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Al Pacino nearly died making The Godfather 2

Al Pacino had to be sent back to the US during the filming of The Godfather Part II because he fell ill and was hospitalised, then rescued by Lee Strasberg.

The Godfather 2

Francis Ford Coppola had to fight hard for the relatively unknown theatre actor Al Pacino to be cast – and keep his job – in the first Godfather movie. The rest, as they say, is history. By time The Godfather Part II came around, Pacino was of course indispensable in what would become one of the best movies of all time. But the production almost lost him at one stage due to a serious illness.


In an Entertainment Weekly article published in 1990, it goes through all of Pacino’s movies up until that point and Pacino comments on each one. His account of the second Godfather movie – widely considered the best sequel of all time – is dramatic, to say the least; “If The Godfather was about Michael Corleone’s rise to power, The Godfather Part II showed him preserving that power at the expense of his humanity. The part earned Pacino his third Oscar nomination but almost cost him his life.”

“He fell ill during filming in the Dominican Republic and was hospitalized, where his condition deteriorated. When his longtime friend Lee Strasberg saw the actor’s state, he contacted Pacino’s personal physician, who whisked him back to the States. ‘The doctor told me I would have died if I’d been in there one more day,’ Pacino says.”

Lee Strasberg’s cameo in this story is interesting, as he is of course the famed teacher at the Actor’s Studio in New York who is forever strongly associated with The Method. The Method is still controversial to this day, as any recent interview with member of the Succession cast Jeremy Strong will show you.

Despite many nominations, Pacino finally won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1992. Most recently, he can be seen in the Amazon Prime TV series Hunters. Recent film roles include The Irishman, House of Gucci and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Check out our guide to the best drama movies.