With Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert Duvall leading the cast of The Godfather (1972), you don’t always hear about the supporting players. But you can’t sleep on the performance of Richard Castellano, the fourth-billed actor who portrayed Clemenza, the capo who uttered the classic line, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.”

Castellano, who added the cannoli line during the Godfather shoot, had received an Academy Award nomination a few years earlier for his work in Lovers and Other Strangers (1970). And he went toe-to-toe with Pacino and the other leads on the Godfather shoot (see: the pasta sauce scene).

Yet when it came time to shoot The Godfather: Part II, Castellano didn’t return to play Clemenza. The actor and director Francis Ford Coppola had their differences during the shoot of the first installment. Later, Coppola said Castellano wanted approval of his lines in the script. But Castellano said it didn’t happen that way.

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Richard Castellano didn’t like where Clemenza’s character went in ‘The Godfather: Part II’




Clemenza (Richard Castellano) kisses the hand of new Godfather Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in the last scene of ‘The Godfather.’ | Paramount Pictures

When speaking with Lumenick in the ’80s, Castellano remembered how Coppola made him do dozens of takes walking up four flights of stairs for his final scene in The Godfather.

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Castellano believed it was Coppola’s revenge for something he did earlier in the shoot.

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Ardell Sheridan, Castellano’s wife who played Mrs. Clemenza in The Godfather, wrote about that day on the set in her 2002 book Divine Intervention and a Dash of Magic. “Richard knew he would have died that day if he’d been required to do one more take ,” Sheridan wrote.

She included an account Castellano told her prior to his 1988 death. “According to Richard, as he sat on the steps , Francis came over to him and said, ‘Tough, isn’t it?”” Sheridan wrote. “Richard said he looked straight at Francis and said, ‘Not tough enough.””

In a DVD commentary for The Godfather, Coppola gave a different account. He said that Castellano wanted approval of the lines Clemenza would say in the sequel. Coppola wouldn’t agree to that, and Castellano’s Clemenza died then and there.