A more familiar tension is that Paramount has been on a rocky path, with its impatient owners pressuring Evans to deliver at the box office. Careers are thus riding on the movie — which became a huge commercial success in addition to winning the Oscar for best picture — with everyone in danger of being fired in seemingly every episode.
No one appears more at risk than Ruddy, who finds Evans to be a mercurial ally, periodically prompting him to stage an end-run by going directly to the head of Paramount’s parent company, Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorham), who sees flirting with Ruddy’s assistant (“Ted Lasso’s” Juno Temple) as one of the key benefits to running a movie studio.
Created by Michael Tolkin (who wrote “The Player”), “The Offer” is certainly a knowing look at Hollywood, with nods to showbiz history all along the way, like Paramount suits dismissing “Chinatown,” another eventual classic, as a “water rights movie.” Evans is also thrown into a tailspin when his wife, Ali McGraw (Meredith Garretson), has a much-publicized affair with Steve McQueen while shooting “The Getaway.”
Still, the whole exercise would be considerably stronger as a five- or six-part series that went lighter on both personal detours and the juxtaposition of organized crime figures with the struggles of Ruddy and director Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) to preserve their vision.
Instead, “The Offer” goes deep not only into Ruddy and Evans’ lives but the former’s relationship with mobster Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), becoming far too enamored with the Mafia’s supposed concerns about how the film would depict them — egged on by Frank Sinatra, who is outraged by the thinly veiled character of Johnny Fontane and at one point directly confronted Puzo.
Fans of “The Godfather” will find plenty of wonderful tidbits, like where one finds a realistic-looking horse’s head on short notice, tapping a mob enforcer to play the towering Luca Brasi (here Lou Ferrigno, a.k.a. the Hulk), and agonizing over proposed budget cuts (including a proposal to make the wedding scene “a small affair”) that would have significantly impacted the film.
Still, if “The Godfather” emerged as a triumph despite limited resources — prompting Coppola to fret that the movie is “going to eat our souls, a piece at a time” — “The Offer” is marred by a common digital-age problem: The apparent lack of pressure regarding when to say “cut.”
“The Offer” premieres April 28 on Paramount+.