Paramount+ is bringing the world The Offer, a bio-series on the making of the Godfather. The series features names everyone should know like Marlon Brando and Francis Ford Coppola, and one some won’t. Matthew Goode will portray Hollywood legend Robert Evans, but who is Evans? Well, he’s got quite a story.
From Humble Beginnings
Born in New York City, Evans grew up in the middle class during the Great Depression. His deep voice helped him get work in radio, and eventually, he made his way to feature films. He was such a pest on the set of The Sun Also Rises that stars Ava Gardner and Ernest Hemingway himself wanted him fired. As chronicled in the Evans documentary The Kid Stays In The Picture, Producer Darryl F. Zanuck would not see him dismissed.
With a lack of success as an actor, Evans decided to become a producer. He helped shepherd The Detective from a novel into a motion picture starring Frank Sinatra and Robert Duvall. The film landed him on the radar of Paramount Pictures, which was only the ninth-largest studio at the time. Over the next decade, Evans helped turn Paramount into the most successful studio in Hollywood.
What Did He Work On?
Just about every successful film from Paramount in the 1970s had Evans’ name on the marquee. As head of production, he worked on Rosemary’s Baby, True Grit, and Serpico to name only a few. As a producer, he got a Best Picture nomination for Chinatown. His final film, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, was yet another box office smash.
Uncredited On The Godfather
This brings us to The Offer. Evans worked as a studio executive on both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. He was not officially credited for the films, but his fingerprints were everywhere. Without him, the films probably don’t get made.
It was Evans who wanted to sign an Italian American to direct, opening the door for Francis Ford Coppola. He later gave Coppola the power to fire some assistant directors who were eyeing his job.
That doesn’t mean the two ever saw eye-to-eye. Evans tried to get Elia Kazan to replace Coppola and did not agree with the casting of Al Pacino. Evans wanted Ryan O’Neal to play Michael Corleone because of the success of Love Story, another smash hit helmed by Evans. He then changed his mind and wanted James Caan, but Coppola would not be assuaged. The two compromised, with Caan playing Sonny and Pacino becoming Michael.
The ending of the film is largely thanks to Evans. He told Coppola to make the film longer than two hours, which is not what one would expect from a big-time Hollywood producer. Time has proven him right, for the film transcends moviemaking and is basically American mythology at this point.
Despite their success working together, there was no love lost between Coppolla and Evans. Up until his death in 2019, Evans was hardly credited by Coppola for the film’s success.
Luckily, time has healed this wound. At the 2022 Academy Awards, Coppola, Pacino, and Robert De Niro were welcomed on stage to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film. Coppola made a point of honoring only two people: author Mario Puzo and Evans.
Evans’ career came to a screeching halt in 1980. He’d left Paramount to become an independent producer when he was convicted for cocaine trafficking. Evans was forced to make an anti-drug PSA, and he couldn’t get a job. For 13 years following the arrest, he only produced two films, both of which flopped: The Cotton Club and The Two Jakes. He would eventually get back in demand before retiring in 2003.
Many Marriages Of Robert Evans
Another wrinkle to the Evans story is his many, many wives. He was married seven times, never for more than three years. For those playing at home, that’s as many partners as Larry King and Elizabeth Taylor.
One of his wives was another Love Story star, Ali MacGraw. The two had a son, Josh Evans, who would go on to star in Born on the Fourth of July. MacGraw would go on to marry Steve McQueen, while Evans wed sportscaster Phyllis George, but that didn’t last either. His final divorce came in 2006.
Evans lives on in his many parodies. Bob Odenkirk was heavily influenced by Evans for the role of Saul Goodman in Breaking bad. Orson Welles himself spoofed Evans in his final film The Other Side of the World. Michael Douglas played a caricature of Evans in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.
For The Offer, Goode has almost too much inspiration to draw upon. Few producers were as successful as Evans. We’ll have to wait and see what Goode brings to the table when the bio-series hits Paramount+ on April 28.
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