Al Pacino Says He Was Almost Fired From 'The Godfather'

He names the one scene that kept him from being let go from the picture.

ByABC News
March 20, 2015, 2:55 PM

— -- Can you imagine “The Godfather” without Al Pacino?

The actor says he was almost fired from his iconic role as Michael Corleone in the epic 1972 film.

“They wanted to fire me when I was on the picture ... [during] the shooting, first couple of weeks,” Pacino told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “Because they kept seeing the rushes, you know, or the footage that was shot, and they kept looking at it and thinking, ‘What is he doing?’”

Pacino currently stars as an aging rock star in the film “Danny Collins,” which opens in theaters today.

Pacino went on to portray the mob boss in the rest of the “Godfather” trilogy. But if it weren’t for director Francis Ford Coppola, Pacino said, he wouldn’t have stayed.

“I was so confused at that time, and Francis was so supportive, you know, and so helping me in it, all of it,” Pacino said. “If it wasn't for Francis, I would’ve just not showed up one day and said, ‘Hey, look man, I don't want to be where I'm not wanted.’”

Things changed, Pacino said, when he saw the footage he had already shot and liked how he portrayed his character.

“It was -- yes, a form of innocence or detachment in a crazy way. It was a kind of detachment. And then so that when the character finally emerges … you say where did that come from? That was what I was really going after,” Pacino recalled.

“The Godfather” restaurant scene, he said, is what kept him in the picture.

“Without the great Sterling Hayden and ... little Al Lettieri, I wouldn't be here today. They'd have let me go for -- even Frances couldn't stop them,” Pacino said.

“And I guess the way it was directed and the way it came off, they said, "Okay, we'll keep him.'"