How a ‘Godfather’ actor became a legend thanks to one line
Richard Castellano, the actor who ad-libbed one of the most famous lines in movie history, died in North Bergen on December 10th, 1988. You might not recognize the name, but he played a major role in the original Godfather film.
He played mobster Peter Clemenza and delivered the famous line “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.” According to the New York Post, the second part of that line was ad-libbed by Castellano. The script just called for the “take the gun” dialogue. The rest of his role was pretty important to the film, as well. Like when he tells Michael Corleone how to shoot police captain McCluskey and is seen at the end of the film pulling off one of the hits that put Michael at the head of the mafia in New York.
There are various stories as to why he wasn’t in the equally well received sequel, but he told The Post it was because the script called for him to testify against the family and Castellano didn’t believe that was something the character would do.
Prior to The Godfather, Castellano had been nominated for an Academy Award for the film Lovers and Other Strangers, but his post-Godfather career was pretty sparse. According to IMDB.com, most of his roles were in TV movies along with two failed sitcoms. By 1981, the New York Post says he was answering phones at a garage in Guttenberg. He was only 55 when he died, but he achieved silver screen immortality with one line.
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