Dan Fogler and Miles Teller, center.
“We have a problem.”
It’s a phrase uttered numerous times by Juno Temple’s Bettye McCartt in Paramount Plus’ new limited series The Offer, and while she may just be giving a production update to her boss, she also captures the complicated journey of making The Godfather with the singular sentiment.
“One of the byproducts of a masterpiece such as The Godfather is that it's very easy to think about it as having been born into the world whole,” Adam Arkin, who directs four episodes of The Offer, tells LA Confidential during a recent phone call. “There's a quality to a masterpiece of that nature that makes one ask, ‘How could it have been otherwise?’ You look at The Godfather and there's never a moment where you second guess that it could have been told any other way.”
The Offer, which premiered its first three episodes on April 28, unfurls Albert S. Ruddy’s quest to make what would become one of the most successful films of all time. Across 10 episodes, Al (Miles Teller) goes head-to-head— and occasionally aligns— with Paramount head Robert Evans (Matthew Goode), the New York mafia (particularly Giovanni Ribisi’s Joe Colombo), Paramount executive Barry Lapidus (Colin Hanks) and Paramount president Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman). While defending the vision of the movie’s creatives, namely director Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) and writer Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo), Al finds crucial support from his whip-smart, good-spirited secretary Bettye.
Dynamic duo: Teller and Juno Temple.
Among the endless obstacles Al faces is the casting of Al Pacino as Michael Corleone. At the time, Pacino was a theater success and had a couple of movie credits, but Paramount executives pushed back at his casting. As shown in the series, they particularly disliked that he wasn’t very tall, especially given that he was supposed to be playing a war hero.
Anthony Ippolito, who was previously in Netflix’s Grand Army, takes on the portrayal of the legendary actor on the precipice of stardom.
“He really thought he was gonna be fired, like almost every day,” Ippolito explains about Pacino. “He didn't really like being somewhere where he wasn't, if I'm not mistaken, and so it made for a very uncomfortable environment.”
Arkin applauds Ippolito’s performance as Pacino. While acknowledging his “uncanny resemblance,” the director ultimately points to the fact that Ippolito is a “wonderful actor.”
“He was not an actor that was going to be satisfied with something that was merely imitative,” Arkin says. “He was obviously such a devotee of Pacino’s that he really was able to capture the spirit of the guy, the nuances and his idiosyncrasies.”
Ippolito admits it was intimidating to take on the role, but explains he felt excitement more than anything. “To be a part in any way of helping tell the story of how this brilliant film was made, that's a dream for an actor.”
“Having anything to do with The Godfather is an honor,” he later adds.
Just like the The Godfather would be nothing without Al Ruddy, so would The Offer without Teller as its leading man.
“That indomitable spirit that Ruddy had, his unwillingness to be intimidated, even in circumstances in which he had some kind of personal fear, he was a guy that walked through that fear,” Arkin says, “and I think Miles has a wonderful ability to convey someone with that level of confidence and self assurance and someone that is able to keep their eye on the prize in spite of obstacles.”
Teller also serves as an executive producer of the series alongside the real-life Ruddy (in addition to writer-creator Michael Tolkin, writer Nikki Toscano, Russell Rothberg, Leslie Greif and director Dexter Fletcher). With Ruddy on the team, Arkin was able to gain essential insight about the making of the film. Through their conversations, he gathered just how driven Ruddy was and is.
Matthew Goode is Bob Evans.
“The other thing that Ruddy was very concerned that we remember is that there was a lot of humor behind the scenes,” he says. “They took their tasks very seriously and obviously the stakes were huge, but he said he wanted to make sure that the show captured the spirit of humor and, at times, outright insanity that went into the making of something this massive.”
The Offer propels on the eccentricities and likeability of its ensemble cast. As the series shows each team member of The Godfather was key to its eventual success, The Offer thrived, according to Arkin, because of its “extraordinary team.” In particular, he points to Toscano, Rothberg, production designer Laurence Bennett and directors of photography Sal Totino and Elie Smolkin.
“Some of the best people I've ever had the good fortune of working with,” Arkins says. “They really put their lifeblood into this and cared deeply about the people that they were working with.”
Temple, Teller, Fogler and Patrick Gallo.
This work ethos reflects Al’s commitment to The Godfather, and during the series, viewers see him experience a series of revelations about what it means to truly dedicate your life to cinema.
“People had to put their entire careers and reputations at risk in order to fight to make The Godfather exactly the way it was made,” Arkin says. “And when you see The Offer, you see all of the side alleys and the potential roadblocks that could have had it turn out to be a mediocre, uninspired tale. The people that made it fought to make it the masterpiece that it was, and that's what we ended up being gifted with.”
Photography by: Nicole Wilder/Paramount Plus; Kevin Scanlon; Macrae Marran