Diane Keaton Explains How She Helped Al Pacino Land His Role in ‘The Godfather’

by Craig Garrett

Diane Keaton claims that she’s the main reason Al Pacino was cast in his career-defining role as Michael Corleone in The Godfather. It’s tough to imagine anyone else in the iconic role. However, according to Keaton, producers were on the verge of going in a completely different route until she was cast in the film.

Keaton recently spoke with Entertainment Tonight while promoting her latest film Mack & Rita. She looked back on her prolific career, noting the eclectic character she’s been cast to play. The veteran actor looked all the way back to her breakout role in 1972’s The Godfather. Keaton didn’t think she would get the part that turned out to be so important to a franchise that would span decades.

“I auditioned for The Godfather having never read it and I knew nothing about it, and just was there, I was standing there like every other woman,” Diane Keaton recalled. “I didn’t know what the hell I was there for. And they cast me in that role!”

The producers and director Francis Ford Coppola were still looking for a suitable actor to play opposite Diane Keaton after she had been cast. The significance of the part cannot be overstated, since Michael Corleone was the reluctant heir to the Corleone crime family and the central role of the film. “Nobody wanted Al Pacino. They didn’t want him to play that part, and I had already been cast,” Keaton said. “I had been cast before Al Pacino in Godfather 1! Is this not weird?”

An Incredulous Diane Keaton marvels at the thought of a Godfather without Pacino

“So I was standing there and they brought him up when I was standing there and we worked together in front of [the producers], and they gave him the job,” Diane Keaton explained. “Do you believe that? After he had auditioned before and they didn’t want him.” To this day, Keaton seems astounded by the possibility that another actor could have played the part. “What would The Godfather have been without Al  Pacino?” she exclaimed. “It’s just one of those weird, unusual things in life.”

Diane Keaton is still a prominent actress today, having completed work on Mack & Rita, a new fantasy comedy film. Mack (Elizabeth Lail), is a 30-year-old writer and self-described homebody. She reluctantly agrees to go to Palm Springs for her best friend Carla’s bachelorette party. When Mack arrives in Palm Springs, she suddenly transforms into her 70-year-old future self known as Aunt Rita (played by Keaton).

Diane Keaton spoke about the film, lamenting the dearth of movies centering on women characters. “There aren’t a lot of these female-driven movies, so we’re fortunate to [get the chance to lead one]. Keaton points out she is excited to be a part of the film. “And it is good, and it is good to do and be part of that. There’s not a whole lot of them,” she said. Mack & Rita will debut in theaters on August 12th.