The making of The Godfather, a story almost as epic as the movie

“Obviously, we’re not making a documentary, and so you’ll find that there are always, within this, those sorts of dramatizations,” Goode adds. “You’ll have composite characters, for example, Colin Hanks’ character was several naysayers, rather than just the one person who was Charlie Bluhdorn’s right-hand man, but ostensibly, it’s as close as we could get it.”

In tackling the role of Robert Evans, Hollywood offered Goode a multitude of people, still alive, who knew and worked with the man. But Goode was particularly struck by something Evans himself was famous for reminding people. “It’s like Bob would always say, there are three versions to anything. There’s your version, there’s my version and there’s the truth,” he says.

The set of The Godfather, as seen in The Offer.Credit:Nicole Wilder / Paramount+

Most intimidating, Goode says, was capturing Evans’ physicality and voice. “He has such a unique timbre and cadence, and that’s fascinating and terrifying at the same time because you’re like, if I don’t get this right, I’m going to get laughed off the screen.

“Then luckily there was a day I was with Dexter [Fletcher, the director] and he’s like, you should be scared, but it’s a great story, it’s well written, we chose you because we think you can do the job, and then he just went, imagine how scared Anthony Ippolito is, he’s playing Al Pacino. And I was like, well, that does put it into perspective, a little bit.”

As a British-born actor Goode, like the Australian television audience who will watch The Offer, has a very specific perception of director Dexter Fletcher. Correctly identified as an actor/director, Fletcher’s earliest acting roles were playing Spike Thomson in the teen series Press Gang and Baby Face in the 1976 film Bugsy Maloneopposite then-kid stars Scott Baio and Jodie Foster.

“He does everything, he’s doing the voiceover for McDonald’s, I can’t escape the man, he’s on the radio in my car,” says Goode, laughing. “He has a gift, he has a superpower and that is that he can spin plates. He can put his foot into every world. I’m so looking forward to working with him again if I’m lucky.

“Dexter is a brilliant actor, he gets actors, he likes actors which is something because sometimes you work with a director, and you go, no, you shouldn’t be doing this job,” Goode says. “He’s just very, very smart, and I think, as you say, he’s been in this world, intoxicated by it and in love with it, since he was six years old.”

Fletcher set up the project, and directed its first two episodes. He was supposed to return for the final two, but a scheduling clash meant he could not. “And we mourned the loss of him, we wanted to finish this project for him because he gave us all this confidence,” Goode says.

“We loved him. Everyone adored him, and I’ve never been on a set where everyone would say that because he treats everyone with the greatest of respect,” Goode says. “But it’s also how it should be on set. I’m completely in love with the man, I must say, and also his wife Dalia [Ibelhauptaitė, the opera and film director and playwright].“

The screenplay of The Offer was written by Michael Tolkin, the novelist. It is true, Goode agrees, that Tolkin’s work as a novelist sets him up well to bring to the screen the story of a novel as dense and epic as The Godfather. But Goode singles out one of Tolkin’s credits as being particularly critical in capturing the energy behind-the-scenes of the film.

Tolkin wrote both the book and screenplay of The Player, Robert Altman’s critically acclaimed 1992 satirical comedy, about a studio executive who kills an aspiring screenwriter. The film is largely noteworthy as being packed with Hollywood in-jokes.

“So if anyone was going to be able to tell a Hollywood story and get it all in, it would be him,” Goode says. “It’s not like it’s just a stream of consciousness, I think it’s the amount of research that novelists undertake before they start writing. And it does take someone who can deal with the epic nature of the story, but also tie these little threads together. There’s a little bit of genius from the writers [Tolkin, Russell Rothberg, Nikki Toscano and others] and the dialogue is delicious.”

For Goode, himself, whose credits include The Good Wife, Downton Abbey (both the television series and film), The Crown and A Discovery of Witches, The Offer has left an indelible mark on the canvas.

“I think when I started out, I was trying for this one way to do this, and I was quite blinkered, but the older I’ve gotten, and Dexter did ask me to do this occasionally, I like to try more things, Goode says. “So rather than it be a line drawing, it’s now getting a bit more Jackson Pollock, so I am a little braver with my choices. In the end, though, I am just trying to please the director, that’s all I’m trying to do.”

The Offer airs on April 29 on Paramount+.

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