When Robert De Niro landed the role of the young mob boss Vito Corleone in the 1974 film “The Godfather: Part II,” he said he approached it like a “scientific experiment.” Performing a part first played by Marlon Brando, De Niro explained, required serious study.
“I went with Gray Frederickson [film producer] up to the Gulf and Western Building — which is now the Trump Tower — and went up to one of the screening rooms on the 28th floor and had an old video camera and videotaped all of Brando’s scenes,” De Niro recalled to CNN. “I took those and I studied those.”
The actor went on to win an Academy Award for his performance, making Brando and De Niro the only people to win Oscars for playing the same character.
Although De Niro had appeared in films before “The Godfather Part: II,” the project catapulted his career. More hits followed for him, including “Taxi Driver,” “The Deer Hunter” and “Raging Bull.”
“‘Godfather’ was the first that I remember, movie, that was like a big blockbuster,” De Niro said. “Then came other movies. I might have this wrong, like some of the Spielberg films and so on, but when [‘The Godfather: Part II’] came, I said this might be a good chance that it’ll be a success.”
De Niro had originally auditioned for the role of Sonny Corleone in “The Godfather,” but the part went to James Caan.
Had he gotten the role?
“I don’t know where I’d be,” De Niro said.
As the co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival, De Niro plans to commemorate the 45th anniversary of “The Godfather” with a screening of the first two films in the franchise on the festival’s closing night.
De Niro said he hasn’t seen the movies in years and plans to watch all six hours and 19 minutes.
“What happened when we had ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ [reunions], they pull you inside. You do the introduction, and they pull you inside and interview the cast while the movie is going on,” De Niro explained. “I wanted to get the experience with the audience, in this kind of setting.”
Seems only right to grant the Godfather this favor.