- "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
- ―Michael Corleone[src]
The Godfather Part III is a 1990 American crime film written by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, and directed by Coppola. It completes the story of Michael Corleone, a Mafia kingpin who tries to legitimize his criminal empire. The movie also weaves into its plot a fictionalized account of real-life events — the 1978 death of Pope John Paul I and the Papal banking scandal of 1981–1982 — and links them with each other and with the affairs of Michael Corleone. The film stars Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and Andy Garcia, and features Eli Wallach, Joe Mantegna, George Hamilton, Bridget Fonda, and Sofia Coppola.
Coppola and Puzo originally wanted the title to be The Death of Michael Corleone but this was not acceptable to Paramount Pictures. Coppola has stated that The Godfather film series is in fact two films, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and Part III is the epilogue. Part III received mixed to positive reviews, grossed $136,766,062 and was nominated for seven Academy Awards.
A director's cut was released in December 2020, called Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.
The movie begins in 1979, with a brief flashback establishing the long and tragic history of criminal activity within, and by, the Corleone family. Much has changed. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is now approaching 60 and feels tremendous guilt for indulging in his ruthless ambition many years ago. Although his previous conquests have made him a very rich man, the thoughts of his children, Anthony (Franc D'Ambrosio) and Mary (Sofia Coppola), their future and happiness, and his legacy are the only things keeping him going. His adopted brother Tom Hagen is now dead. The Corleone compound at Lake Tahoe is abandoned and in disrepair. Michael and Kay (Diane Keaton) divorced in 1959, and Michael gave her custody of their children.
Michael has returned to New York City, where he is using his enormous wealth and power to restore his dignity and reputation in the eyes of the public. The violent criminal element of the Corleone family has been largely abandoned, ostracized by Michael as well as the public, which no longer romanticizes the gangster lifestyle. Michael has embraced corporate America, which is now more tolerant of Michael's nihilism. He has rebuilt the Corleone interests as a legitimate enterprise using the blood money from his gangster years. The thugs and soldiers from Michael's past, including Al Neri, have either died, gone into the underground, or have been relegated to the background, serving as bodyguards for Michael and his family. Michael now struggles between repairing his fragile relationships while trying to contain the violent criminals that are still a part of his decaying criminal empire. In an attempt to break with the past, Michael has created a charity, the Vito Corleone Foundation, in memory of his father. At a ceremony in St. Patrick's Cathedral, presided over by Archbishop Gilday, Michael is named a Commander of the Order of St. Sebastian. Kay, who has remarried, attends the ceremony with their children.
At the lavish party following the ceremony, Kay and Michael have an uneasy reunion where she tells him the award and ceremony were a shameful display given his history of violence and greed. Anthony tells his father that he is going to drop out of law school to pursue a career as an opera singer. Kay supports his choice, but Michael disagrees, wishing that his son would finish law school or join the family business. Michael eventually acquiesces to Anthony's wishes. Meanwhile, Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), Sonny Corleone's illegitimate son (with Lucy Mancini), shows up at the party. He is embroiled in a feud with Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna), the Corleone family's enforcer who has been running the Corleone Family's crime businesses in New York. What remains of the old Corleone criminal empire is now under Zasa's stewardship. However, the Corleone's old neighborhood in New York's Lower East Side is in ruins, and has become lawless.
In Michael's study, Vincent and Zasa tell him about their feud. The discussion grows violent, with Vincent accusing Zasa of being an out-of-control monster who mocks Michael behind his back. Michael says that he is no longer involved in mafia affairs and that whatever bad blood exists between Vincent and Joey Zasa is none of his business, and must be settled between only them. He asks the two men to make peace with one another. The two men embrace, but Zasa insults Vincent by calling him a bastard. Enraged, Vincent bites off part of Zasa's ear. Zasa is escorted out and Michael scolds Vincent for his violent ways. However, impressed by Vincent's loyalty, Michael agrees to take his nephew under his wing. The party concludes with a family picture where Michael asks Vincent to join the rest of the family.
That night, two men break into Vincent's apartment, after Vincent has spent the night with a female journalist, named Grace Hamilton (Bridget Fonda), who he picked up at the party. Using Hamilton as bait, Vincent brutally kills one in order to frighten the other into revealing Zasa as the man who sent them. Vincent then ruthlessly kills the second man.
Later, in an attempt to garner respectability and wealth for the Corleone Family through legitimate enterprise, Michael seeks to buy the Vatican's shares in Immobiliare, an international real estate holding company, of which 25% is controlled by the Vatican. With the help of his lawyer B.J. Harrison (George Hamilton), he negotiates the transfer of $600 million to the Vatican Bank with Archbishop Gilday, who has plunged the Holy See into tremendous debt through his poor management and corrupt dealings. While in Vatican City, Michael learns that several influential parties oppose the deal for many reasons, not the least of which is the extensive criminal history that has tarnished the Corleone name. Coupled with the failing health of Pope Paul VI, ratification of the deal will be far more complicated than Michael had anticipated.
Don Altobello (Eli Wallach), an elderly New York mafia chief, tells Michael that his old Mafia partners, members of the Commision, want in on the Immobiliare deal. A meeting is arranged in Atlantic City, and Michael appeases most of the Dons with generous payoffs from their casino days from his own massive fortune. Zasa, however, gets nothing. Furious, he declares that Michael is his enemy, and tells everyone in the room they must choose between him and Michael. Zasa storms out of the meeting. Don Altobello runs after him to talk him into coming back. Minutes later, the doors are all sealed and a helicopter hovers above the conference room and sprays a barrage of bullets through the ceiling windows. Almost everyone is killed, but Michael, Vincent, and Michael's long-term bodyguard and caporegime, Al Neri, manage to escape. Back at his apartment in New York, as Michael considers how to respond to this hit, with Vincent advocating Zasa's murder. Michael realizes and Altobello authorized the attack and he suffers a diabetic stroke, and is subsequently hospitalized. During the attack, in a near-delirium, Michael screams out the name of his brother, Fredo, whose murder he had ordered some 20 years earlier.
Though they are cousins, Vincent and Mary begin a romantic relationship. Unbeknownst to Michael, Vincent, with the urging of his aunt Connie (who is now acting as Michael's unofficial consigliere) plots revenge against Joey Zasa. During a street fair similar to that seen in The Godfather Part II, Vincent and his accomplices kill Zasa's bodyguards, and Vincent, disguised as a mounted New York police officer, murders Zasa himself. Michael, still hospitalized, berates Vincent when he finds out, but Vincent insists that he got the go-ahead from Al Neri and Connie. Michael insists that Vincent end his relationship with Mary because Vincent's involvement in the family puts Mary's life in jeopardy.
The family travels to Sicily. Michael tells Vincent to pretend to defect to Don Altobello to find out who he is working with, under the pretense that Michael's disapproval of his relationship with Mary has caused Vincent to become disloyal. Altobello supports the idea of Vincent switching his allegiance, and introduces him to Licio Lucchesi, the man behind the plot to prevent Michael's acquisition of Immobiliare.
Michael visits Cardinal Lamberto, a well-intentioned and pious priest, to speak about the Immobiliare deal. Lamberto convinces Michael to make his first confession in thirty years; among other sins, Michael confesses to ordering the killing of his brother Fredo. After confessing Michael breaks down in tears. He is told by Lamberto that it is "just that he should suffer," and that although he could tell Michael to repent, he knows Michael will not. Nevertheless, he absolves Michael of his sins. Touring Sicily with Kay, who has arrived for Anthony's operatic debut, Michael also asks for her forgiveness. As both admit that they still love each other, Michael receives word that Don Tommasino, his Sicilian friend and ally of the Corleone family for half a century, has been killed, signaling that a new round of violence is about to begin. After the death of the old pope, Cardinal Lamberto is elected Pope John Paul I, which means that the Immobiliare deal will likely be ratified, due to his intention to "clean up" the dealings of the Vatican. The new Pope's intentions come as a death knell to the plot against the ratification of the Immobiliare deal, prompting frantic attempts by the plotters to cover their own tracks.
Vincent tells Michael what he has learned from Altobello: Lucchesi is behind the plot against the Immobiliare deal, and a master assassin known as Mosca (the man who killed Tommasino), has been hired by Altobello to kill Michael. Vincent wants to strike back, but Michael cautions him, saying that if he goes ahead with such a plan, there will be no going back. Vincent insists on revenge, and Michael relents. He makes Vincent head of the Corleone family, the new Don. In exchange for the promotion, Vincent agrees to put an end to his relationship with Mary once and for all.
The family travels to Palermo to see Anthony perform the lead in Cavalleria Rusticana at the renowned opera house Teatro Massimo. Meanwhile, Vincent makes plans to seek revenge against the Corleone family's enemies. Interspersed with scenes from Anthony's performance are the brutal murders of the enemies of the Corleone family. Michael Corleone's theme, "Halls of Fear", is mainly played during the murders:
- Keinszig is smothered to death by Vincent's men. His body is hanged over the bridge, to make his death an alleged suicide.
- Archbishop Gilday has the tea of the new Pope poisoned. The Pope soon drinks it and dies.
- At the opera, Don Altobello eats a dish of poisoned cannoli that his goddaughter Connie serves him. He soon dies silently at the opera as Connie watches through her opera glasses.
- Al Neri shoots Archbishop Gilday as he climbs a spiral staircase and flings the archbishop's body down the stairs.
- Finally, Tommasino's bodyguard Calò (Franco Citti) approaches Don Lucchesi and whispers to his ear "Power wears out those who do not have it" before stabbing Lucchesi in the throat with his own pair of glasses, killing him. Immediately, Calò himself is killed by Lucchesi's bodyguards.
Mosca, the assassin hired by Don Altobello to kill Michael, descends upon the opera house during Anthony's performance, killing three of Vincent's men who delay his opportunity, and the opera ends before he has the chance to kill Michael with his rifle. The assassin retreats to the opera house facade's staircase, and tries to shoot Michael there. Mary is confronting her father about the forced break-up with Vincent, when Mosca fires. The shot Michael in the shoulder and then hits Mary in the chest. She dies calling out to her father. Vincent then kills the assassin. As Kay cradles Mary's bloody body in her arms, Michael screams with primal pain and rage.
The scene dissolves to a short montage of Michael's memories, the first being a dance with Mary, the second being a dance with his deceased first wife, Apollonia, and the last being a dance with Kay when they were married. The film ends in an unspecified year, showing an aged and broken Michael, seated in the front yard of Don Tommasino's Sicilian villa. He slowly puts on a pair of sunglasses, drops an orange from his hand, slumps out of his chair and collapses to the ground, alone and dead. A small dog sniffs around his body and the screen fades to black as Mascagni's "Intermezzo" from Cavalleria Rusticana resolves to a high F major chord.
- Michael Corleone .... Al Pacino
- Kay Adams .... Diane Keaton
- Connie Corleone Rizzi .... Talia Shire
- Vincent Mancini .... Andy Garcia
- Don Altobello .... Eli Wallach
- Joey Zasa .... Joe Mantegna
- B.J. Harrison .... George Hamilton
- Grace Hamilton .... Bridget Fonda
- Mary Corleone .... Sofia Coppola
- Cardinal Lamberto .... Raf Vallone
- Anthony Corleone .... Franc D'Ambrosio
- Archbishop Gilday .... Donal Donnelly
- Al Neri .... Richard Bright
- Frederick Keinszig .... Helmut Berger
- Dominic Abbandando .... Don Novello
- Andrew Hagen .... John Savage
- Calò .... Franco Citti
- Mosca .... Mario Donatone
- Don Tommasino .... Vittorio Duse
- Licio Lucchesi .... Enzo Robutti
- Spara .... Michele Russo
- Johnny Fontane .... Al Martino
- Lou Pennino .... Robert Cicchini
- Armand .... Rogerio Miranda
- Francesco .... Carlos Miranda
- Anthony "The Ant" Squigliaro .... Vito Antuofermo
- Father John .... Robert Vento
- Party politician .... Willie Brown
- Lucy Mancini .... Jeannie Linero
- Cardinal .... Remo Remotti
- Francesca Corleone .... Jeanne Savarino Pesch
- Kathryn Corleone .... Janet Savarino Smith
- Theresa Hagen .... Tere L. Baker
- Albert Volpe .... Carmine Caridi
- Frank Romano .... Don Costello
- Leo Cuneo .... Al Ruscio
- Matty Parisi .... Mickey Knox
- Mask #1 .... Rick Aviles
- Mask #2 .... Michael Bowen
- Douglas Michelson .... Brett Halsey
- Enzo the Baker .... Gabriele Torrei
- Hamilton banker .... John Abineri
- Stockholder .... Brian Freilino
- Unruly stockholder .... Gregory Corso
- Lupo .... Marino Masé
- Vanni .... Dado Ruspoli
- Sister Vincenza .... Valeria Sabel
- Keinszig killer .... Luigi Laezza
- Keinszig killer .... Beppe Pianviti
- A bodyguard .... Santo Indelicato
- Apollonia .... Simonetta Stefanelli
- Don Tommasino's driver .... Francesco Paolo Bellante
- Gesù .... Paco Reconti
- Puppet narrator .... Mimmo Cuticchio
- Party reporter .... Richard Honigman
- Nicky .... Nicky Blair
- Anthony .... Anthony Guidera
- Frankie .... Frank Tarsia
- Woman with child at street fair .... Diane Agostini
- Child .... Jessica DiCicco
- Woman in cafe .... Catherine Scorsese
- Woman in cafe .... Ida Bernardini
- Party Security .... Joseph Drago
- Party photographer .... David Hume Kennerly
- Son playing soccer .... James D. Damiano
- Father of soccer player .... Michael Boccio
- Conductor of Cavalleria Rusticana .... Anton Coppola
- Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana .... Elena Lo Forte
- Lola and singing voice of Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana .... Madelyn Renée Monti
- Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana .... Corinna Vozza
- Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana .... Angelo Romero
- Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana (voice) .... Paolo Gavanelli
Behind the scenes
Coppola felt that the first two films had told the complete Corleone saga. In his audio commentary for Part II, he stated that only a dire financial situation caused by the failure of New York Stories compelled him to take up Paramount's long-standing offer to make a third installment.
According to an article in Premiere, Coppola and Puzo requested six months to complete a first draft of the script with a release date of Easter 1991. Paramount agreed to give them six weeks for the script and, lacking a holiday movie, a release date of Christmas Day 1990.
Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Richard Bright and Talia Shire reprise their roles from the first two films. According to Coppola's audio commentary on the film in The Godfather DVD Collection, Robert Duvall refused to take part unless he was paid a salary comparable to Pacino's. On an episode of Inside the Actors Studio, Duvall said he understood that Pacino was the star but felt insulted by the difference in their salaries, saying "if they paid Pacino twice what they paid me, that's fine, but not three or four times, which is what they did." When Duvall dropped out, Coppola rewrote the screenplay to portray Tom Hagen as having died before the story begins. Coppola created the character B. J. Harrison, played by George Hamilton, to replace the Hagen character in the story. The director further states that, to him, the movie feels incomplete "without Robert Duvall's participation." According to Coppola, had Duvall agreed to take part in the film, the Hagen character would have been heavily involved in running the Corleone charities.
The first draft of a script had been written by Dean Riesner in 1979, based on a story by Mario Puzo. This script centered around Michael Corleone's son, Anthony, a naval officer working for the CIA, and the Corleone family's involvement with a plot to assassinate a Central American dictator. Two central characters from the first two films met their end in Reisner's draft: Al Neri and Tom Hagen. Almost none of the elements of this early script carried over to the final film, but one scene from the film — in which two men break into Vincent's house — exists in the Riesner draft and is nearly unchanged. The only change in this scene are the characters: Tony Adams (Anthony Corleone) and his girlfriend Elizabeth are replaced with Vincent Mancini and Grace Hamilton.
Coppola says that he felt The Godfather saga was essentially Michael's story, one about how "a good man becomes evil", as the writer/director puts it on the same commentary track referenced above. Coppola says he felt that Michael had not really "paid for his sins" committed in the second film, and wanted this final chapter to demonstrate that. In keeping with this theme, Coppola completely rewrote the script.
Julia Roberts was originally cast as Mary, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Madonna wanted to play the role, but Coppola felt she was too old for the part. Rebecca Schaeffer was set to audition, but she was murdered. Winona Ryder dropped out of the film at the last minute. Ultimately Sofia Coppola, the director's daughter, was given the role of Michael Corleone's daughter. Her much-criticized performance resulted in her father being accused of nepotism, a charge Coppola denies in the commentary track, asserting that, in his opinion, critics, "beginning with an article in Vanity Fair", were "using [my] daughter to attack me", something he finds ironic in light of the film's denouement when the Mary character pays the ultimate price for her father's sins.
As an infant, Sofia Coppola had played Michael Corleone's infant nephew in The Godfather, during the climactic baptism/murder montage at the end of that film. (Sofia Coppola also appeared in The Godfather Part II, as a small immigrant child in the scene where the nine-year-old Vito Corleone arrives by steamer at Ellis Island.) The character of Michael's sister Connie is played by Francis Ford Coppola's sister, Talia Shire (making her both Mary and Sofia's aunt). Other Coppola relatives with cameos in the film included his mother, father (who wrote and conducted much of the music in the film), uncle and granddaughter, Gia. Michele Russo, who plays Spara, the right-hand man of the assassin Mosca, is also a distant Coppola relative, from the same town as Francis Ford Coppola's great-grandmother. In addition, Coppola cast Catherine Scorsese, mother of Martin Scorsese, in a small part.
At Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a generally positive response with a 68% "fresh" rating. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 60, based on 19 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".
The Godfather Part III is almost unanimously considered to be the weakest of the three Godfather films. Common criticisms include Sofia Coppola's acting, the plot being too outlandish and convoluted, and being too based on continuity, rather than just a "stand alone" story.
In his review, Roger Ebert stated that it is "not even possible to understand this film without knowing the first two". Nonetheless, Ebert wrote an enthusiastic review, awarding the film three-and-a-half stars, a better rating than he gave The Godfather Part II. He also defended the casting of Sofia Coppola, who he felt was not miscast, stating, "There is no way to predict what kind of performance Francis Ford Coppola might have obtained from Winona Ryder, the experienced and talented young actress, who was originally set to play this role. But I think Sofia Coppola brings a quality of her own to Mary Corleone. A certain up-front vulnerability and simplicity that I think are appropriate and right for the role."
Ebert's colleague, Gene Siskel, also highly praised the film and placed it on his list of the ten best films of 1990 (#10). Siskel admitted that the ending was the film's weakest part, citing Al Pacino's makeup as very poor.
Leonard Maltin gave the movie three out of four stars and stated in his movie guide that the film is "masterfully told", but the casting of Sofia Coppola was an "almost-fatal flaw".
Awards and honors
The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Andy Garcia), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Dean Tavoularis, Gary Fettis), Best Music, Song (for Carmine Coppola and John Bettis for "Promise Me You'll Remember"). It is the only film in the series not to have Al Pacino nominated for an Academy Award (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather and nominated for Best Actor for The Godfather Part II). It is the only film in the trilogy not to win the Academy Award for Best Picture or any other Academy Award for that matter, as well as the only film in the trilogy not selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
American Film Institute recognition:
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." – Nominated
The film was also nominated for seven Golden Globes, but did not win. Sofia Coppola won two Golden Raspberry Awards for both Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star.
Parts of the film are very loosely based on real historical events concerning the ending of the Papacy of Paul VI, and the very short Papacy of John Paul I in 1978, and the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano in 1982. Like the character Cardinal Lamberto, who becomes John Paul I, the historical John Paul I, Albino Luciani, reigned for only a very short time before being found dead in his bed.
Journalist David Yallop argues that Luciani was planning a reform of Vatican finances and that he died by poisoning; these claims are reflected in the film. Yallop also names as a suspect Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who was the head of the Vatican bank, like the character Archbishop Gilday in the film. However, while Marcinkus was noted for his muscular physique and Chicago origins, Gilday is a mild Irishman. The character has also drawn comparisons to Cardinal Giuseppe Caprio, as he was in charge of the Vatican finances during the approximate period of which the movie was based.
The character of Frederick Keinszig, the Swiss banker who is murdered and left hanging under a bridge, mirrors the fate (and physical appearance) of Roberto Calvi, the Italian head of the Banco Ambrosiano who was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982 (it was unclear whether it was a case of suicide or, as the Italian idiom has it, "being suicided". Courts in Italy have recently ruled the latter.)
The name "Keinszig" is taken from Manuela Kleinszig, the girlfriend of Flavio Carbone who was indicted as one of Roberto Calvi's murderers in 2005.
On the audio commentary of the DVD, Francis Ford Coppola states that the character of Don Licio Lucchesi would be very recognizable for Italian citizens. The thick-rimmed glasses, the official police bodyguard while Michael meets the Don in Sicily, and a single quote at the end of the movie are supposedly clues that Don Lucchesi is (at least partly) based on Giulio Andreotti.
The killing of Joey Zasa is reminiscent of the shooting of Joseph Colombo in a street parade.
The film's soundtrack received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Score. Also, the film's love theme, "Promise Me You'll Remember" (subtitled "Love Theme from The Godfather Part III") sung by Harry Connick Jr., received an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for Best Song.
In December 2020, Francis Ford Coppola's re-cut of the film, titled Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, was released for home media, with a limited theatrical run. The changes to the film include a new opening scene, as well as a slightly altered ending. In the new ending of the film, Michael still lives to an old age alone in Sicily, but his titular death is not shown.
Notes and references