Will Francis Ford Coppola release his long-anticipated The Godfather Part III this Christmas as planned, or will the notoriously perfectionist director refuse to let his movie appear until he's finished re-shooting and re-editing it? Star Al Pacino has expressed doubts that Coppola will make the opening date, cast members have wagers riding on it, and one source with a financial stake in the picture is betting that Coppola will stall until February 1991 or even later. Godfather III coproducer Fred Roos pooh-poohs all the rumors. ''We're fully expecting to make our opening date,'' Roos claims, ''but it's hard.'' To expedite the project, Paramount has dispatched a senior vice- president to the Bay Area, where Coppola reportedly was re-shooting recently on his 1,500-acre Napa Valley estate.
There have been reports of trouble with the film for more than a year now. Coppola cast as Pacino's daughter his own 19-year-old offspring Sofia, an extraordinarily inexperienced actress, sparking a near-insurrection among the cast and Paramount executives. Coppola's sister Talia Shire also has a major role; his 3-year-old granddaughter and 78-year-old mother have bit parts, and his father and uncle are doing the music. The movie's budget has ballooned from $44 million to a reported $60 million-plus.
A source close to the production says Paramount execs are now guzzling bromo because they have already booked TV ad time and over a thousand movie | screens for the year's end. Missing the holiday blockbuster season would cost the studio millions and without Godfather III to cause box-office stampedes, other Christmas movies could be hurt. Furious theater owners would not soon forgive Paramount.
Nevertheless, except for the direct losers, the Hollywood Reporter's Martin A. Grove says practically everyone in Hollywood is hoping Godfather III doesn't open on time. ''The psychology of this town,'' says Grove, ''is that it's not enough to succeed your competitor has to fail.''