- "Don Corleone, I need a man who has powerful friends. I need a million dollars in cash. I need, Don Corleone, those politicians you carry in your pocket, like so many nickels and dimes."
- ―Virgil Sollozzo[src]
Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo was a top narcotics man, who became associated with the Tattaglia family.
Known as the Turk because he had a nose like a Turkish scimitar, and also listed as being very good with a knife, Sollozzo had already gained a reputation as a top narcotics man with poppy fields in Turkey and laboratories in Sicily and Marseilles. Before World War II he was also involved in prostitution. He was seen as an ideal associate who would provide money for a family and not leak information to the police if he was caught, provided his wife and children back in Turkey were taken care of. He began to make contacts in the 1930s, and he was seen at the meeting of the Five Families after Giuseppe Mariposa's death in 1934.
- "I don't like violence, Tom. I'm a businessman. Blood is a big expense."
- ―Virgil Sollozzo[src]
Sollozzo arrived in New York and enlisted the aid of the Tattaglia family for his new heroin business, purchasing a warehouse in Midtown Manhattan from which to go about his business, as well as several fronts located in each borough of the city. He also secretly had the support of Don Barzini, who assisted him in his business, and was the mastermind behind his scheme to dominate the narcotics business. He then went to the Corleone family to obtain money and protection from the police and courts. Vito Corleone refused, however, feeling that the drug business is bad for the neighborhoods. However, in the course of the meeting, Sonny Corleone admitted an interest, leading the Turk to think that if Vito died, Sonny would accept his deal.
Corleone sent Luca Brasi to Bruno Tattaglia's nightclub, under the pretense that the enforcer was unhappy with his family and sought better employment. Tattaglia saw through Brasi, but arranged for him to meet Sollozzo later one night. After they seemingly agreed to a deal, Sollozzo stabbed Brasi in the hand, while an assassin garroted Brasi from behind.
Sollozzo's men then attempted to murder Vito Corleone, assuming that Vito's oldest son Sonny, who seemed to want to go into the heroin trade, would take over the family. To cement the deal, Sollozzo also kidnapped the family consigliere, Tom Hagen, brought him to the deserted Joe's Diner in Brooklyn, and persuaded him to make a deal with Sonny. Hagen promised to try, but told him that if Brasi got word the Don was dead, not even Sonny would be able to restrain him. Hagen didn't know that Sollozzo had killed Brasi an hour earlier. The first that anyone on the Corleone side learned of Brasi's death came when Sollozzo delivered them a package containing a dead fish wrapped in Brasi's bulletproof vest – a message that Brasi now "sleeps with the fishes".
Rise and Fall
When they succeeded only in wounding Vito, Sollozzo sent hitmen to the hospital, where the guards were off duty thanks to strings pulled by Captain Mark McCluskey, a police captain who had been on his payroll for some time, and tried again to kill Don Corleone. However, Vito's youngest son, Michael, visited his father and, noticing the lack of guards, alerted Sonny. With the help of visiting baker Enzo Aguello, Michael managed to scare off the assassins at the front door.
Sollozzo alerted McCluskey of the men still guarding Corleone, and the police captain, enraged, arrived at the hospital and tried to arrest Michael. When Michael tried to call McCluskey's bluff, the enraged captain punched Michael in the face, breaking his jaw, but was restrained from further action by Hagen.
That same night, Sonny ordered Bruno Tattaglia killed in revenge for the attempt on Vito's life. As long as his father was alive, Sonny refused to even consider a deal. Instead, he issued an ultimatum to the Tattaglias--turn over Sollozzo or face war. However, Hagen learned that Sollozzo was being guarded by McCluskey, making it very likely that the Corleones would have to kill McCluskey in order to kill Sollozzo. In Hagen's view, this was far too risky to even consider, since it has long been a hard and fast rule that law enforcement officials are not to be harmed. Sonny realized this as well.
At this point, Michael made a shocking proposal. Arguing that Sollozzo would almost certainly take another run at the Don, he offered to meet with Sollozzo and McCluskey and kill them himself. Sonny and Tom were skeptical at first, but Michael convinced them that McCluskey was fair game because he was serving as Sollozzo's bodyguard.
Recipe for Revenge
- "What guarantees can I give you, Mike? I am the hunted one. I missed my chance. You think too much of me, kid. I am not that clever. All I want is a truce."
- ―Virgil Sollozzo[src]
Soon thereafter, Sollozzo, under McCluskey's protection, met with Michael in Louis Restaurant. Although Michael was frisked before the meeting, one of Peter Clemenza's men had planted a revolver on the back of a toilet in the lavatory of the restaurant.
Sollozzo and Michael talked in Sicilian, with Sollozzo claiming that the attempt on the Don's life was purely business. When Michael broke into English and asked for assurances that Vito would be left in peace, Sollozzo balked, saying that he only wanted a truce.
Michael excused himself and went to the bathroom to retrieve the revolver. He then returned. For a brief moment, everything was normal. Then Michael drew the gun and shot Sollozzo in the forehead, killing him instantly. After that he quickly killed McCluskey with a bullet to the neck and another in the forehead.
His death and McCluskey´s caused the Five Families War. This action also forced Michael to leave the country for Sicily until the heat of the Five Families War died down. It was also evidence that was used against Michael by both the Senate Commitee in the hearings against the Mafia, and later by Carlo Tramonti of New Orleans to deface Michael's image in front of the Commission. When Don Corleone was called before the Commission to answer to what the other Dons had believed was overreach of power, Vito protested that he always said yes to people's requests, only to slightly backpedal and remark he said no one time, but with good reason. This was recalling the meeting between Vito and Virgil, to which Vito literally stated "I am going to have to say no", and the good reason being Vito felt Mafia involvement in the narcotics business was going too far.
Personality and Traits
Sollozzo was a patient and methodical man, who preferred to mastermind things from behind the scenes, but was also not afraid to get his hands dirty. He was also extremely cunning and intelligent, understanding the success that could be made from drugs, but also the need he would have for powerful allies such as Vito Corleone and Emilio Barzini. Despite all his brutality, he was a caring husband and father, and would only work with people who would guarantee to provide for his family should anything happen to him.
In the Video Game
In the video game, Sollozzo buys a warehouse in Midtown and begins drug fronts in each of the districts of New York City. After the incident at the hospital, Sonny Corleone orders a series of crackdowns on Sollozzo's businesses, which sees the destruction of his warehouse and drug fronts located in derelict buildings across the city.
During his assassination at Louis' Restaurant, the protagonist Aldo Trapani is present. There are some minor differences, such as the fact that Michael shoots Sollozzo twice as he was instructed, instead of deviating from the plan. Also, there is only one other person in the restaurant, which stays true to the novel.
Sollozzo is the only major character in the game not to have an appearance outside cutscenes.
Virgil Sollozzo is loosely based on Vito Genovese, who had set up a narcotics network to import heroin into the United States from Italy.
Sollozzo could also be inspired by Vincent Papa, who was a major narcotics trafficker and a key figure of the French Connection in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Papa was closely associated with the Lucchese crime family. His "crew" included many heavy hitters in heroin distribution like Johnny Dio, Anthony Loria, Virgil Alessi and Louis Cirillo. However, it is unknown whether Puzo was already aware of Papa and his crew when he wrote The Godfather.
Behind the Scenes
- Sollozzo's murder is a reference to the murder of Joe Masseria. Masseria was killed in a Coney Island restaurant while he had a meeting with his top lieutenant, Lucky Luciano, who had arranged the assassination. Shortly after Luciano went to the bathroom four gunmen rushed in and killed Masseria.
- His death could also be based on the murder of Genovese mobster Willie Moretti, who was shot in the head while sitting at a table in a restaurant with some associates, the lone patrons. Like Sollozzo, he was shot in the head and the restaurant staff found his body. The picture of Moretti's dead body is among the pictures in The Mattresses montage.
- The Godfather novel states that Sollozzo was a boss of his own. Sollozzo's operations in Sicily suggest that he was a member of the Sicilian Mafia, which would explain why he was received with respect by the New York Dons. During the meeting at Louis Restaurant Sollozzo states that he is a 'man of honor', a phrase commonly used to refer to a made member in the Mafia.
- In the novel, his name is mentioned for the first time in the Italian form, Virgilio Sollozzo. In the rest of the narrative, he is commonly called by the name in English form, Virgil, as in the film.
- While in the movie he's a thin character, the novel describes him as a broad individual.
- He is portrayed by Al Lettieri in the film and Richard Newman in the game, though his dialogue is identical to the film.
- Sollozzo's drug operation could be loosely related to the real life French Connection. Where opium was smuggled from Turkey, processed into heroin in France, and then smuggled into the United States through Canada.
- In the novel, Tom Hagen describes Sollozzo as being the most physically intimidating man he'd ever seen, with the one exception being Luca Brasi.
- Despite the popular belief, Sollozzo was actually Sicilian, not Turkish as his nickname would tell. His nickname likely came from the fact that he was heavily associated with the country, in that much of the narcotics he trafficked were produced in Turkey, other mobsters noted his nose was shaped like a Turkish scimitar, and that he was married to a woman from Turkey.