Memories can be hazy things. Did Francis Ford Coppola really question the necessity of The Godfather Part II? Did he really want Martin Scorsese to direct the sequel, rather than himself? Referring to The Godfather, Coppola told Esquire: "The ending was clear and Michael has corrupted himself - it was over. So I didn't understand why they wanted to make another Godfather." He then made the executives at Paramount Pictures an offer they could refuse: "I said, 'What I will do is help you develop a story. And I'll find a director and produce it.' They said, 'Well, who's the director?' And I said, 'Young guy, Martin Scorsese.' They said, 'Absolutely not!' He was just starting out."
What an amusing, colorful anecdote, offering fresh insight into the making of a classic film! Except, er, it's not so fresh, since Coppola told Peter Biskind the same thing for his 1998 book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. In the book, Coppola said that after he recommended his friend to Robert Evans, then a studio executive, Evans replied: "Absolutely not! Marty Scorsese is a horrible choice. Over my dead body." Coppola eventually agreed to do the picture when he was offered one million dollars.
As it happens, I've been working my way through the magnificent Coppola Restoration versions of the Godfather films on DVD, which includes Robert DeNiro's audition for The Godfather. Six months after The Godfather opened, Scorsese and DeNiro were filming Mean Streets. What if Scorsese had followed that up with The Godfather Part II instead of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore?