The Godfather is the movie that put Al Pacino on the map, even if it did pigeonhole him as an organized crime boss for most of his career. Which is why it’s so weird that almost everyone on set hated Pacino’s performance as Michael Corleone. In fact, the studio heads tried their best to fire him before he could destroy the movie. They thought Pacino was slow, quiet, and boring at the beginning – which, if you’ve seen the film, is kind of the whole point. While Pacino understood an obscure literary device called a “character arc,” it seemed the producers would have preferred him to burst into the wedding scene waving a Tommy gun and foaming at the mouth like uh … well, like in Scarface.
Even the film’s director, Francis Ford Coppola, was disenchanted with Pacino’s meek performance, pulling him aside to tell him, “I had a lot of belief in you, I hired you, I wanted you, I just thought you could do this thing, and now … you’re not cutting it for me, kid.” He then forced Pacino to watch the footage to see exactly how bad a job he was doing. Pacino, who thought he was doing fine, humored Coppola and pretended to see the error of his ways.