“They went on a town hunt and Coppola cast me as Michael Corleone’s stepmother because he said I was the prettiest in the place,” he exclaims. laughing Vincenza Cicala, 84, in the hallway of her house in Savoca, the hilltop village in Sicily where scenes of The Godfather in 1971.
Coronavirus has emptied this beautiful town of 1,707 people in the province of Messina of tourists, but the main source of income for Savoca – and neighboring Forza d’Agro, 895 people – is the road The Godfather, by the actual scenes where the film was shot. It was done here and not in Corleone, where “they didn’t get a permit, because of a security issue. Apparently, an assassin who had killed a judge was hiding nearby. So after searching all over the island, they finally arrived here.
Vincenza Cicala, 84, was a neighbor chosen to play Al Pacino’s stepmother
Cicala, a widow, says one of her sons also acted as an extra. “They came a little early, but the actual filming took two weeks and the wedding scene took place in one day.”
“Al Pacino was 24, he was very handsome,” he recalls. When we didn’t want him to understand us, we spoke in dialect but then we saw that he didn’t speak Italian either, we taught him that! His girlfriend in the film, Simonetta Stefanelli, was only 16 years old. He never thought of continuing in the cinema because “I have already seen how the actors live, very disorderly, with drugs and all that. I’m not like that, this city seems like a good place to spend my life, in the mountains, in peace with God and with men. When you go there, you realize that in the world there is no longer any respect or education, everyone has a first name. Besides, having played only one role, for which I was paid 50,000 lire, does not make me an actress, does it?
“It was an unforgettable experience,” he admits. Coppola was very strict and had scenes repeated dozens of times. We put a sculpture in Piazza Fossia, what’s more, it made our city famous all over the world. At that time, we never thought for a moment that The Godfather it was going to be so successful. You don’t know how many tourists knock on my door asking for an autograph, a photo or just to chat. I was interviewed by television in the United States, in China, what do I know! I’ve even been hired as an extra at weddings, people who come to get married here in Corleone. The latter, an American lawyer and a journalist”.
In the fiction, the character played by Cicala is the wife of bar owner Vitelli, played by Saro Urzì, to whom Corleone asks for Apollonia’s hand (when he looks at her for the first time, his companion tells him that “in Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns”).
The most visited place in the city is precisely the Vitelli bar, today owned by an engineer from Catania, a place that lives from its past, transformed into a cinema museum, with photos, objects and many products merchandising, which bring in even more . than the famous granite, a kind of lemon granita from the region which Coppola took a liking to at the time.
Different guides offer tours of the sets of the film and identify the scenes: “This is where Al Pacino offers flowers to Diane Keaton with his bicycle”, “this is where the car explodes”…
Ten kilometers after a road with dizzying curves appears Forza d’Agro, which also includes scenes from the second and third parts of the film: for example, when Michael shows his hometown to his ex-wife, or when Vito Corleone flees to the United States hidden in the saddlebags of a donkey.
Precisely, the supposed house of Corleone, where Don Vito was born, is today for sale, as the Engel & Völkers poster attests. “No one dared to buy it,” say the neighbors, who are sure that one day an offer will arrive that the owners cannot refuse.