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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the initial three episodes of The Offer.]
Mario Puzo would have been proud.
The legendary best-selling author who wrote The Godfather was known for being blunt. And so is the actor who plays him in the Paramount+ miniseries The Offer, which dropped its first three episodes on Thursday.
For actor Patrick Gallo, it was important that his incarnation of Puzo not be an impersonation, but rather capture the wordsmith’s essence through studying interviews and reading his work. Gallo also tells the The Hollywood Reporter that living with fellow miniseries star Dan Fogler, who plays Francis Ford Coppola, during production really helped the duo lock in the bond the actual Oscar-winning pair shared.
In addition to recounting one of his favorite scenes to shoot — a wild moment between Puzo and Frank Sinatra that actually happened (sort of) — Gallo shares what he hopes viewers come away with from the Paramount+ series (beyond being greatly entertained).
I’m curious, what did you think of the film and the book before this experience, and was your opinion at all altered afterward?
I didn’t read the book until many years after seeing the film, which I think is probably true for a lot of people. But I always loved the film. I probably watch it twice a year. The book is good, I don’t think the book is great. And I don’t think Puzo thought the book was great either. He wrote it to pay off debts. I think the book was written so the film could be birthed. The film is just genius, and it’s just a spectacular example of filmmaking and true storytelling.
How did you become involved with the miniseries, and what did your research consist of? Reach-out to his family?
I auditioned, and it was a wonderful moment when I found out I got it. I didn’t reach out to any family members. My research was watching interviews and reading books. I did not want to do an impersonation of Mario, but rather use his work as a road map. He was such an amazing writer, a poet.
Was there something interesting that you learned about Puzo while preparing for this role?
That he wrote The Godfather to take care of his family and pay off debts. I think what was surprising to me was him being such an artist, but he also really loved Hollywood. He loved all the people that he interacted with in Hollywood. Him being from New York, you think he’d be saying, “I just want to go back! I want to get the hell out of here! Get these people off me!” But he said, “The people out in California, they’re great!”
The stories behind the film are so wild, that some viewers may think the series is taking huge liberties. But it really happened — such as Puzo and Frank Sinatra getting into it at Chasen’s. What was that production day like for you?
That was a great scene to shoot! I know [series creator] Michael Tolkin has said it was that story that inspired him to write the entire series. What really made the scene work was Dexter Fletcher’s direction. I was coming at it like, “You care about this guy! My mother and I have been so moved by his music.” And then I realize he doesn’t like me. So, I tried to bring him back, saying, “I’m a good guy!” And Dexter came up and said, “Let’s do one more, but this time, I want you to remember one thing: You’re Mario fucking Puzo.” And I was like, “Yeah! He can’t talk to me that way!” For an actor, it’s exciting to discover those beats. And working with Frank John Hughes [Sinatra] was super fun and inspiring. That was a particularly special day.
Through the first three episodes, most of your scenes are with Dan Fogler, who delightfully plays Francis Ford Coppola. You have great chemistry. Did that come from a rapport offscreen?
Absolutely! We lived together for about a month during filming, so we had a great opportunity as actors to get up to say “Good morning” and have breakfast, lunch and dinner. I mean, we really did spend 24 hours a day together just getting to know each other. That was so special because we were able to bring that relationship to set. We were already good friends. And it’s easier to play with friends.
Was there one actor who really blew your mind in their transformation?
I love them all, but I particularly enjoyed my experience working with Justin Chambers [who plays Marlon Brando]. I just thought his delicate approach was tremendous in filling some pretty big shoes. I think he did such a great job. In the scene where he is first introduced in Marlon’s home, there is one moment where he turned profile, and it was like the whole room lit up. I started tearing up because I couldn’t believe it. It was the feeling of actually being at home with Brando.
Obviously, entertainment value is the most important aspect. But beyond that, is there anything in particular you hope viewers come away with from the series since it is all so wild?
I would love for them to know that every single person involved in the making of this show, from Paramount+ on down, every single person cared about the series. And every bit of it was a love letter to the film that inspired us all.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
New episodes of The Offer stream Thursdays on Paramount+.
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