“The Offer,” directed by Adam Arkin, Dexter Fletcher, and Colin Bucksey, tells us one thing straight up: be it any industry, workplace, or profession, power dynamics affect all aspects of social life. Even an artist can not extricate himself from it. It is a state of total chaos, of anarchy, where no blood is spared, and the one who is able to harness the reins of the system rules the era. One has to realize that they live in a society that is far from being utopian. Your ideals, talent, and creativity cannot pave the way to success alone; they need a push, a platform to do so.
The “Big 5” studios provided that platform. It included Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. Pictures, RKO Radio Pictures, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Apart from the Big 5, there were more studios that didn’t guarantee a record-breaking collection, but still had enough impact to be counted in the league. Together they were called the Little 3, and included Universal Pictures, United Artists, and Columbia Pictures. There was constant warfare between these studios. Who gets the best script, who made the highest grosser of the year, who roped in the best actors, it was an endless race. Some wanted to replicate a hit formula, while others wanted to place their bets on something authentic.
The top officials of these studios had once had a keen sense of art and, more than that, knew where to place bets. They bid on the horse they knew had potential. Sometimes it backfired, and sometimes it led to the creation of cult classics. These were the power yielders. We would be mistaken if we thought that a film belonged to a director or an actor, who were merely the pieces on a larger chessboard. The elite bureaucrats of the film world were the marionettes who pulled the string and decided each and every move of the chess pieces.
“The Offer” is about the production of a film that every cinephile, at some point in his or her life, has been inspired by. The tide of time rolls on, often ruthlessly, but this film had its name written on that tide. It all started when Paramount Pictures decided to buy the rights to a novel called “The Godfather,” written by a writer who was struggling to increase the sales of his earlier works. Paramount wanted to sell the rights to the film as their previous venture based on the same genre didn’t do so well. But common sense prevailed, and they decided to make a film about it. Little did they know that the decision made that day by a handful of people would change the course of history and inspire a generation of artists yet to come.
How Was ‘The Godfather’ Brought Into Inception?
In episode 1 of “The Offer”, we see that in a dimly lit alley, a book store closes, and the disappointed writer sees his dreams coming to an end even before he can turn them into reality. The writer is named Mario Puzo, who had taken 6 years to write a novel called The Fortunate Pilgrim, which he had expected to be a path-breaking success. But that didn’t happen. The writer had lost all hope and didn’t know what to write next or how to pay back the huge amounts of debt to the lenders, who had now started threatening him. But there was one unusual thing that happened. There were a couple of paragraphs in the book about a mafia guy that attracted a lot of readers. Candida Donadio, a literary agent who represented the writer, asked him to think about a story that revolved around the mafia, a subject in which Mario was well versed.
A bruised Mario, after getting beaten by one of his lenders, reaches home and rants in frustration to his wife. His wife tells him to stop whining and to write a novel about the mafia as they desperately needed the money. But the problem Mario was facing was that he didn’t know how to state the obvious in a manner that was not so obvious. There was nothing that people didn’t know about the mafiosos operating from the underbelly of the country. He was having difficulty finding a unique perspective, an authentic story from that world. He stays awake the whole time and finally strikes gold. The story was not going to be about a gang but a gangster’s family. He decided that the Don had three sons: the eldest one was a hothead, the middle one was good-natured but weak, and the youngest was a war hero. He decided the title of his novel would be “The Godfather.”
Mario writes it, and Candida is impressed and highly hopeful about the sales too. She especially loves the line, “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
How Did Al Ruddy Produce Hogan’s Heroes?
Albert S. Ruddy was working in the programming division of Rand Corporation. He had this innate knack for identifying good stories. He could see through the visual aspects of it and actually predict what would work and what wouldn’t. He goes to a party, which is attended by the who’s who of the entertainment industry, with one of his friends and gets awestruck by the glamor and glitterati. That’s where he saw Bob Evans (Robert Evans, Paramount Pictures) for the first time.
Albert met Bernard Fein at the party. Fein was rather impressed by the insights that Albert had about the comedy sitcoms written by the writers. He asked him if he would like to jam together and pitch it to a production house. They come up with an idea, and Bernard Fein feels confident enough to pitch it to the big guns at CBS. The original idea gets rejected, and Ruddy improvises at the moment and introduces the concept of a wartime comedy titled “Hogan’s Heroes.” CBS decided to make it, and the series became one of the most loved sitcoms of all time.
Bob Evans was a strategist. He knew how to play his cards. He calls Arthur Hiller to his office and tells him that he would have full autonomy while directing and complete discretion regarding the final cut. But there was always a catch when it came to Bob. He wanted Ali MacGraw to be the leading lady in the film, which was being adapted from a novel written by Eric Segal called “Love Story.” Arthur was skeptical about casting Bob’s girlfriend for the role, but Bob knew how to have his way.
Charles George Bluhdorn was the founder and chairman of Gulf and Western Industries, which had acquired Paramount Pictures. He was worried about the dwindling profits of the production house. Barry Lapidus, a colleague of Bob’s, had come to warn him about the same. He told Bob that they needed hits, and that was the only way out. Bob had produced Rosemary’s Baby, which was a critical and commercial success, but after that, he was not able to replicate the success.
How Did Albert Ruddy Become The Producer Of ‘The Godfather’?
Albert went to the theater to watch a film. An epiphany struck him at that moment while sitting and observing each and every individual present in that theater. He realized that cinema was an experience that was much more than just good writing and good performance. It did something to people. It brought about a change in their behavior. He saw that even the most stoic personalities were letting it all go, and the expressive ones were so mesmerized that they found themselves dumbfounded. He knew he had to be in the movies, as that experience was priceless. Television was good, but it could never provide that same energy and passion that was felt by 300 people sitting and enjoying the movie together in a theater. He tells his wife, Francoise, about his mother. He says that she never showed any emotions ever in her life, except when she was at the movies. She cried and laughed only when she was touched by the magic of cinema.
The next day, he goes to the office of Paramount Pictures and meets Bob Evans. Ruddy takes the challenge of getting Robert Redfort on board for a budget-sensitive film. The film does not do that well, but Ruddy gains Bob’s trust.
Charlie Bluhdorn, Barry Lapidus, and Bob Evans were having a conversation when they got a call from Jack Warner, who offered to buy the rights to this bestselling novel, “The Godfather,” for 1 million dollars. Bob Evans convinces the others to not do so and tells them that a masterpiece could be created if they got their right hands on the wheel.
Bob calls Al Ruddy and asks him to be the producer of “The Godfather.” Al Ruddy meets Mario Puzo and takes the decision that the screenplay would be written by Puzo. It was something that had never been heard of before in Hollywood. Writers never wrote the screenplay. It was a challenge for Mario, who usually took half a decade to write a novel, and he had to deliver the script in less than three months. He encounters writer’s block. He could not think of how to go about it. Ruddy knew he had to bring a co-writer on board. Francis Ford Coppola was a probable name, but the problem was that he wouldn’t just agree to write the film, but also want to direct it. Ruddy convinces Bob Evans and brings Coppola on board. The ingredients were stacked, but now they had to be put with precision and fried together in the pan.
“The Offer” Episode 1: Ending – What Problem Did Frank Sinatra Have With Mario Puzo’s ‘The Godfather’?
In the 1st episode of “The Offer” we see that the Lucchese and Gambino crime families had started talking about the new novel written by Puzo. The singer, Frank Sinatra, had complained to them about “The Godfather,” and asked them to take measures against it. There was a character, written by Mario Puzo, named Johnny Fontane, that had an uncanny resemblance to the celebrated real-life singer, and was shown in a manner that the latter didn’t like. It couldn’t be said that it was merely a coincidence as Mario Puzo told Candida that they could ask Sinatra to play the character of Fontane if a film was ever made by Paramount Pictures, who had already bought the rights to the same. So basically Mario Puzo did have Sinatra in mind when he was writing the character.
Joseph Anthony Colombo, the head of Colombo family also joined in the conversation. The members of the “Five Families,” a group formed by the Italian-American crime families that ruled the mafia scene in those times, were waiting for that opportune moment when the water went overboard, and they got a strong reason to make a statement. Joseph Anthony Colombo thought that the novel had represented them in a bad way. For the mafia families, it was all about respect and honor. They couldn’t let anybody defame them in any manner. Francis Coppola met Mario Puzo, and they started jamming over the intricacies of the screenplay. They wanted it to feel organic and realistic. Joseph Colombo, on the other hand, sent his men to scare off Al Ruddy. They fired bullets at his car and made sure their voices were heard in the fabled alleys of Hollywood.
“The Offer” Episode 1 is streaming on Paramount+ and Voot Select.