Dexter Fletcher On The Offer He Couldn't Refuse To Direct [Interview]

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Director Dexter Fletcher has made biopics of sportsman Eddie Edwards ("Eddie the Eagle"), musician Elton John ("Rocketman"), and even had an uncredited hand in finishing "Bohemian Rhapsody." Now he's taking a stab at a large-scale Hollywood biopic with "The Offer," the sprawling 10-episode story of the making of 1972's classic "The Godfather." Fletcher serves as a producer as well as director of several episodes, and Paramount+ provided us the opportunity to speak 1:1 with the English helmer about the challenges of such an ambitious story as it lands on the streamer today.

With a cast led by Miles Teller, Matthew Goode, Giovanni Ribisi, Colin Hanks, Dan Fogler, Juno Temple, and Burn Gorman, "The Offer" looks at the complicated making of arguably the most famous gangster movie ever made. While director Francis Ford Coppola (Fogler) and author Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) play crucial roles in the narrative, the story is driven by the efforts of producer Albert Ruddy (Teller) to keep the film together while under pressure from both a failing Paramount Pictures and an angry mafia. Be sure to check out our review by Josh Spiegel right here!

"Any story that you choose to tell you can tell in a cinematic way"

You've worked on a lot of biopics, which generally, if not done correctly, can feel like you're watching a reenactment of a Wikipedia entry. How do you find something cinematic in a subject as technical and inside baseball as the making of "The Godfather"?

That becomes about vision, I suppose. It's just about how you personally choose to approach it. Hopefully, any story that you choose to tell you can tell in a cinematic way. You've got to find where those opportunities are. Paramount as a lot, which is where a lot of the film is based, offers that up enormously. If you look at the first episode, there's that incredible water tower. There's that incredible water tank as well, with the backdrop painted on it. 

I spent many days walking around Paramount looking for those opportunities with the DOP Salvatore Totino. I knew that I had those big stages as well to give me those opportunities. That was part of the responsibility that I took on directing the first two episodes, the first block, was that it had to be a love letter not only to the movie and the makers of that movie, but also the studio that made it and delivered it and got it out to the world. 

That's why Robert Evans is such a key person in the whole storytelling as well, because it's the sum of many parts. It's three different worlds: It's the film itself, it's Paramount, and it's Ruddy, and also New York and the mafia. They're equal. I think that's just the approach of it, being like, "Hey, it's 'The Godfather,' and people are going to expect a cinematic experience and me pushing for that every turn." All credit to Nikki Toscano and Nicole Clemens at Paramount and those guys involved at the production level that helped me find that, and I think that's the beauty of it is that we do we make it a love letter, not only to the movie and the filmmakers, but also hopefully the studio as well. In a justifiable way, because it's an incredible studio, they made "The Godfather" amongst many other great films.

"He just has those big Robert Evans moments that every actor relishes"

This was for sure Paramount's golden era when Robert Evans was running it. As a fan of Evans, watching Matthew Goode ... he's just phenomenal. He 100% get the voice and the tenor and the character. Even when he's reenacting Robert Evans imitating Charlie Bluhdorn it's perfect. Doing Robert Evans has become a thing that a lot of people have dined out on over the years, especially actors. How do you keep it from becoming a caricature?

It's really interesting. It's messy. I mean, it was an extraordinary set of circumstances because we cast Matthew and he was stuck in England, and it was [during] COVID. Where the rest of the casts were in LA and all came from New York and we had the chance to rehearse, Matthew was sort of in a vacuum. He spent a lot of time working on the physicality and the voice and the timbre of his voice and what those finished physical manifestations were. 

So the work that all the actors did was they wrote their own personal biographies, and a lot of that's invented because even in "The Kid Stays in the Picture" Evans has left huge gaps in what he tells us. The challenges the actors and the storytellers had was to fill in those blanks, and what that does is it allows us to create a very layered and real person who is multi-dimensional, in as many possible ways as you can, like you would with building any character. What I was very keen to always push the actors to do was, if you don't know, invent. If you don't know, give yourself an inner life, and Matthew really dug into that. He had his physical manifestations, he had his voice, he knew what he had to do outwardly, but really what so successful and brilliant about what Matthew's done is the inner life that he is living that we all relate and connect to and understand. 

That's the same for all of them, but certainly with Matthew, who's a larger-than-life character as Evans. It gives it that extra loud presence. What is brilliant for me, like I said, is that there is a real inner voice in there and that's what an impression or a caricature never gives you. It gives you just the surface. Matthew being the phenomenal actor that he is means that he's on a par with all those other actors, with Miles, with Giovanni, with Patrick Gallo, with Dan Fogler, with Juno Temple. All these other great actors, they all have layered and detailed work going on. Matthew is no different, he just has those big Robert Evans moments that every actor relishes, and he worked really hard. He worked alone for a long time of it, not through choice but by circumstance. When he turned up, he'd been so isolated and he was so nervous that he came out all guns blazing. His first scene that he shot is with Colin Hanks, when he confronts him about bursting into his creative meeting with Coppola and Puzo, and it's a great f***ing scene. Colin's brilliant. Colin's so good at holding control of the room, that's what that character needs. It's just great acting all around. I was very lucky.

"When you come from a place of love, it's hard to go wrong"

Years ago I had a roommate who was super into the TV series "Bates Motel." Then one day, I found out he'd never actually seen the original "Psycho." Did you have that audience member that may have never actually watched "The Godfather" in the back of your mind? Or do you simply consider it to be essential adjacent text to "The Offer"?

Wow, I never thought about that. I suppose part of doing things that are biographical is that you treat them as their own story in their own right. So I never really thought about that, to be quite honest. I mean, I didn't assume. I didn't say, "We can tell the story, just assume everyone knows what we're talking about or who we're talking about." Because there were people that I learned about that I had no idea existed. Juno's character, Bettye McCartt, was well known in the industry, but who knows, you know? 

The same with Stephanie Koenig as Andrea Eastman, the casting director. I didn't know who she was, but these were key people in this storytelling. Same as Nora's character, Francoise, Ruddy's first wife, who went on to do extraordinary things. {There are] a lot of characters we come across that we don't know and so we simply have to tell their story. I suppose my hope is that people who don't know it are compelled enough to go see it. I believe that happens. I believe that, for example, Nicole Clements, the head of Paramount+, she watched the first episode with her 14-year-old son, and by all accounts, he immediately went to watch "The Godfather" as a result. 

I suppose that's the hope, that these characters are compelling and interesting and exciting enough that, have you not seen the film or you haven't seen it for a long time, that you'll go and discover or rediscover it. We only try to treat all of these characters with great respect and reverence, and sometimes a little irreverence, but only the right amount that's healthy. When you come from a place of love, it's hard to go wrong.

The new Paramount+ limited series "The Offer" is now streaming.