Bridget Gleeson writer + illustrator

The Godfather trifecta

What do Robert Duvall, Francis Ford Coppola and Al Pacino have in common? A lot more than stony facial expressions and severed horse heads.

All three are inextricably linked to Buenos Aires. How, you ask?

Let’s start at the beginning.

1. Robert Duvall

Last week I watched To Kill a Mockingbird, which I haven’t seen since I was about twelve years old. At the end of the film when Boo Radley shows his face for the first time, I sat up straight in my chair and said ‘wait, was that Robert Duvall?’

Indeed it was. He had bleached hair and a skinny frame; it was years before he was cast as Don Corleone’s consigliere in The Godfather. I always loved him. In the film, he was Irish-German (like me! I thought when I first saw the triology as a teenager.)

Later, when I moved to Buenos Aires and started working as the editor of Time Out’s magazine there, I heard that Robert Duvall was something of a regular on the tango club scene – surprising, at least to me. At the time, I was putting together a series of short interviews with famous figures who talked about their favorite things to do in Buenos Aires. It seemed like a long shot, but I dispatched one of the writers to see if he could get in touch with ‘Duvall’s people.’ Sure enough, the talented Jeremy Helligar was able to work his own hard-earned connections to get us the interview. Reading the text, I realized just how much Robert Duvall loved Buenos Aires. He had fallen in love with tango and had traveled to Argentina for extended periods of time so that he could dance every night in the milongas (tango clubs.) He’d met his longtime girlfriend, the beautiful Luciana Pedraza, outside a local bakery. According to CBS News:

Both of them were born on the same day, Jan. 5, four decades apart.

“When I called up and met her father over the phone, he says, ‘Well now, I don’t know whether to call you father or son,’” recalls Duvall, who was at least 20 years older than Pedraza’s father. “When she told me how young she was, I started yelling, ‘Policia, policia, come arrest me.’”

Típico, no?

Let’s see for ourselves. He cast his girlfriend as his tango partner in a film he directed in 2002, Assassination Tango.

BAM. But moving on.

2. Francis Ford Coppola

The legendary director loves good wine and drama, so it’s no shock that he likes Buenos Aires. He shot his film Tetro there (curiously off the radar – I still haven’t seen it.) Like many other visitors to the city, he took Spanish classes and got his stuff stolen. He even opened a private hotel in the city and called Buenos Aires his favorite place in Travel & Leisure magazine.

3. Al Pacino

Oh, this one’s easy – his current girlfriend is a gorgeous Argentinian woman named Lucila Sola. She’s forty years his junior, but who’s counting?

After all, these guys are at the top of the heap, they can do what they want. And what they want to do, apparently, is hang around tango clubs in Buenos Aires, drinking Malbec and looking at beautiful young women.

And so I leave you with lines from The Godfather: a snippet of dialogue between Michael (Pacino) and Kay (played by Diane Keaton.)

Michael: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Kay: Do you know how naive you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.
Michael: Oh. Who’s being naive, Kay?