“I think everybody did it for money”: Robert Duvall’s Brutally Honest Reason For Not Doing The Godfather III is Something Very Few Actors Can Admit

Paramount couldn't make an offer that Robert Duvall can't refuse.

robert duvall, godfather

SUMMARY

  • Robert Duvall refused to return for The Godfather 3 following salary disputes.
  • Duvall demanded half what Al Pacino was offered for the job, as opposed to Pacino's $5M, he was offered $1M.
  • Duvall stressed that it was completely unacceptable to offer someone five times what he had been.
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When it comes to trilogies, the third one often ends up being the weakest of them all, and unfortunately, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather 3 wasn’t immune to it. Released in 1990, 16 years after the sequel, the film failed to live up to the bar set by its predecessors, which are often regarded as some of the best the medium of cinema has to offer.

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Moreover, due to salary disputes, the threequel didn’t see Robert Duvall’s Tom Hagen return, a character that was pivotal to Michael Corleone’s story in the first two entries. Later, when asked about his decision to stay out of the third one, Duvall had a pretty candid response.

Robert Duvall’s Absence From The Godfather III Boiled Down to Economics

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in a still from The Godfather
A still from The Godfather | Paramount Pictures

It’s no secret that the main motivation behind reviving the franchise after over a decade was money. Apart from being critical hits, the first two entries also made Paramount boatloads of green. Reasonably, the studio execs paid Al Pacino a huge paycheck, accounting for $5M, to reprise the role of Michael Corleone in the threequel, as opposed to the $1M they offered to Robert Duvall.

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Considering that the economics were the driving factor for the threequel, The Judge star demanded a salary equivalent to half of the Corleone family lead’s paycheck. Defending his stance, Duvall later stressed that everyone was doing it for the money and explained that the huge disparity between the paychecks was completely unacceptable.

Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen in The Godfather
A still of Robert Duvall from The Godfather | Paramount Pictures

He said:

“I think everybody did it for money. I mean why wait 15 years to do a sequel, whatever you call the third one, you know, they waited that long. So, obviously, it must be for money because, ‘why wait that long?’… When I told certain people that ‘here’s the real deal, this is the way it happens’, if they offered somebody five times what they offered me it’s totally unacceptable.”

However, the actor further stressed that had Pacino been offered twice or thrice the amount he was, Duvall would have accepted the gig, even though he felt that was not ideal either.

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Francis Ford Coppola’s Financial State Forced Him to Do The Godfather III

The Apostle star wasn’t wrong with his assessment about the driving force behind the threequel being the economics, as Francis Ford Coppola initially had no intentions of returning for a third one. After being done with The Godfather 2, which he wasn’t initially on board with, Coppola was done with the Corleone family for good, despite Paramount’s inclination to expand the IP further.

Unfortunately, despite hitting the goldmine with his next film, Apocalypse Now, Coppola hit a roadblock with One From the Heart, whose failure pushed him into a decade-long financial turmoil. Following his financial state at the time, the acclaimed filmmaker could no longer refuse Paramount’s offer.

The Godfather Part III | Paramount Pictures
The Godfather Part III | Paramount Pictures

He recalled (The New York Times):

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“I was in much less of a strong position. Frankly, I needed the money, and I was coming out of a real financial doldrum where I had almost lost everything.”

But despite being not up to the standards set by its predecessors, The Godfather 3 still has its charms. Apart from some underwhelming subplots and the absence of Tom Hagen, the threequel succeeded in giving Michael Corleone a King Lear-inspired departure.

The Godfather Part III is available to stream on Paramount Plus.

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Written by Santanu Roy

Articles Published: 1437

Santanu Roy is a film enthusiast with a deep love for the medium of animation while also being obsessed with The Everly Brothers, Billy Joel, and The Platters. Having expertise in everything related to Batman, Santanu spends most of his time watching and learning films, with Martin Scorsese and Park Chan-wook being his personal favorites. Apart from pursuing a degree in animation, he also possesses a deep fondness for narrative-driven games and is currently a writer at Fandomwire with over 1000 articles.