Movie Article

A Cleric Error

Don Novello's past -- The actor was once arrested for impersonating a priest at the Vatican

For his role as Dom Abbandando, publicist to the powerful Corleone family in The Godfather Part III, actor-writer-producer Don Novello (below) had to confront an upsetting moment from his past. Best known as Saturday Night Live's unorthodox priest, Father Guido Sarducci, Novello was worried about shooting a scene in which he and the family drive through the gates of the Vatican in Rome. It seems that 10 years ago, dressed in his priestly TV garb for a photo shoot at the Vatican, Novello was mistakenly waved through an officials-only gate by a Swiss Guard. Once inside, he was promptly nailed for impersonating a priest and hauled off to jail, where he spent seven hours.

Novello's latest Roman foray, however, went much smoother. This is his third film with Coppola (he had a role in Tucker and the New York Stories episode ''Life Without Zoe''). ''In this film I try to control the press,'' Novello says of his character, ''and persuade them to print good things instead of harping on the past, because the family is trying to go legitimate. This is the modern Mafia, so I give gifts that can't be refused instead of offers.''

Originally posted Jan 11, 1991 Published in issue #48 Jan 11, 1991 Order article reprints