Where are they now: The Godfather trilogy
The Godfather, first released in 1972, is one of those movies that's more icon than film by now, an enduring Platonic ideal of cinematic greatness that's been forever cemented in the canon. And perhaps the film's greatest strength is its unimpeachable cast, a who's who of great names in acting that director Francis Ford Coppola assembled, and then largely reassembled for Parts II (1974) and III (1990). What is the cast of the trilogy up to now? Read on to find out.
Marlon Brando (Don Vito Corleone)
THEN: The Godfather's success marked a comeback for Marlon Brando, whose appeal with critics and audiences had dried up by the 1970s. (At the time, he hadn't starred in a box office hit, or earned an Oscar nomination, since 1958.) His transformative performance as the wise Don Corleone won over skeptical Paramount executives and earned him his second Best Actor Oscar, which he famously declined, sending activist Sacheen Littlefeather to protest Hollywood's treatment of Native Americans.
NOW: The comeback didn't last, unfortunately. After another hit with the controversial Last Tango in Paris, Brando's later career was quite scattershot, with the occasional success like Apocalypse Now balanced out by such notorious flops as The Island of Dr. Moreau. His reputation for being difficult to work with also continued to worsen, and his roles became more and more sporadic. Brando died in 2004.
Al Pacino (Michael Corleone)
THEN: Coppola fought hard to cast the then-unknown Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, against executives who wanted a star like Robert Redford or Warren Beatty in the role. The Godfather rocketed Pacino to stardom, earning him his first Oscar nomination and kicking off a string of acclaimed performances, with such films as Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and, of course, his return as Michael in The Godfather Part II.
NOW: Pacino has had an illustrious career in the ensuing decades, including another turn as Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III and a long-awaited Oscar win for Scent of a Woman in 1993. He's currently having something of a renaissance: 2019 brought acclaimed roles in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Irishman (the latter being his first collaboration with director Martin Scorsese) and 2020 saw Pacino's first regular TV role, as a Nazi hunter in Amazon and Jordan Peele's Hunters.
Robert Duvall (Tom Hagen)
THEN: Robert Duvall (like everyone else) earned a heap of praise for his Godfather performance, as level-headed consigliere Tom Hagen, also earning an Oscar nomination. He returned to the role for Part II but sat out Part III. Though Duvall had drawn attention for his performances in MASH (1970) and George Lucas's THX 1138 (1971), The Godfather established him as a major figure in acting.
NOW: Duvall won an Oscar for playing a recovering-alcoholic country singer in 1983's Tender Mercies, and has continued to appear regularly on stage and screen, often to critical acclaim. Most recently, he earned another Oscar nomination for 2015's The Judge and played an aging power broker in 2018's Widows, and is set to appear in Adam Sandler’s latest Netflix project, the basketball film Hustle.
James Caan (Sonny Corleone)
THEN: James Caan was the rare actor Paramount actually wanted to be in The Godfather, replacing the initially-cast Carmine Caridi in the role of hot-tempered Sonny Corleone. Along with Duvall and Pacino, Caan secured a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for the film. He also appeared briefly in Part II, reprising the role of Sonny in a flashback.
NOW: Caan has worked steadily since the 1970s, though in less prominent roles than some of his co-stars; he reportedly turned down roles in several successful films, including Kramer vs. Kramer, Apocalypse Now, and Superman. (The latter two featured his Godfather co-star Brando.) Caan is also known to younger audiences as Buddy's (Will Ferrell) curmudgeonly father in Elf, and will next appear in the comedy Welcome to Pine Grove! alongside Ellen Burstyn, Ann-Margaret, and Christopher Lloyd.
Related: Stars and their famous fathers
Diane Keaton (Kay Adams Corleone)
THEN: As with several of her co-stars, The Godfather proved to be Diane Keaton's breakout, carrying her from a burgeoning stage career to screen stardom. As Michael's embattled wife Kay, a small-but-crucial role in the first film, Keaton got to show off some emotional fireworks in Part II's explosive confrontation, and returned to the role again for Part III.
NOW: Keaton went on to give acclaimed performances in such films as 1977's Annie Hall (for which she won an Oscar), Manhattan (1979), and Reds (1980). More recently, she appeared in HBO's The Young Pope (as a nun who raised Jude Law's titular cleric), the 2018 hit Book Club, and a Father of the Bride mini-sequel on Netflix. A Book Club sequel is also in development, with Keaton expected to reprise her role.
Robert De Niro (Young Vito Corleone)
THEN: After unsuccessfully auditioning for several roles in The Godfather, Robert De Niro won the role of the young Vito Corleone in Part II. Before appearing in the sequel, he had received notice for his performances in 1973's Bang the Drum Slowly and Mean Streets, his first collaboration with Martin Scorsese. De Niro won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Godfather Part II, and he and Brando remain the only actors to have won Oscars for playing the same character.
NOW: De Niro became one of the most acclaimed actors of the New Hollywood era with his performances in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Deer Hunter, among other films. His later projects include 2019's Joker (in a role nodding to his and Scorsese's The King of Comedy), The Irishman, which reunited him with both Pacino and Scorsese, and 2020’s The War with Grandpa, a movie only notable for dethroning Tenet at the box office during the COVID-19 pandemic. Up next, De Niro will team with Scorsese yet again for the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon.
John Cazale (Fredo Corleone)
THEN: John Cazale made his feature film debut with The Godfather, coming off of several off-Broadway stage roles. Though he has relatively little screen time in the first film, Cazale made an impression on Coppola, who cast him in 1974's The Conversation and significantly expanded Cazale's role — Michael's soft-spoken but ultimately treacherous brother Fredo — in Part II.
NOW: Cazale appeared in only five films before dying of lung cancer, at age 42, in 1978. All five — both Godfathers, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter — were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. Cazale also continued to act on stage until his death.
Abe Vigoda (Sal Tessio)
THEN: Abe Vigoda also mainly worked on stage before The Godfather, with just one uncredited screen appearance before playing wily capo Sal Tessio. He reprised the role briefly in Part II's closing flashback scene.
NOW: Vigoda's most famous role besides Tessio is probably the grouchy Detective Phil Fish on the 1970s sitcom Barney Miller. He appeared in numerous films and TV shows before his death in 2016. News outlets erroneously identified Vigoda as deceased multiple times before his actual death, which became a frequent joke during talk show appearances.
Talia Shire (Connie Corleone)
THEN: Talia Shire had appeared in a small handful of films before her brother Francis Ford Coppola cast her as Corleone daughter Connie. Shire also appears in Part II and Part III, Connie having become a close advisor to Michael in the latter film. She received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Part II.
NOW: Shire went on to star as Rocky's (Sylvester Stallone) girlfriend-then-wife Adrian in Rocky and its sequels, earning another Oscar nod for the first film. More recently, she guest-starred on Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce and Netflix's Grace and Frankie in 2018. As a Coppola, Shire is also part of a Hollywood family network: Jason Schwartzman is her son, and Nicolas Cage is her nephew.
Bruno Kirby (Young Peter Clemenza)
THEN: Yet another actor who earned a major career boost from The Godfather, Bruno Kirby played Vito's longtime associate Peter Clemenza in Part II's flashback sequences. (Interestingly, Richard Castellano, who played the older Clemenza in the first film, also played Kirby's father on a short-lived sitcom.)
NOW: In the '80s and '90s, Kirby became a popular choice for supporting roles in comedies, appearing in When Harry Met Sally..., Good Morning, Vietnam, and City Slickers, among other films. Kirby died from leukemia-related complications in 2006.
Andy Garcia (Vincent Mancini)
THEN: Before playing Sonny Corleone's illegitimate son Vincent in The Godfather Part III, Andy Garcia had already appeared in another mob movie, on the other side of the law: Brian De Palma's 1987 Al Capone picture The Untouchables. For his portrayal of the loyal but hot-tempered Vincent, Garcia earned an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor.
NOW: Garcia's subsequent appearances have included Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy and HBO's Ballers. He has been enjoying something of a resurgence lately, with roles in 2018's Book Club (with Godfather co-star Diane Keaton), Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, and The Mule, and Amazon's anthology series Modern Love. He also earned praise from EW for his performance — as a mobster! — in the play Key Largo in 2019.
Bridget Fonda (Grace Hamilton)
THEN: Bridget Fonda's film debut came at age five in 1969; she cameoed as a child in a commune in her dad Peter's Easy Rider. (Fonda is part of a storied showbiz family that also includes grandfather Henry Fonda and aunt Jane Fonda.) It wasn't until her role in Part III — as journalist Grace Hamilton — that her career took off, however. Starring roles in Single White Female, Singles (both 1992), and Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997) followed.
NOW: Fonda retired from acting in 2002, and married composer Danny Elfman shortly thereafter.
Sofia Coppola (Mary Corleone)
THEN: Sofia Coppola, Francis Ford's daughter, was famously cast in Part III at the last minute, after Winona Ryder dropped out of the film. Her performance as Michael's innocent daughter Mary was one of the threequel's most-criticized elements, with Coppola winning two Razzie Awards for Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star. Coppola also appeared in the first Godfather, playing Connie's infant son in the climactic baptism scene.
NOW: Coppola has appeared onscreen a few more times, including in a small role in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (for which she earned another Razzie nomination; was that really necessary?), but has since found her true calling behind the camera. She received rave reviews for her feature directorial debut The Virgin Suicides in 1999, and has continued to earn acclaim for her subsequent films: Coppola was the first American woman to receive a Best Director Oscar nomination (for 2003's Lost in Translation), the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion (for 2010's Somewhere), and the Cannes Film Festival's Best Director award (for 2017's The Beguiled). Her latest film, the father-daughter story On the Rocks starring Rashida Jones and Bill Murray, was released on Apple TV+ in 2020.
Related: Sofia Coppola's movies, ranked
Morgana King (Carmela Corleone)
THEN: Morgana King already had a thriving career as a jazz singer when she was cast as the Corleone matriarch in The Godfather. Known for her four-octave vocal range, King began performing professionally at age 16, toured nightclubs and concert halls for decades, and released dozens of albums. Oddly enough, she only sings onscreen once in The Godfather, during the opening wedding sequence.
NOW: King had only a few other acting credits after The Godfather, including a 1993 guest role on the soap opera All My Children. She died in March 2018.
Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth)
THEN: Lee Strasberg's significance to the Godfather films goes far beyond his Part II role as fading mob titan Hyman Roth. As the director of New York's legendary Actors Studio, Strasberg helped pioneer the "Method" school of acting utilized by Brando, De Niro, Pacino, and many others. His performance as Roth was one of only a few onscreen roles, and it earned Strasberg his only Oscar nomination.
NOW: Strasberg's legacy lives on through the acting techniques he helped develop, which changed screen acting as we know it and are still widely taught and utilized to this day. Strasberg died unexpectedly, at age 80, in 1982.
Gianni Russo (Carlo Rizzi)
THEN: Gianni Russo made his film debut in The Godfather as Connie's abusive husband, Carlo Rizzi. But Russo's life story reads more like the opening stretch of Goodfellas: Raised in New York's Little Italy, he was a delivery boy for mob boss Frank Costello in his youth, and claims to have connections to numerous underworld figures, though he was never deeply involved with the Mafia.
NOW: Russo's screen career might be the least interesting thing about him. He has appeared in numerous small roles in film and TV, including Rush Hour 2 and 2003's Seabiscuit. He's also, by his own account, owned a Las Vegas club and casino, "known three popes, five presidents and every Mafia boss," romanced Marilyn Monroe and Zsa Zsa Gabor, and defeated 23 federal indictments. And he sings, too!
Franc D'Ambrosio (Anthony Corleone)
THEN: Coppola cast Franc D'Ambrosio as Michael's son Anthony in Part III after seeing him perform in Sweeney Todd on Broadway. D'Ambrosio's vocal chops (he later studied under famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti) made him an ideal fit for the role of the aspiring opera singer; he also performed a vocal version of The Godfather's iconic theme for the soundtrack.
NOW: Part III remains D'Ambrosio's only screen credit; shortly after the film, he began a six-year run playing the title role in Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera. He continues to tour and perform worldwide as a solo artist.
Eli Wallach (Don Altobello)
THEN: By the time he played the treacherous Don Altobello in Part III, Eli Wallach was one of the most prolific character actors of stage and screen. He studied under Strasberg at the Actors Studio and appeared in such classic films as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Magnificent Seven.
NOW: Wallach continued to act into his nineties, and his career ultimately spanned more than six decades. His later work included 2006's The Holiday and the Wall Street sequel Money Never Sleeps before he retired in 2010. Wallach died at age 98 in 2014.
Simonetta Stefanelli (Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone)
THEN: Simonetta Stefanelli's work before The Godfather consisted entirely of films in her native Italy. As Michael's doomed first wife Apollonia, she played a small but memorable role in the crime epic.
NOW: Despite the attention The Godfather brought, Stefanelli did not pursue a career in Hollywood. “They wanted nothing more than to expose my body,” she told PEOPLE in 1997. “I refused so much work.” She appeared in several more European films before retiring from acting in 1992.