Before Will Smith's Slap, The Academy Banned A 'Godfather' Actor For Piracy

Carmine Caridi didn’t think sharing the joy of movies with others would be a thing that could land a person in jail. Then the FBI came.
Before Will Smith's Slap, The Academy Banned A 'Godfather' Actor For Piracy

While the news of Will Smith resigning from the Academy sinks in and hundreds of opinion pieces abou it start to flood every online channel, let’s rather look (and maybe even laugh) at the very first Academy member who got thrown out by the Hollywood elites. Not for assault — that wouldn’t be much of a laughing matter, really (unless it involved a banana peel and some pie, of course). No, The Godfather actor Carmine Caridi got expelled from the Academy in 2004 because he shared his movie screeners with his VCR repair guy.

Carmine Caridi, The Godfather Part III

Paramount Pictures

What a total … legend?

The late Caridi (who passed away in 2019) was originally cast as Michael Corleone’s brother Sonny in Francis Ford Coppola’s trilogy, but when the studio execs told Coppola the actors needed to be shuffled, Caridi got cut.  When the sequels came along, however, Coppola remembered the stage actor and Caridi was cast as Carmine Rosato in Part II and Albert Volpe in Part III.

In 1982 the Academy made Caridi “One of us!” and he soon started to receive those exclusive screeners. It was also around this time that Caridi met Russell Sprague — a friend of a guy who knows a guy and who helped Caridi fix his broken VCR. In return, Caridi lent Sprague his screeners to copy, because the actor probably didn’t think that sharing the joy of movies with others would turn out to be a thing that could actually land him in jail. 

Enter the goddamn FBI, because this could easily have been a dark comedy directed by the Coen brothers. The Feds told Caridi that he’d get immunity for giving them Sprague’s name. That immunity, however, did not include the Academy looking the other way while one of their own were being publicly exposed for aiding and abetting some good ol’ piracy.  

Caridi was expelled, but he still received screeners from the Screen Actors Guild. When asked how many, he replied: “Some, not as much as I got from the Academy. I lend them to my neighbor.”

Zanandi is on Twitter.

Top Image: Paramount Pictures

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