Behind the scenes: The Godfather trilogy

17 rare shots of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Francis Ford Coppola in production on one of film history’s greatest trilogies.

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In the director’s chair: Francis Ford Coppola oversees a script readthrough for The Godfather Part III (1990)

In the director’s chair: Francis Ford Coppola oversees a script readthrough for The Godfather Part III (1990)

Marlon Brando gets made up as Mafia family patriarch Don Corleone in The Godfather (1972), while director Francis Ford Coppola waits in the background

Marlon Brando gets made up as Mafia family patriarch Don Corleone in The Godfather (1972), while director Francis Ford Coppola waits in the background

Coppola on the ornate bed used in the famous scene in which movie producer Jack Woltz awakes to find a bloody horse’s head lying next to him

Coppola on the ornate bed used in the famous scene in which movie producer Jack Woltz awakes to find a bloody horse’s head lying next to him

The crew films a street assassination stunt, with John Cazale as Fredo Corleone, the weak link in the Corleone family, watching helplessly from the curb

The crew films a street assassination stunt, with John Cazale as Fredo Corleone, the weak link in the Corleone family, watching helplessly from the curb

Brando and Coppola on the streets of New York. The actor and director would reteam in 1979 for the war epic Apocalypse Now

Brando and Coppola on the streets of New York. The actor and director would reteam in 1979 for the war epic Apocalypse Now

Coppola and Brando with Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, who finds himself drawn inexorably into his father’s murky life of organised crime

Coppola and Brando with Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, who finds himself drawn inexorably into his father’s murky life of organised crime

Pacino and Brando on location

Pacino and Brando on location

Following the massive critical and commercial success of the first film, The Godfather Part II followed in 1974. Here’s Francis Ford Coppola examining a scene frame by frame

Following the massive critical and commercial success of the first film, The Godfather Part II followed in 1974. Here’s Francis Ford Coppola examining a scene frame by frame

Shooting the religious parade during the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy. In The Godfather Part II, the procession is the backdrop for the young Vito Corleone’s (Robert De Niro) assassination of local kingpin Don Fanucci (Gastone Moschin)

Shooting the religious parade during the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy. In The Godfather Part II, the procession is the backdrop for the young Vito Corleone’s (Robert De Niro) assassination of local kingpin Don Fanucci (Gastone Moschin)

Coppola in production on a 1950s street scene for The Godfather Part II

Coppola in production on a 1950s street scene for The Godfather Part II

Coppola and Pacino feel the cold of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where Michael Corleone keeps a lakeside compound

Coppola and Pacino feel the cold of Lake Tahoe, Nevada, where Michael Corleone keeps a lakeside compound

Al Pacino, Andy Garcia and Francis Ford Coppola on location for The Godfather Part III (1990)

Al Pacino, Andy Garcia and Francis Ford Coppola on location for The Godfather Part III (1990)

Costume designer Milena Canonero preps the wedding outfit for Michael Corleone’s daughter Mary, played in the third Godfather film by Sofia Coppola

Costume designer Milena Canonero preps the wedding outfit for Michael Corleone’s daughter Mary, played in the third Godfather film by Sofia Coppola

Coppola with Andy Garcia, who plays Vincent Mancini, the illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone

Coppola with Andy Garcia, who plays Vincent Mancini, the illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone

Joe Mantegna (left) as the fated Joey Zasa, sharing a convivial moment with his director between shots

Joe Mantegna (left) as the fated Joey Zasa, sharing a convivial moment with his director between shots

In a position of power: Coppola with Al Pacino as the ageing Michael Corleone

In a position of power: Coppola with Al Pacino as the ageing Michael Corleone

Cinematographer Gordon Willis frames a shot. Willis shot all three part of the Godfather trilogy, finally receiving an overdue Oscar nomination for his work on the final part. He lost to Dean Semler for Dances with Wolves

Cinematographer Gordon Willis frames a shot. Willis shot all three part of the Godfather trilogy, finally receiving an overdue Oscar nomination for his work on the final part. He lost to Dean Semler for Dances with Wolves

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