- "Who were Romeo and Juliet? Who the hell were those people? Not Sicilians, certainly."
- ―Don Domenico Clericuzio[src]
The Last Don was a television adaptation of the novel of the same name by Mario Puzo. It was later followed by The Last Don II. It was aired in three parts in 1997, and its sequel aired in 1998. It features Danny Aiello and Joe Mantegna, both actors in The Godfather Trilogy, in prominent roles as Don Domenico Clericuzio and his nephew Joseph "Pippi" De Lena, respectively.
In 1965, in Quogue, Long Island, the Clericuzio family, led by Don Domenico Clericuzio, is at war with the Santadio family. Don Clericuzio's daughter, Rose Marie, falls in love with Don Santadio’s son Jimmy, and Rose Marie becomes pregnant. Rose Marie tells her father that if he doesn't allow them to be together she'll kill herself. Jimmy and Rose Marie ask Silvio, Don Clericuzio's youngest son, to talk to the Don into allowing them to get married. Before Silvio can speak to the Don, Jimmy’s brothers gun down Silvio. Jimmy shows up to Silvio's funeral to assure Don Clericuzio that his father did not order the death of Silvio, and he ask for permission to marry Rose Marie. Don Clericuzio agrees to the marriage but warns them that no member of his family will attend the wedding, except for Joseph "Pippi" De Lena, Don Clericuzio’s nephew and enforcer. Pippi, who has a very loving, albeit non-romantic relationship with his cousin Rose Marie, jokingly offers to run away with her if Jimmy doesn't show up to the wedding. During the wedding and while dancing with Pippi, Rose Marie pleads with him to bring both the Clericuzio and the Santadio families together. On the wedding night at Don Santadio’s house, Pippi, along with Rose Marie’s brothers, Giorgio, Petie, and Vincent, mercilessly murder Don Santadio’s entire family, including Jimmy. Despite wearing masks, Rose Marie's mind is shattered when she realizes that the killers are her own brothers and cousin. Rose Marie is sent to Sicily to prevent her from talking to the government but is brought back to America in time for her son Dante to be born on US soil.
Pippi is ordered to take over the Santadio's 49% share of the luxurious Xanadu Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on behalf of the Clericuzios, allowing the owner, Alfred Gronevelt, to remain as majority owner with 51%, but now under the Clericuzio protection. Pippi then marries a young showgirl working there named Nalene. Don Clericuzio, who disapproves of the marriages, sends Pippi and his new wife to relocate to Las Vegas permanently. Nalene and Pippi have a son, Croccifixio "Cross" De Lena. Dante and Cross are baptized the same day in a ceremony at the Don's residences. As Don Clericuzio's main objective is to legalize sports gambling across the US, he announces on the same day to other members of the organized crime that he will retire from all his interests except for gambling, conceding the rest of his interests to his associates. The gathered Dons also agree to let Don Clericuzio handle their illegally obtained money like a bank and keep in from law enforcement in exchange for a 5% tribute.
By 1975 Pippi and his family live a comfortable life in Las Vegas, but marital problems ensue. After Pippi is acquitted for murder he was guilty of due to the protection of the Clericuzios, Nalene asks for a divorce. Pippi refuses to allow her to take custody of both their children, so she takes their daughter Claudia with her. Cross remains with his father. Pippi eventually introduces Cross, who's now in his 20's, in to ‘his world’ and soon after Cross learns his father’s true job as the Clericuzio's chief enforcer. Cross himself is convinced that in order to be in strong with Clericuzios, he needs to commit a murder on behalf of the family, which he does by eliminating the killer of Senator Walter Wavven's daughter in return for the Senator's permanent loyalty to the Family. He also becomes the most trusted employee for Gronevelt, who upon his death, leaves his 51% of the Xanadu Hotel and Casino to Cross. With his new-found wealth, Cross starts a romantic relationship with Athena Aquitane, a beautiful award-winning actress, whose abusive husband, Boz Skannet, he has killed. He also becomes close to Sicilian assassin and bodyguard Lia Vazzi. Cross enters the movie business with powerful movie mogul Eli Marrion, who Claudia, now an entertainment lawyer, is in a relationship with. However, upon Eli’s death, the new head of Loddstone Studios, Bobby Bantz, negates on their arrangement, betraying both Cross and therefore the Clericuzios.
Meanwhile, Dante, Rose Marie’s son, also in his 20s, is living at the Clericuzio mansion with his grandfather and mother, whose has mental health issues that have worsened over the years. She has attempted suicide on more than one occasion, with at least on attempt being witnessed by Dante when he was a boy. The adult Dante, who has a strong rivalry with Cross, is made aware of the true circumstances of his father's death from his mother, grows resentful and insists in participating in the Family business and activities, despite the Don's wishes that his descendants should start entering legitimate society. Giorgio convinces the Don to allow his grandson to be an active member of the family enforcers and, along with a reluctant Pippi, carries the order of eliminating a former family friend, Virginio Ballazzo, for betraying omertà, the Mafia code of silence. Pippi worries that Dante takes too much pleasure in killing his enemies and after one more job together in which Dante unnecessarily tortures the mark, Pippi decides to quit the business and enter retirement. Dante conspires with Jim Losey, a Los Angeles police detective on the family payroll, to take the family "back to its glory", believing he'll eventually be able to replace Don Clericuzio.
Pippi is murdered on the doorsteps of his fiancée’s house and Cross suspects that the Clericuzios are behind it and confronts Don Clericuzio at Pippi’s funeral. Cross visits Rose Marie in a hospital for the mentally ill and she tells Cross to inquire about the Santadio war, more than 20 years prior. The Don and his three sons finally tell Cross about the war and how the Clericuzios planned the assassination of Dante’s father, Jimmy Santadio, in front of Rose Marie on their wedding night, with Pippi personally killing Jimmy. The Don acknowledges that Pippi should've killed Rose Marie as well, but at the same time he states that he was always grateful that Pippi didn't do it. During a flight to Los Angeles Cross confides to Lia that he plans to marry Athena, to which Lia approves. Cross suspects that it's Dante who killed his father and Lia believes that Losey is involved. In Los Angeles an actress participating in Athena's movie, Falene, tells Cross that she knew Hugh Marlowe, the mugger who was identified as Pippi's murderer shot dead by Jim Losey. She tells Cross Hugh was not capable of murder and that Marlow was simply a police informant for Losey. Cross interviews with Losey's corrupt partner in the LAPD and confirms his suspicions that Dante killed Pippi. Lia and Cross learn that Dante is planning to kill Cross in Las Vegas and Lia suggests that The Don should intervene. Cross believes that Don Clericuzio would never act against his own grandson. Dante suggests that Losey should kill Athena and dump her in the desert along with Cross. Losey tries to lure Athena in to his luxury Villa at The Xanadu but he's stopped by members of her security detail. Always loyal to Cross, Lia kills Jim Losey for conspiring to kill Cross. Cross is lured by Dante to one of the Xanadu’s luxury villas, but Cross, being forewarned, kills Dante. Lia then sets the 20-million-dollar villa on fire to hide evidence of the murders. Both bodies are then dumped into the ocean.
Giorgio flies to Las Vegas to take Cross and Lia back to Quogue to answer for Dante's disappearance. Realizing the Family has already figured it out, Cross confesses he killed Dante in revenge for his father’s murder, and he also tells the Don that Dante likely conspired to kill all of his uncles in revenge for his father's death and to gain more power in the Family. Lia Vazzi is sentence to death by the Don, and Cross is told to pay a large amount of money. Cross offers his entire 51% ownership of the Xanadu as payment for Lia’s life. The Don and his sons agree. Don Clericuzio allows Lia to return to Sicily and Cross is ordered to leave the Family forever. The Don also maneuvers to purchase Loddstone Studios as punishment for betraying Cross and the Family, and makes Claudia, Cross’s sister, head of the studio. Cross flies to Paris to live with Athena and her autistic daughter Bethany.
- Don Domenico Clericuzio ... Danny Aiello
- Athena Aquitane ... Daryl Hannah
- Croccifixio "Cross" De Lena ... Jason Gedrick
- Joseph "Pippi" De Lena ... Joe Mantegna
- Nalene De Lena ... Penelope Ann Miller
- Dante Clericuzio ... Rory Cochrane
- Bobby Bantz ... Robert Wuhl
- Dita Tommey ... k.d. Lang
- Rose Marie Clericuzio ... Kirstie Alley
- Giorgio Clericuzio ... David Marciano
- Boz Skannet ... Christopher Meloni
- Alfred Gronevelt ... Seymour Cassel
- Virginio Ballazzo ... Burt Young
- Governor Walter Wavven ... Cliff De Young
- Skippy Deere ... Dennis Boutsikaris
- Claudia De Lena ... Michelle Burke (as Michelle Rene Thomas)
- Eli Marrion ... John Colicos
- Detective Jim Losey ... Michael Massee
- Lia Vazzi ... Conrad Dunn
- "Big Tim" Snedden ... Mike Starr
- Petie Clericuzio ... David Gianopoulos
- Young Cross ... Tim Redwine
- Vincent Clericuzio ... Danny Mastrogiorgio
- Silvio Clericuzio ... Quinn Duffy
- Ceil Ballazzo ... Ramona Milano
- Tiffany ... Lark Voorhies
- Phil Sharkey ... Badja Djola
- Jimmy Santadio ... Bruno Campos
- Young Rose Marie ... Emily Hampshire
- Young Dante ... Noah Shebib
- Young Claudia ... Cecilley Carroll
- Young Ceil ... Stacy Rae Klein
- Sophia Ballazzo ... Diane D'Aquila
- Danny Fuberta ... Vincent Pastore
- Tommy ... Nick Corello
- Falene Fante ... Sarah Stavrou
- Maya ... Lauren Dahl
- Don Santadio ... Joseph Ruskin
- Johanna ... Rashida Jones
- Italo Santadio ... Peter Radon
- Fonsa Santadio ... Vincent Bruni
- Sicilian Mayor ... Tony Amendola
- Sicilian Driver ... Zitto Kazann
- Marcy Wavven ... Poppi Monroe
- Bethany Aquitane ... Chloe Clifford
- FBI Agent ... Howard Hoover
- Prosecutor ... Tom Melissis
- Policeman ... Jeff Clarke
- Homeless Witness ... Carson Durven
- Female Witness ... Laurie Fraser
- Restaurant Owner ... Vito Rezza
- Sierra Caretaker ... Frank Bongiorno
- Ascension ... Perla Walter
- Casino Manager ... George Simonelli
- Awards Reporter ... Suzanne Dunn
- Member of the Awards Committee ... Charles Perez
- Athena's Security ... Carter Spohn
- Jerry ... Jamison Ryan
- Clericuzio soldier ... Michael Spagnoli
- Clericuzio soldier ... Jody Racicot
- Police Reporter #1 ... Emmett Miller
- Police Reporter #2 ... Penny Griego
- Jerry ... Jamison Spann
- Athena's Security ... Carter Spohn
- Hearse Driver ... Gil Amaral
- Christie Vanguard ... Shannon Marketic
- Bodyguard ... Rocco Salata
- Gaius ... Deno Frangopoulos
- Gambler ... Carson Manning
Differences from the novel
- A significant difference in the miniseries is that it is shown chronological order, therefore there is no twist concerning the events of the Santadio war and Dante's parentage.
- The audience is fully aware of the identity of Pippi's killers, unlike in the novel, where it is not revealed until several chapters later.
- David Redfellow and Ernest Vail, both prominent characters in the book, do not appear.
- The role of Molly Flanders is also eliminated from the story, instead being combined with Claudia De Lena, who was a Hollywood writer in the novel.
- The Last Don II is an entirely new continuation from where the novel and the first part of the series left off.