Colin Hanks is ready to make you an offer you can’t refuse. The actor is part of the ensemble cast of The Offer—a 10-episode miniseries on Paramount+ that details the behind-the-scenes making of the classic film The Godfather. While the film is generally considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made, fans may be surprised to know it almost didn’t happen. Between executives squabbling about production, casting arguments, budget issues and yes, the Mafia itself, The Godfather’s path to legendary status was not an easy one. While it went on to win Best Picture at the 45th Academy Awards and garner legendary status, the actual production of the movie was almost as thrilling as the film itself—at times even more so.
Based on some of the never-before-seen/heard experiences of producer Albert S. Ruddy, the series stars Hanks as Barry Lapidus, a Gulf+Western executive who has some power over Paramount Pictures during the making of the film. Hanks stars alongside an all-star cast that includes Miles Teller (Ruddy), Matthew Goode (Robert Evans), Dan Fogler (Francis Ford Coppola), Giovanni Ribisi (Joe Colombo), and Juno Temple (Bettye McCartt). While nearly everyone in the main cast is portraying a real-life person, Hanks gets to play a composite character who’s based on various executives involved in the making of the movie—giving him the opportunity to make the character his own.
“Barry is the only main character in the show who doesn’t actually exist,” says Hanks. “Everyone else is playing a real person. But this guy doesn’t have any particular look or persona, which is incredibly liberating as an actor because you can kind of create him yourself.”
Hanks told us what makes The Offer such an incredible behind-the-scenes story in its own right—and why, for classic movie fans, The Godfather is the gift that keeps on giving.
Men’s Journal: What excited you the most about getting to explore the making of The Godfather?
Colin Hanks: I think my immediate response was very similar to a lot of people—which was, “Oh, that sounds like something I’d love to see.” But then there’s gotta be an actual reason to really tell this story. It turns out there are many. Making anything creative, especially films, requires a large number of miracles to happen. If you’ve got a good idea, it’s a miracle. If you’re able to write the script, it’s a miracle. If anyone else wants to make it, if it doesn’t rain on Day 38 of shooting, and so on, it’s a miracle. This series really does highlight that and shows that even on a film we all now know as one of the greatest, there were numerous hurdles—and it almost didn’t get made. Everybody looks at it now and just thinks: ‘Oh, well, it’s genius. So that was a given.’ And the truth is it wasn’t. Making The Godfather wasn’t a given at all, and was significantly harder than any of us knew.
Do you remember the first time you watched it?
Vividly. I actually watched The Godfather and The Godfather Part II together, which is a great way to experience it for the first time. It just instantly grabbed me. And then of course it just became one of those epic movies where every couple of years I’ve gotta watch it.
Any favorite moments or performances from the film?
There are so many. I’m always drawn to Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen. He does something so interesting with that role—and he also has one of my favorite lines. I say it to people quite often: ‘I admire your pictures very much.’ But what I think is truly remarkable, and our series really drives this home, is the dedication of Francis [Ford Coppola] to trust his actors and let them create fully formed individuals and characters. That alone was confounding to so many people on the studio and Gulf and Western [entertainment company] side—and my character, Barry Lapidus, is definitely in that camp. The bravery they showed as artists to make those decisions and stick with them even though they all kind of had their backs to the wall is so admirable. The subtlety of Duvall’s performance is a good example of that. It’s all those creative choices everyone made back then, which makes the film so memorable.
What was it like getting to work with this great ensemble cast?
It was really great. During pre-production, one of the producers, Dexter Fletcher, who also directed the first two episodes, did something really unique. He brought everyone together for a table read. Not only did we all read the script, but he also asked all of the actors to come up with the backstories: where those characters are during the time period of our show. I think that really galvanized the actors and set an important template for all of us. Essentially, there are two different shows being made within The Offer. There’s the moviemaking side, which is me, and Matthew [Goode], Burn [Gorman], Miles [Teller] and Juno [Temple], and there’s the mob component with Giovanni [Ribisi], James Madio, and so on. I didn’t really see those parts since it’s not my character’s angle of the show. So being there together really set a unified tone. That was incredibly exciting.
What are some things you enjoyed most about making the series?
I enjoyed being the bad guy [laughs]. My character is a composite of all the people who didn’t want to make the film. So, for me, it was incredibly fun to enter these scenes where, as soon as Barry Lapidus walks in, everybody’s on edge. I liked being the center of that. I liked being able to poke, prod, and try to get a rise out of the other characters. There’s an early scene where Barry sort of storms Robert Evans’ (Matthew Goode) creative meeting, which sticks out for me. But honestly, the thing I loved was getting to do a ton of scenes with Matthew [Goode] and Burn [Gorman]. The three of us were having fun and getting to know each other, then we’d go and do these scenes where we’re all playing off of each other. It was a tight-knit group, the whole cast at large, which made it really fun. I loved seeing all the subtlety that everyone was bringing to their performances.
How did you prepare for your role as Barry Lapidus?
When we did that big group round table, I really just tried to make it my own. I didn’t really base him on anyone, although every actor will tell you about all sorts of studio people over the years that maybe you could have taken inspiration from. Another unique thing that Dexter did in this regard was put together a top 10 movie list from that era—movies that were inspiring to him for this project that he was going to borrow from. I called it “The Godfather Film Festival.” Many of these movies were auteur-driven, gritty, ’70s films of the era. I remember watching these and thinking, ‘Barry is against all of this.’ Barry is Old Hollywood, and he’s the guy who doesn’t believe in the auteurist vision. To him, the directors and actors just kind of do what they’re told, and that’s that. So it was fun to go against the grain on that sort of stuff—and that helped me get into character.
Did your classic ‘70s-era wardrobe help you get into character, too?
I loved it. I was just coming off Impeachment: American Crime Story, and doing all of these big ‘90s-style costumes, so it was nice to have a little bit more fashion sense. It was a lot of fun with the suits and the cufflinks and, in a way, being the antithesis of that ‘70s Bohemian thing coming out of the ‘60s. Barry is the opposite of that. I really enjoyed being able to work with the costume department and create a look that was not of the world of everybody else in the series. Barry represents New York, not the Hollywood vibe—so if you put me next to Matthew as Robert Evans, we look pretty different.
Did you learn any surprising things about the making of The Godfather that you didn’t know before working on the series?
Definitely. I’d heard stories about the studio not wanting to cast Al Pacino or Marlon Brando and things like that. But I think the thing that surprised me the most was the mob aspect itself and just how much of a component it was in the making of the movie. I had no idea there was any of that going on—and just how much it added to the difficulty of making this movie. I think Francis was quoted as saying something like, ‘Every day I worked on The Godfather was the worst day,’ because it was putting out fire after fire, trying to get this movie made. There are just so many interesting things you find out about the making of the movie from watching the series.
What do you hope viewers take away from this?
Yeah, I mean everyone looks at The Godfather as this masterpiece, which it is. And you can’t imagine it any other way or any other actors in those roles. But at every single turn in making the movie, there was a struggle and a fight for those people to make it that way. So I think for those who love the film, there are all these gems they can sink their teeth into and gain a better appreciation for what it takes to make a movie like this. And even if you don’t like The Godfather, it’s pretty astounding just to see how much they had to go. As the show picks up steam, it’s just one thing after another and interesting to see how it was all put together. It turns out to be one of the most important films ever made.
If you could play a part in the original Godfather, who would you be?
Oh, that’s hard because you can’t imagine anyone else playing those roles. It’s funny, someone asked Matthew [Goode] and me a similar question, and he said he would probably play a waiter at a restaurant and I would probably play one of the staff at the Corleone wedding just to be there. But if I could take a crack at a real role, I’d be Tom Hagen. There’s something so unique and interesting about that character and about the way he exists within the story. It’s all reactions and instincts and trying to understand what’s going on in that guy’s head. And, again, I think he’s got the best line in the movie.
One last thing: What’s this we hear about Hanks Kerchiefs? What was the inspiration?
It’s been a lot of fun. One of my interests outside of acting is graphic design—and I’ve just found there’s something so incredibly unique about kerchiefs and bandanas, whichever name you prefer. They’re incredibly personal items to people. There’s not one person I’ve talked to about this venture who hasn’t said something like, ‘My grandpa always had one of these with him.’ They have value to people, so I enjoy helping to tell that story of why kerchiefs are important and what meaning they have to different people. As far as the business end of it, the inspiration actually came from a documentary I was directing about Tower Records and its founder Russ Solomon. I really tried to take some of his business spirit, put a team together, and learn an entirely new industry here. It’s maddening at times—but it’s also incredibly fun and rewarding.
The miniseries premieres April 28 on Paramount+, with the first three episodes available to stream immediately and the rest debuting on a weekly basis on Thursdays.
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