Anyone who has seen the film The Godfather is never going to forget Lenny Montana, who played Luca Brasi, the hulking chief enforcer of the Corleone family. Lenny Montana had the right build for the part; he was a former professional wrestler who was six-foot-six and weighed over 280 pounds. He was uniquely qualified to play such a part. Aside from his career in wrestling, he was an associate of the Columbo crime family. In the early 1970s, when the film was in production, the head of the Columbo family approached the makers of the film to express his strong displeasure at the prospect of The Godfather being made into a movie. The filmmakers made a deal with Columbo. They would not use the term “mafia” during the film, and they hired Lenny Montana to play Brasi. Montana had never been in a film before, and was quite intimidated at the thought of doing a scene with Marlon Brando. Francis Ford Coppola overheard Montana rehearsing his lines and decided not only to film him in action, but to include it in the finished film.
While the character of Luca Brasi is killed off early in the film, The Godfather was the start of a lucrative second career for Lenny Montana. As I’ve said before, sometimes good things happen to bad people.