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Why Michael Corleone's Redemption Was The Key To The Re-Edited Godfather III - Exclusive

Note: This article contains minor spoilers regarding the end of newly re-edited version of The Godfather Part III.

30 years after The Godfather Part III was released in theaters, director Francis Ford Coppola is finally presenting to the masses the story as he and his co-screenwriter, author Mario Puzo, originally envisioned with Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.

What makes this chapter of the Godfather trilogy unique is not just its title change, but substantial edits to give the film a new beginning and ending, along with further rearranging of scenes in-between. The film's core plotlines and themes, however, remain the same, as Don Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) seeks legitimate business interests that will free the Corleone family from the criminal underworld once and for all. It's a struggle complicated by the sudden emergence of the illegitimate son of Sonny Corleone (James Caan) — Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) — who possesses the same fiery demeanor as his late father.

Guiding Vincent in a bid to keep the Corleone family from falling prey their enemies is Connie Corleone Rizzi (Talia Shire), whose actions upset her brother Michael when his plans for peace begin to crumble. In an exclusive interview with Looper, Shire says that Coppola (who is her older brother) didn't specifically communicate to her at any point that he was going to re-edit The Godfather Part III. However, because she and Coppola "have a great subtext" and "don't always speak about things," she had a good sense that the Oscar-winning filmmaker was going to tackle an update of Part III after he edited an extended version of The Cotton Club and rereleased it in 2019.

"He went back and touched that up and brought it to a real state of perfection," Shire explains. "So, when he did that piece, I knew that he was also going to do the same thing with Godfather III because he wanted to set that right... I think he was very rushed trying to get the film out for a certain release date, so he hadn't gotten all of the pieces, so this was an exciting opportunity. And you could screw a thing up, too. I do that with my cooking, thinking, 'Oh, God, I ruined the thing. Don't go back.' But I think he really framed it correctly this time."

Talia Shire, cast members were moved by changes to The Godfather III

Shire believes one of the major reasons Coppola wanted a shot at re-editing the film was so he could properly accentuate Michael Corleone's desire for redemption. Chief among Michael's grave misgivings, of course, is the hit he ordered on his and Connie's brother, Fredo (the late John Cazale) in the final act of The Godfather Part II.

"In terms of The Godfather III, Francis felt he didn't have the time to land it in that mythological place that deals with redemption," Shire tells Looper. "And for me, the last scene, I have to tell you, where you have Michael in this garden, it's purgatory. He's never going to leave this garden because I don't know where this garden is. Do you? And so, he found a very profound last image."

Coppola premiered his restored version for the original cast at the Paramount Pictures lot in Los Angeles. As Shire tells us, the new final shot of the movie left everybody in tears — and those weren't the only tears shed.

"I called my sons and I said, 'I went to Paramount. I was sitting in the great Paramount Theater in darkness. There was Diane [Keaton] a couple rows ahead of me, there was Al [Pacino], and George Hamilton.' George is very good in it, by the way. Andy Garcia was there, too. When the Godfather title came up [on the screen], I could hear Diane crying in the theater," Shire shares with Looper. "After the movie, the lights went on and we were in the lobby looking at each other. All this time had gone by, right? And it was quite remarkable. I think what I have to tell you is I felt a great sense of love and respect for my fellow actors all these years later. And I felt Al's performance was quite stunning, you know?"

Now that Shire has seen the remarkable results of The Godfather III being transformed into The Godfather, Coda, would she be up for the redux of another classic film of hers? Perhaps something from the Rocky series, where the story of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky and her character, Adrian, could be presented in a whole new light?

"I think maybe Sylvester has been retooling one of those. I heard that. I can't say that's true," Shire says, referring to a new version of Rocky IV Stallone has discussed on Instagram. As Shire muses, "Film is interesting because it's plastique. You can do that. So I'm always up for whatever transformation happens."

Mario Puzo's The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is now playing in select theaters and available on Blu-ray and video on demand.