Diane Keaton assured “Godfather” fans last week that Francis Ford Coppola’s upcoming “Godfather Part III” recut (officially titled “The Godfather Coda”) would have them reconsidering Sofia Coppola’s panned performance as Michael Corleone’s teenage daughter Mary. What do Sofia and Francis Ford Coppola think about the performance and the backlash that followed all these years later? The two directors opened up to The New York Times about how reviews for Sofia’s acting caused pain and embarrassment but did not break their spirits.
Francis Ford Coppola cast daughter Sofia after Winona Ryder dropped out of “The Godfather Part III” because she got sick once arriving in Rome to film the sequel. Coppola had considered several high profile actors for the part, including Madonna and Julia Roberts, but he ultimately decided to replace Ryder with Sofia, who was already visiting the set while on break from college.
“Paramount had a list of many fine actresses who were older than I felt the character should be,” Coppola told The Times about replacing Ryder. “I wanted a teenager. I wanted the baby fat on her face.”
“It seemed like he was under a lot of pressure and I was helping out,” Sofia added about stepping in as a replacement. “There was this panic and before I knew it, I was in a makeup chair in Cinecittà Studios in Rome having my hair dyed…I wasn’t taking things super-seriously. I was at the age of trying anything. I just jumped into it without thinking much about it.”
As The New York Times notes, pans for Sofia’s performance ranged from “hopelessly amateurish” (The Post) to “gosling gracelessness that comes close to wrecking the movie” (Time). Sofia refused to let negative reviews damage her spirit, although being forced to do a high profile publicity tour after critical pans wasn’t ideal.
“It was embarrassing to be thrown out to the public in that kind of way,” Sofia told The Times. “But it wasn’t my dream to be an actress, so I wasn’t crushed. I had other interests. It didn’t destroy me.”
Francis Ford Coppola felt differently, telling the Times, “They wanted to attack the picture when, for some, it didn’t live up to its promise. And they came after this 18-year-old girl, who had only done it for me. The daughter took the bullet for Michael Corleone — my daughter took the bullet for me.”
“It taught me that as a creative person, you have to put your work out there,” Sofia added. “It toughens you up. I know it’s a cliché, but it can make you stronger.”
These days, Sofia finds it amusing that her performance as Mary continues to pop up in conversations. A few days before The Times interview, Sofia’s daughter informed her that she had read an article online ranking Mary’s death in “The Godfather Part III” as “the worst death scene ever in the history of movies.”
“I was like, oh my God, all these years later, it’s still a thing,” Sofia said. “I think it’s so funny that it lingers, all these years later. It’s fine.”
Paramount will be rolling out “The Godfather Coda” in theaters December 4 and on VOD December 8.