When Francis Ford Coppola was asked to direct The Godfather he had people in mind for each major role and when Paramount began casting for The Godfather they started going against the director’s wishes right off the bat. For the part of Michael Corleone Paramount wanted an established star that could bring some name recognition to the movie. Names such as Warren Beatty and Burt Reynolds were thrown around but Coppola wanted nothing to do with either of them. Then Paramount began insisting that rising star Robert Redford get the coveted role. Coppola begged Paramount to try and picture the fair haired and fair skinned Irish Redford playing the part of a person that was supposed to have southern Italian origins. Coppola had in mind an actor whom he had seen in small roles in a couple of movies but mostly in stage productions. Paramount insisted on Robert Redford but Coppola stuck to his guns and the part went to the unknown Al Pacino. Paramount disagreed but Pacino turned out to be perfect for the role and went on to put in an Oscar caliber performance as Michael Corleone.
While they were casting Vito Corleone for The Godfather Paramount initially insisted that an Italian actor named Carlo Ponti play the part. But Coppola insisted that Vito Corleone was an Italian-American and that his accent was not to be thick with Italian. Frank Sinatra had expressed an interest in the role and went so far as to say that he would do it but after Ponti was turned down Coppola had two other people in mind to play Vito Corleone. Coppola wanted either Laurence Olivier or Marlon Brando to play Vito Corleone because Coppola considered those to be the two greatest actors alive. Olivier was too ill to take the part so Brando was offered the part and he took it. It can only be imagined how nervous Coppola had to be when he had to tell Frank Sinatra that Marlon Brando was going to get yet another movie role that Sinatra wanted. Two times before, with On The Waterfront and Guys And Dolls, Sinatra would either have to take a different role or get no role at all because the role he wanted went to Marlon Brando. When it was all said and done Coppola had his Vito Corleone and Frank Sinatra had yet another role lost to Marlon Brando to file away in his head. Can you just imagine what The Godfather would have looked like?