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“Don Corleone, ns am honored and also grateful the you have actually invited me to her daughter’s wedding …”

Luca Brasi, a character created by novelist Mario Puzo for what eventually came to be director Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, stumbles end the line. Swallowing, he tries again, after ~ a lengthy pause during which he and Marlon Brando together Don Corleone rigid at every other, “… top top the day of your daughter’s wedding.”

And the is exactly how a star to be born. The star in question was the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Leonardo Passafaro, aka Lenny “Bull” Montana, and also he confirmed up a few days prior to the scene to be shot as anything various other than an actor.

“He to be what he to be ‘acting’ like he was,” says brand-new York filmmaker drew Stone, who functioned with Montana in the 1980s. “He had presented up to perform security for one of Coppola’s ‘technical advisers.’”


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Well prior to The Godfather was completed, the movie had already started come raise hackles, particularly those the Italian celebrities, and men later connected to what even the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover had publicly refused to acknowledge the presence of: the Mafia.

They intended the movie to be a defamatory depiction of world who had actually nothing to carry out with arranged crime. I beg your pardon is come say the there was no way Coppola to be going to gain the movie made, no matter how numerous studios were sustaining it, if the crowd didn’t avoid standing in the way.

So in a to explode of think-tank-level thinking, Coppola invited high-ranking Mafioso to the set. Montana, an enforcer and a former professional wrestler from Brooklyn, taken place to it is in protecting a ranking officer in the Colombo crime family; according to a 2009 Vanity Fair item on the production, Coppola “fell in love through him immediately.” It likewise helped the the actor initially slated to play Brasi had actually just died of a love attack. After concessions that included removing words “Mafia” from the script, Montana welcomed the part.


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Roy “Ripper” Watson (left) and also Lenny Montana during a fight at Madison Square Garden.

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After a little over 10 minute of screen time, it to be clear the Lenny Montana had actually himself a new career. Real-life mobsters occasionally do walk to jail. Montana himself had actually done time, at brand-new York’s well known Rikers Island, and also he had actually no attention in returning to prison.

In quick order post–The Godfather, Montana appeared in comedies, dramas, action/adventure movies and also even kung fu flicks. He co-starred with everyone native Frank Sinatra, who had been among the early voices at first opposed come The Godfather, come Richard Gere, Telly Savalas and Tom Selleck. Montana even ended up co-writing a movie. There to be no more punching human being in the confront or burn down buildings — Montana talked openly around his time as an arsonist — and, best of all, no an ext jail. And also all since of the raw power of that an initial performance.

“You never forget how he goes — it’s a fatality scene as poor as Tamiroff in Touch that Evil or that girl in Hitchcock’s Frenzy,” claims film doubter Richard von Busack. “He dies staring straight at us. He’s also very gentle, though, running through that little speech and also trying to acquire it right. In Montana’s case, it’s an additional example of how professional wrestlers deserve to be really an excellent actors.”

When you consider that the photo of Montana, who passed away of a heart assault in 1992, at period 66, as Luca Brasi continues to appear, currently in video games, you acquire some sense of the enduring power of both cinema and also the male who was broad and solid enough to carry it.


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In a quiet from The Godfather, Luca Brasi, play by Montana, is murdered when attempting to success the to trust of a competitor gang.

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That appeal recalls the Robert Warshaw essay around the two things we gain from gangster movies: One, when we check out a gangster alone on-screen we understand he’s a goner; and also two, the the gangster movie opposes the happy speak of American society where “euphoria spreads over ours culture like the wide smile of an idiot.”

“Here,” according to von Busack, “people are enabled to fail and die.”

Sort of favor real life. “When we worked together,” rock says, “I was just a lowly production assistant yet me and the various other PAs spent all of our time simply begging : ‘Do Luca! Please do Luca!’ and also he categorically refused. But we no stop and also so one day he simply paused … and also did Luca! one of the solitary greatest film set moments of mine life.”

Score one because that the authentic. And another, simply to it is in on the for sure side, because that Lenny Montana, who, by picking art over crime, honored his much better angels in the only means he knew how. Beautifully.