Andy Garcia explains the drama behind Winona Ryder's 'Godfather III' exit and Sofia Coppola's infamous casting

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Andy Garcia explains the drama behind Winona Ryder's 'Godfather III' exit and Sofia Coppola's infamous casting
Andy Garcia and Sofia Coppola in "The Godfather Part III."Paramount
  • The casting of Sofia Coppola in "The Godfather Part III" after Winona Ryder dropped out of the role of Mary Corleone is one of the most infamous elements of the landmark franchise.
  • Andy Garcia told Insider he never even got to meet Ryder before her sudden departure from the movie (with her boyfriend Johnny Depp at her side).
  • Garcia believes Coppola's performance "was unjustly judged."

For 30 years, one of the biggest knocks to "The Godfather" trilogy is the casting of Sofia Coppola by her father, director Francis Ford Coppola in the franchise's third and final part.

The then-18-year-old took on the role of Mary, daughter of Michael Corleone, after Winona Ryder suddenly left the movie following what was later diagnoses as a nervous collapse.

In fact, Andy Garcia, whose Vincent character would play opposite Mary in a majority of her scenes, said he never even got to meet Ryder, even though she showed up on set.

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"She was on another movie so she wasn't even in the original week of rehearsals we did in Napa when we first started," Garcia told Insider.

"But Sofia was there and she sat in and read the part even back then. So when Sofia was cast I was like, 'Let's go. I'm all in.'"

Andy Garcia explains the drama behind Winona Ryder's 'Godfather III' exit and Sofia Coppola's infamous casting
Andy Garcia.Eric Gaillard/Getty

How Coppola ended up with the Mary role is one of the most infamous decisions in "The Godfather" franchise.

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In the June 1990 issue of Vanity Fair, Peter J. Boyer chronicled the making of "Godfather III," including what led to Ryder's sudden exit.

Coppola originally wanted Julia Roberts to play Mary, but she wasn't available, and even tested Madonna for the role. But it went to Ryder who was a rising star at the time following appearances in movies like "Beetlejuice" and "Heathers."

According to the Vanity Fair story, Ryder came to the "Godfather III" set in Italy after wrapping on the movie "Mermaids." She was accompanied by her boyfriend at the time, Johnny Depp.

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Andy Garcia explains the drama behind Winona Ryder's 'Godfather III' exit and Sofia Coppola's infamous casting
Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder in 1990.Barry King/Getty

She was immediately taken to the movie's production office to prepare for the next day's shoot.

"She appeared quite tired, and several production staffers noticed that something seemed to be wrong," Boyer reported. "But she had only a couple of lines to deliver the next day, and they let it pass."

"She came to the set that day and was in makeup," Garcia recalled 30 years later. "I was giving her space because they were doing some tests with her. I figured when she's finished I'm sure they will bring her out to the set and I'll meet her. But she went home and couldn't work and that was it."

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According to the Vanity Fair story, Depp phoned the studio the following day and said, "Winona wasn't well, that she couldn't get out of bed, and that she wouldn't be able to play her scene."

Despite a visit from the production's doctor, Ryder would never step foot on a "Godfather III" set. According to the VF story, Ryder suffered a nervous collapse.

Andy Garcia explains the drama behind Winona Ryder's 'Godfather III' exit and Sofia Coppola's infamous casting
Andy Garcia and Al Pacino in "The Godfather Part III."Paramount

The rest is history. Coppola decided to give the role to his daughter Sofia. The choice led to some of the loudest criticisms when the movie was released. And despite a re-edit of the movie by Coppola that's currently out in theaters and available on Blu-ray/DVD, "The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone," the biggest knock on the movie continues to be the performance by Sofia Coppola.

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"Sorry, there's no revisionist history-ing around it - this remains a bad performance, stiff and awkward and amateurish, full of flat, vacant line readings," wrote The Playlist critic Jason Bailey.

Things turned out okay for Sofia. She went on to become an acclaimed filmmaker, like her father, and earned a best screenplay Oscar for 2003's "Lost in Translation."

Looking back, Garcia sees Coppola's performance differently from most.

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"I'm really proud of the work Sofia and I did and I think her work was unjustly judged," he said.

Read more:

Andy Garcia says he would direct "Godfather 4" if Francis Ford Coppola gave his blessing: "Command me as you will"

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