‘The Godfather’ Star Robert Duvall Described Hilarious Antics with Marlon Brando and James Caan on Set

by Maria Hartfield

Veteran actor and director Robert Duvall is best known for his work on The Godfather among other films. Duvall alongside fellow actor and friend James Caan was cast in the iconic roles as Sonny Corleone and Tom Hagen in The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II. Both films won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Duvall’s impressive portrayal of Tom Hagen earned him his first Oscar nomination. Hagen took the responsibility of breaking the news of Kay’s miscarriage to Michael as well as having to sadly tell Vita Corleone about the passing of his eldest son Sonny who was gunned down at a toll booth.

Robert Duvall and James Caan were stoked to be working alongside the legendary actor Marlon Brando on the films. Brando is often referred to as one of the greatest and most influential actors of the 20th century. His many accolades include two Academy Awards for Best Actor, three BAFTA Awards for Best Foreign Actor and two Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.

“It was great working with Brando because he was kind of like The Godfather of Actors to us young guys. When we were coming up, we had great reverence for Marlon Brando. Usually, that doesn’t work necessarily, but it’s good to have idols. He was like a Godfather in life to many actors coming up.”

Robert Duvall Describes Working With Coppola

Robert Duvall reflects on his time spent on set with The Godfather director, Francis Ford Coppola.

“We’d carry on and make faces and laugh, and he’d say, ‘Come on guys, we gotta be serious now,’” Duvall said. “Brando loved Jimmy Caan because Jimmy was so funny. … We’d moon each other, and Coppola would be like, ‘Guys, we gotta be serious now.’ But he knew that sense of humor helped relax the situation. … He was great that way. You could mess around and he’d say, ‘OK, that’s enough.'”

Additionally, Duvall was able to work with the notorious director on the 1974 film, The Conversation. In the motion picture, Duvall starred alongside Harry Caal played by Gene Hackman. Caal’s character is an extremely paranoid loner who plays saxophone by night and conducts surveillance by day.

“I just had a small part, but I liked working with Coppola,” Duvall said. “Gene was a friend and a wonderful actor and retired too early. He just did some lovely work and that was one of them. … Coppola told me that might be his favorite film, ‘The Conversation.’ Lovely film. Lovely film.”

Duvall’s Illustrious Career Continues

Fast forward to two years later and Duvall went on to appear in Sidney Lumet’s Network with a script written by Paddy Chayefsky.

“I like it OK, not one of my favorite films, but it was nice to do,” Duvall said. “Nice to work with Bill Holden. Great guy to work with. Bill Holden was a great actor and whenever a woman would come on the set, his antenna would go up. Boy, he liked to have the ladies around! He was terrific, that guy.”

The film follows a fictional television rating critic named Faye Dunaway. The movie oddly foreshadows today’s misinformed media landscape.

“The news today, I watch and my mind goes in circles,” Duvall said. “‘What am I watching this for?’ But I do! It’s kind of interesting to see the different shows. Everybody’s an authority on everything.”