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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for The Offer episode “The Right Shade of Yellow.”]
Giovanni Ribisi knew the role was going to be a challenge — and that is why he agreed to be a part of the project.
The (basically) lifelong actor plays Mafia boss Joseph “Joe” Colombo in Paramount+ miniseries The Offer, which explores the wild tales behind the making of The Godfather.
To better understand the notorious criminal, who created the Italian-American Civil Rights League and used his power to actually alter The Godfather script, Ribisi consumed as much written material on the man as he could find. The actor also laughingly notes to The Hollywood Reporter he consumed extra meals to put on 45 pounds for the role.
In the same chat, Ribisi explained why he’s grateful the series gives a vivid, albeit dramatic, glimpse of what a film producer does, as he gets the question frequently.
How did you become involved with The Offer? What spoke to you about this particular project?
I had the standard-fare meeting with [executive producer and] director Dexter Fletcher, and we started talking about Joe Colombo. And you know, it was somewhat daunting, to say the least, just because I’ve just never felt further away from anything that I’ve ever approached. But you know, I was up for the challenge.
What were your thoughts on The Godfather beforehand, and did doing this project change your outlook on either the film or the industry?
There are movies before The Godfather, and there are movies after. I was born in 1974, so the second one had already come out. It was already an institution. It changed the genre, and also filmmaking. It was so progressive and on all levels; if you were into cinematography, then that’s the movie for you, or if you were into directing, that’s the movie you looked at. If you were into acting — well, needless to say, it doesn’t get better than that, in my book.
And then there is the understanding of what it took to get something of that magnitude made. What’s interesting about this specific project is it’s about what a movie producer does. Oftentimes I’m asked, “What does a film producer do?” And there’s really no simple, specific answer. They make a movie, and that means anything and everything measured or limited by their own desire to see it through. Producers solve problems and keep those problems off of creative individuals. It’s putting all the pieces together and making these pieces do their jobs and deliver that within a limited budget. It’s such a complex job, and its description literally encompasses anything and everything.
Tell me about your research and transformation to become Joe Colombo. What did it take to get there, both mentally and physically?
Everything and anything I could find to read. There’s a wonderful book by Don Capria and Colombo’s son [Colombo: The Unsolved Murder]. As far as the physicality, I put on approximately 45 pounds. Honestly, the biggest challenge for me was the voice. I didn’t want him to be a caricature. And then there was shaving my head every other day for the hairpiece. (Laughs.)
The Offer is all about huge hurdles The Godfather overcame. Can you share any great hurdles you’ve had to overcome on a previous film’s production?
This series was pretty difficult. I mean, maybe it’s just because it’s so close in my memory. But you know, every movie has challenges, and I don’t want to sound glib when I say that, but it’s really true. It’s been almost 40 years that I’ve been doing this, and they’re all like that. And you know, that’s one of my favorite things about making movies.
Actors involved with other films and TV shows about the Mafia have said they were reached out to by people actually connected with notes or grievances. Have you heard anything?
(Laughs.) No, I haven’t heard anything.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
The Offer streams Thursday on Paramount+.
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