While we all remember and cherish the performance of Marlon Brando in Godfather, many fans think the true scene-stealer was Lenny Montana who played Luca Brazi. A pivotal character responsible for many important moments in the film, Luca Brazi had a very menacing look and presence that made him a memorable part of the movie. What most people don’t know about the movie is that Brazi was portrayed by an actual mafia enforcer who was sent to the set to protect a Mafiosi ensuring that mafia was not depicted in a negative way.
Francis Ford Coppola had to collaborate with the mafia in order to have a smooth production without any issues. The book Godfather romanticizes the mafia and makes it look quite good. While not every character in the book is a good guy, the Corleone family is portrayed as an honorable bunch. Mafia sent Lenny Montana to look after the representative of the mob overseeing the production. In fact, there were more Mafiosi in the movie.
Montana was not a simple mafia enforcer. He had some connections in the showbiz after participating in wrestling matches under the name “The Zebra Kid” and he also was in several other movies including Change of Habit. This time, Montana was sent by the Colombo family and worked as a simple bodyguard. However, his massive stature attracted Coppola’s attention and he offered him the role of Luca Brazi who was supposed to be a menacing and violent right hand to Don Corleone.
Montana was a huge fan of Marlon Brando and often forgot his lines when acting next to him. His acting chops were definitely affected as his Brazi talked softly and slowly. This actually made him a little bit more intriguing as a character. Cast members generally liked him a lot and working with him was not a big issue. Marlon Brando appeared in many photos standing next to Montana or hugging him. However, it was not only flowers and giggles on the set when the Mafiosi was present.
Gray Fredrickson who was one of the producers remembers that Montana used to attach a tampon with gasoline to a rat’s tail and set it on fire to then releasing it to run around the set. On the other hand, Montana once brought a sudden gift to Bettye McCartt who worked on set. She broke her watch and Lenny brought her an elegant and expensive replacement.
After starring in Godfather, Lenny Montana appeared in several other films and TV shows. He was mostly type-cast. However, his filmography contains works on The Jerk and Magnum Pi amongst many others.