Few films stand the test of time like The Godfather, but even 50 years after it hit theaters, the film is still considered required viewing for movie buffs. Francis Ford Coppola's crime epic revolutionized Hollywood, turning a seven-figure budget into hundreds of millions of dollars of profit as well as cleaning up at award shows across the globe. That said, the Corleone story fans see on screen is far from the only narrative worth exploring.
Paramount+'s The Offer brings audiences back to Hollywood in the 1970s, where a young Albert Ruddy (Miles Teller) is tasked with transforming Mario Puzo's best-selling crime novel into a major motion picture. The road to bringing The Godfather to life is paved with mob obstacles, outside interference, and further unpredictable bumps along the way, as explored throughout the ten-episode miniseries.
The trials and tribulations that play out in The Offer are hectic for the characters on screen, but behind the scenes, tackling this project was a dream come true for one of the show's directors.
The Offer's Adam Arkin Details Directing Experience
"You can do anything, but never go against the family."
For The Offer director Adam Arkin, taking on this series embodies what Don Corleone commands in The Godfather.
Speaking with The Direct's Liam Crowley, Arkin revealed his connections to the world of The Godfather go back to his father.
"My family had a longstanding friendship with the actor Alex Rocco. My father had worked with him a number of times. He played the role of Moe Green in the film, who gets his eyes shot out. There were lots of other cross pollinating things. My father directed a film called Little Murders that [The Godfather cinematographer] Gordon Willis was the cinematographer on, so he ended up collaborating for a long time on that with him. There were lots of reasons for me to be aware of and interested in the film and God knows it did not disappoint."
Arkin himself was just a teenager when The Godfather hit theaters on March 15, 1972, and he recalled making it priority viewing.
"I was very aware of the fact that the film was coming out. I remember reading the book. I think the plans for the film were already well underway by the time I read the book. I was in my mid-teens when the film came out and already knew that this was the business I wanted to be in. I saw it the week that it opened. And I was one of those people that was telling everybody I knew they had to see it. I was just blown away by it, as was, you know, the rest of the world."
While most of The Offer's early episodes take place on studio lots and executive boardrooms, the series is set to bring audiences back to authentic Godfather sets. As special as it was for Arkin to be in these recreated filming locations, he emphasized that the crew put "a lot of thought" into "honoring the spirit of the original."
"It sort of permeated the whole experience, even in anticipating how we wanted to approach the material. There was a lot of thought put into honoring the spirit of the original and, and being very respectful of that. And anytime we were doing any of the scenes that involve the sort of iconic recreations of the set of The Godfather, one scene in particular that comes later on, I don't want to give any spoilers, but they do go to Sicily. And there are a couple of scenes from the film in Sicily that aren't recreated, but the environment in which they had to be created was established. So you get a kind of flavor of what the atmosphere must have been like. And every time we were doing anything like that, it was incredibly evocative and an honor to get to be involved with it."
After being announced for Paramount+ in Fall 2020, production on The Offer kicked off in July 2021. While the series encountered a brief COVID-19 hiccup about a month into filming, Arkin noted that "no plot points" were altered as a result.
In fact, the pandemic obstacles ended up benefiting Arkin, as the director's chair opened up for the final two episodes of the miniseries, which resulted in showrunner Nikki Toscano approaching him with an offer that he couldn't refuse.
"You know, one of the bigger changes actually really affected me, and I'm ashamed to say it was not in a negative way. I had only been scheduled to do two episodes. I did episodes three and four. And at that point, Dexter Fletcher, who directed the pilot block of episodes one and two, was going to do the final two episodes, nine and 10. But because of those COVID delays that you mentioned, he ended up having a scheduling conflict. And this kind of emerged right as I was in the middle of episodes three and four, and Nikki Toscano, the show's brilliant showrunner came, along with her partner, Russell Rothberg, and asked if I was going to be free around the time they were doing the final two. So I had the very good fortune of being available to do it and being asked to, and I jumped at the chance."
The director's chair itself is a revolving door on The Offer, as the aforementioned Dexter Fletcher passed the reigns to Arkin, who then hands the baton to Colin Bucksey. Despite the numerous creatives calling the shots, Arkin emphasized that he didn't want to "reinvent the wheel" with his episodes, and stressed wanting to honor the "look and feel" that Fletcher established.
"I was very aware coming into episodes three and four that I was entering a sandbox that Dexter had taken great pains to set up. He was instrumental in putting the crew together, and establishing a kind of look and feel to the piece. Generally, when I come in as a director on the heels of that amount having been established already, I don't come in with any desire to reinvent the wheel. I want to fit into the consistent tone that's been established and honor that. I think it goes without saying that any director that actually has got some experience is going to, even without intending to, for its own sake, put their imprint on the material. There was certainly no overt desire on my part to change course, or change styles in the middle of something that was working that well."
The series' leading man, Miles Teller, portrays famed film producer Albert Ruddy, who was instrumental in getting The Godfather off the ground. In a twist of irony, Ruddy expresses his disdain for making television compared to movies in the premiere episode, despite The Offer itself being television.
That said, the modern world of streaming is a different beast from the cable programming of the 1970s. Arkin added that the real-life Albert Ruddy played a big part in bringing The Offer to life, and noted that based on his one-on-ones with him, he believes Ruddy would be "among the first people" to adapt to streaming today.
"Well, I can't speak for him, but in the case of Albert Ruddy, he was actually very involved in the making of this project. He was consulted. I actually had the good fortune of communicating with him personally a couple of times. And I think Albert Ruddy is somebody that is interested in you being hooked into the reality of the current trends of the day. If a certain medium is going to be storytelling, it is going to happen, and is achieving a certain kind of heat and success around that. I think that Albert Ruddy would be among the first people to adjust to that reality. He was all for the making of this series and was very involved, hands-on, expressing enthusiasm, and asking questions and giving support."
If The Offer is anything to go off of, there are hundreds of untold production stories that are edge-of-seat narratives in and of themselves. Films like Saving Mr. Banks and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood take audiences to old school studio lots and tell dramatized versions of what filmmaking was like in the 20th century, not unlike The Offer.
Replicating The Offer's storytelling structure is something Arkin sees value in doing again. The director points to a project from his legendary father's catalog that he believes has a production worth spotlighting.
"There's probably dozens of them. I've often thought that I was around and present during the entire shooting of the film that my father starred in, Catch-22. And Catch-22 was was an interesting example of a book that was credibly well known and popular. And with a wildly anticipated adaptation into film that, unlike The Godfather did, was not received in the same way and I don't think was viewed as a successful interpretation of that book. But the making of that film, and there are times when I've thought about revisiting that and looking at a lot of it through the eyes of a kid that was the age that I was during that, because I was about 13 years old. There's a story to be told. They're huge personalities. Mike Nichols, Joseph Heller, John Calley. There were so many people that were established stars. Orson Welles makes an appearance in the film. I think that would be in spite of the film adaptation not being anywhere near the success of The Godfather was, I still think it was a story that might be rich."
Until then, The Offer streams new episodes every Thursday on Paramount+.