When Francis Ford Coppola first offered Paramount Pictures the third and final installment of The Godfather Trilogy, he titled it “The Death of Michael Corleone.” The studio refused. This was one of the most anticipated films of all time, and it wound up being synonymous with cinematic disappointment, undeservedly. The director will finally get to show his cut of the film and take the taint off The Godfather: Part III. For a start, he renamed it Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, a title almost long enough to make you forget the original. The new edit and restoration of the final film in the mob family epic will have a limited theatrical release in December, and will be available on Digital home entertainment platforms and disc following.
The new version of The Godfather: Part III achieves Coppola and screenwriter Mario Puzo’s original vision for the finale. “For this version of the finale, I created a new beginning and ending, and rearranged some scenes, shots, and music cues,” Coppola said in a statement. “With these changes and the restored footage and sound, to me, it is a more appropriate conclusion to The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II and I’m thankful to Jim Gianopulos and Paramount for allowing me to revisit it.”
The Godfather: Part III, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Like its predecessors, the film had a troubled history. Paramount only gave Coppola a year to deliver a final cut of the film after Coppola and Puzo sent in the completed screenplay. The studio wanted it finished in time for a Christmas 1990 theatrical release. Robert Duvall turned down the offer to reprise his role as consigliere Tom Hagen after he heard how much Al Pacino was making. Winona Ryder dropped out of the production due to physical exhaustion once shooting started. Coppola cast his 19-year-old daughter Sofia Coppola, as Mary, the daughter of Michael Corleone and Kay Adam. The now-renowned director has never heard the end of it.
The frame-by-frame restoration of both the new Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone and the original The Godfather: Part III was from a 4K scan of the original negative. “Mr. Coppola oversaw every aspect of the restoration while working on the new edit, ensuring that the film not only looks and sounds pristine, but also meets his personal standards and directorial vision,” Andrea Kalas, senior vice president, Paramount Archives, said in a statement.
Coppola and his production company American Zoetrope worked with Paramount’s restoration team searched through 300 cartons of negative for over 50 original takes to replace lower resolution opticals in the original negative. The process took over six months. American Zoetrope repaired scratches, stains, and other anomalies. The restoration was slowed by the coronavirus pandemic midway through the project and was completed by Zoetrope and Paramount remotely.
Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone will have a limited theatrical release in December, followed by availability on Digital home entertainment platforms and disc.