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New TV drama The Offer is set to tell the story behind Francis Ford Coppola's Oscar-winning 1972 film The Godfather. It was a legendarily tumultuous journey from page to screen for the Mario Puzo-penned mobster tale, with the truth being almost stranger than the fiction on film.
And while this glossy new series starring Miles Teller, Matthew Goode, Juno Temple and Dan Fogler, looks back in time, it also gives a glimpse into the future at the next trend in franchise-mining storytelling.
Movies about Hollywood are nearly as old as Hollywood movies themselves. The early cinema of the 1920s yielded many a self-aware, self-advertising title and star cameo.
Soon after, the likes of What Price Hollywood? (1932), A Star is Born (1937), Sullivan’s Travels (1942), Sunset Boulevard (1950), All About Eve (1950) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952) all swiped, scathed, and celebrated the very studio system they emerged from.
Watch: Go behind the scenes on The Offer
Yet, whilst often thinly veiling the real-life villains, heroes, and egos of Hollywood, they were always fictionalised digs, celebrations, and love letters to tinsel town. So, as Paramount+ launches its new limited series The Offer, a new genre is clearly emerging – that of the genesis story.
Directed by Dexter Fletcher (Rocketman, Eddie the Eagle), The Offer is the tale of the precarious birth of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972).
The ten-part series shot on the very Paramount lot the real drama partly took place is in written by Michael Tolkin – no stranger to Hollywood stories himself having adapted his own 1988 novel of the same name into Robert Altman’s The Player (1992).
Told from the stance of producer Al Ruddy (Miles Teller) and pinned to the backdrop of America’s New Wave of cinema rising from the crumbling and unsure ruins of the Hollywood studio system, The Offer is the tale of independent-minded artistry versus mobster panic, new audiences, and studio egos.
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Adding to the already vibrant cast-list is Matthew Goode as slick, colourful and savvy Paramount Pictures legend, Robert Evans. Producer Evans has himself already been the subject of one of the absolute best documentary features looking at post 1960s Hollywood.
The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002) is the candid, colourful look at Evans’ time steering Paramount Pictures through the late 1960s and 1970s – where it thrived through titles like Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Love Story (1970), Serpico (1973), Chinatown (1974), Marathon Man (1976) and The Godfather (1972). The Kids Stays in the Picture was later produced by Bond captain Barbara Broccoli for London’s Royal Court theatre in a stunningly mounted 2017 production with Danny Huston as Evans.
It has been the last decade — and a certain passage of time and retrospection — that is now allowing these 1960s and 1970s Hollywood tales of greenlighting classics to be greenlit themselves.
ITV’s Cor, Blimey! (2000) poignantly detailed the making of the Carry On films through the pained eyes of Sid James and Kenneth Williams, with star Barbara Windsor stepping in for a final motif of playing herself.
Likewise, the BBC’s We’re Doomed – The Dad’s Army Story shed a light on a 1970s TV classic. In America, Saving Mr. Banks (2013) told the tale of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) developing Mary Poppins (1964) with its prickly writer, P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson).
HBO’s My Dinner with Hervé (2018) pitched Jamie Dornan opposite Peter Dinklage as Hervé Villechaize – with the production and release of The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) loosely created onscreen.
And from possibly the current supreme producer for glossy shows about cultural luminaries, Ryan Murphy’s Feud (2015) focused on the delicious Beverly Hills rivalry between Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) when shooting 1962’s Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Maybe in another sixty years we will get a drama about the making of Feud?
As the 1970s become a farther memory, Murphy’s later Halston (2021) and FX’s Fosse/Verdon (2019) both Minnelli-danced around the making of 1972’s Cabaret.
And musical cinema’s golden boy Lin-Manuel Miranda (Encanto, Tick, Tick…Boom!) also made an unnervingly good Roy Scheider in a recreation of 1979’s All That Jazz in the latter.
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Scheider is also another character in the Olivier-nominated play, The Shark Is Broken (2019). Based on Jaws’ infamously troubled Martha’s Vineyard shoot in 1974 and written by Ian Shaw and Joseph Nixon, Shark did not just swim from the genesis genre itself. It was an uncanny tribute to Shaw’s own father and Jaws star, Robert Shaw.
When detailing the rise of National Lampoon magazine, 2019’s A Futile and Stupid Gesture also recreated the Animal House (1978) production. Star John Belushi was incidentally buried on Martha’s Vineyard near to where Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis wrote what became Ghostbusters (1984) – a much loved 1980s classic that itself will no doubt one day get its own biopic.
Belushi, Reitman, Ramis, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray are already side characters in A Futile and Stupid Gesture, suggesting any of our pop-culture stalwarts and their movies are now ripe for the story picking. The Offer itself also has a character list that includes actors playing the likes of Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Ali McGraw, James Caan, and Burt Reynolds.
When reboots and multi-verse sidebars run out of box-office steam, the natural step could well be to create the story universe behind the story universe. DC’s Superman has already seen Hollywoodland (2006) with a pre-Batman Ben Affleck donning the red cape to play Superman TV star, George Reeves, and creating the only answer to the pub quiz question, ‘who has played both Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne?’.
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One of the most stirring, successful examples of the genesis project genre is Mark Gatiss’ An Adventure in Time and Space. Produced to mark Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary in November 2013, the feature drama is the moving tale of an ageing actor getting a final TV break on a disbelieved sci-fi flop to be that never flopped.
Amid the fun recreations of Who characters and fan-famous episodes, Gatiss’s drama also struck a particularly melancholic note about the value, companionship, and passion audiences themselves place in our beloved classics. Another sci-fi moment that will one day get its own biopic is Star Trek and the Gene Roddenberry story.
And as this is Hollywood and the business we call show, no new genre or title is itself is immune to reinvention. As The Offer was announced, so too was director Barry Levinson’s Francis and The Godfather- with Oscar Isaac and Jake Gyllenhaal rumour-attached to be playing Coppola and Evans respectively.
However, the chances of that Part 2 to The Godfather genesis saga have now diminished as The Offer got there first.
With the prequel fad seemingly on the way out and brands like Star Wars struggling to sequelise its brand, if The Offer is a hit, these genesis stories could become all the rage in Hollywood.
The Offer premieres on Paramount+ on 22 June, 2022. Watch a clip below.