Marlon Brando Landed His 'Godfather' Role with Some Shoe Polish and Kleenex

Paramount Pictures/Photofest
Marlon Brando in makeup for 'The Godfather'.

The studio was against the casting idea at first, then they saw the tape.

The role most fans associate Marlon Brando with in The Godfather almost didn't happen because he was seen as being so toxic by the studio at the time of casting. 

But, director Francis Ford Coppola was relentless in his pursuit for his Don Vito Corleone.

It was the legendary actor's screen test  — which Coppola had to beg Paramount for — which turned the tide. 

In an interview Coppola gave to critic Annette Insdorf years ago, he talked about how Brando morphed into his Oscar-winning character in a matter of moments with some random props and household items. 

"We went to his house on Mulholland Drive and it was early, he wasn't up," Coppola began. "There's a rumble and the door opens, and in walks this beautiful man with long blond hair, in a Japanese robe." 

Brando, who would have turned 93 on Monday, noticed Coppola had set out little props in the form of Italian meats, cheeses and cigars.

"And he came out and looked at all this and figured out what was going on, and he took his hair ... he did it up himself in the back, and he took shoe polish and he made it black and he put on a shirt," Coppola continued. 

Brando suggested the character should be hoarse and "look like a bulldog." 

"He took some Kleenex and he...," Coppola said, pretending to stuff tissue into his mouth. "And then he started acting but not saying anything." 

Brando even got a phone call during the test and he took it in character, Coppola said.  

Studio execs were so impressed with the footage, they agreed to cast Brando. 

Brando died in July 2004. He was 80. 

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