a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


The surprising reception of The Godfather


Al Pacino – the perfect fit
Walter Murch Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

The other miracle of the film really is that Al Pacino emerged from this film as a star, and he was relatively, almost completely unknown before the film began. And what you saw in the film was the character of Michael who was not... who didn't want to be part of the family and over the course of the film, he emerges as the strongest person who eventually becomes the new Godfather. And this wouldn't have worked as well if it had been somebody like Robert Redford who was already a star. As soon as he appeared on the screen and said, you know, 'I'm not part of this family', you would not... Where is the trajectory there? And the other thing about that if somebody doesn't look Italian and says I'm not part of the family, the audience says, 'Well yes, that's true.' And there's no tension on that because I can see it. Whereas somebody like Al Pacino who looks extremely Italian and Sicilian who says, 'I'm not part of this family, I don't want to be part of this', there's a tension there because in every frame that you look at Al Pacino it says, 'Yes, you are.' And yet you see him struggling against this and eventually failing and being subsumed by the whole story of the film. So his trajectory as a character, what he looks like, how he emerges out of anonymity to take over, all of these things mirror the actual story of the film. But they mirror what actually happened to Al Pacino as an actor and competing with his brother actors for the approval of the Godfather, which is Marlon Brando, who they all were in awe of and adored.

Occasionally films get this fantastic resonance like The Godfather does, and it's down to the vision of the director because this is what Francis [Ford Coppola] wanted and his persistence and luck that it all worked out. It could not have worked out at some point, and somebody might not have been available, and the studio could have been more insistent and, and, and, lots of other problems with it. But in this particular case, that constellation of horizontal and vertical actually fit and made the film the strong film that it is.

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, Al Pacino, Michael Corleone, Robert Redford

Duration: 2 minutes, 48 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017