other to impress dad in some way.

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: The Godfather, Hollywood, Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, James Caan, Al Pacino, John Cazale, Robert Duvall

Duration: 2 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017