Irrefutable offers; equine homicide; James Caan getting shouty - if there were anything more frightening than the plot devices of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, it was surely the new wave of acting talent that accompanied it.
But for every Pacino, every De Niro and every Duvall, there were some faces that burned brightly yet faded away over time, those who just didn’t have sticking ability around Hollywood despite some titanic performances.
So refine your ‘Oh that’s the person from that thing!’ face, because, guess what, we’ve scoured the entertainment landscape to report on some of the cast you may or may not know are still working today.
Talia Shire - Connie Corleone
Keeping the family in, well, the family, Francis Ford Coppola picked his own sister to play Michael’s emotionally unsteady sibling, making it doubly interesting that Shire (born Talia Rose Coppola) played Connie with such heart-wrenching conviction. Better known for her role as Adrian in the Rocky series, of course, she’s had a relatively steady if low-key career otherwise, with her last appearance coming in 2011’s The Return of Joe Rich. Fun fact: she’s also the mother of Jason Schwartzman.
Johnny Ola - Dominic Chianese (The Godfather Part II)
Pieced it together yet? Allow us to fill you in: Chianese, who famously cast a menacing shadow over Michael as treacherous Johnny Ola, would eventually become a permanent fixture in The Sopranos, playing wily old fox Junior Soprano. Once that show ended, the veteran actor followed it up with a part in the other HBO’s TV crime saga Boardwalk Empire, as well as a few episodes of The Good Wife. He also counts himself an accomplished musician, releasing an album of 16 Neapolitan songs back in 2003.
Carlo Rizzi - Gianni Russo
Hothead Carlo Rizzi wasn’t all that different to Gianni Russo, the man who portrayed him. A messenger for Frank Costello, boss of the Genovese crime family and ironically an inspiration for Vito Corleone, Russo asked a couple of powerful friends to pressure producers into giving the young wise guy the gig, and despite once claiming to know every mafia boss in the US personally, Russo stuck at the acting business and has been a relative success, chalking up fleeting appearances in notable films like Seabiscuit. You'll soon be able to see him acting alongside his Godfather co-star James Caan when upcoming thriller Minkow gets a release. On DVD, presumably.
Moe Green - Alex Rocco
Alex Rocco, born Alexander Federico Petricone, was another former mobster to get into acting game thanks to The Godfather. And not just from any gang; Rocco was a former key man for Boston’s infamous Winter Hill Mob. After playing Moe Green, the Jewish mobster who makes inroads for the Corleone family in Vegas, he’s remained on the straight and narrow since, climaxing, naturally, when he played the chief Mountie in 1999’s Dudley Do-Right. Even his last Mafioso portrayal came as Carmine Falcone in 2011's comic cartoon Batman: Year One.
Paulie Gatto – Johnny Martino
Of all people, Robert De Niro was originally slated to play Paulie Gatto. Fortunately, fate (scheduling problems) meant he missed out, allowing Johnny Martino to step into the shoes of Paul Clemenza's button man. Martino was of a good acting pedigree, too, studying with John Cassavetes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts - which makes it all the more baffling that his sporadic acting work onwards has consisted largely of mob parts. In 2013, he was handed a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Treasure Coast International Film Festival in Florida, and has unveiled plans for a ‘40s themed restaurant named, you guessed it, ‘Paulie’.
Apollonia Corleone - Simonetta Stefanelli
Barely 17 at the time of release, big things were expected of Stefanelli following her role as Michael’s first wife, whose murder would provide the unquenchable thirst for vengeance that helped him take over the family business. Surprisingly, the Italian actress turned her back on Hollywood, instead choosing to fulfil her early promise back in her native land, going on to appear in a few, ahem, racy films, along with more mainstream hits like Francesco Rosi’s Oscar-nominated Three Brothers. She 'retired' from acting altogether in 1992. Now she works as a fashion designer in Rome.
Joey Zasa - Joe Mantegna (The Godfather Part III)
You’ll know Joe Mantegna’s dulcet tones if nothing else. Sure, he may have appeared as the chief antagonist in The Godfather Part III, but if there is one feared fictional Mafioso for which he will forever be associated with above all else, it’s as Fat Tony in The Simpsons. Just as Zasa was based on real life leaders Joseph Columbo and John Gotti, his yellow mob tycoon was a mixture of Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano, giving Mantegna plenty of satirical ammo for his Tommy Gun of gags.
Helmut Berger - Frederick Keinszig (The Godfather Part III)
A white collar criminal in more ways than one, Berger’s scheming banker in the final chapter of The Godfather plies his trade for the Vatican. Not only was he the living embodiment of modern crime, he served to illustrate just how far the Corleone family empire had risen from Vito’s scamp-like operations in ‘20s New York to being hoodwinked on the world stage in the early ’80s. While Berger hasn’t had a major Hollywood role, this is no bad thing: the Austrian prefers Europe’s art-house circuit and has had a fruitful career. His latest fancy role came as a Lord in a biopic of 19th century Italian violinist and composer Niccolo Paganini.