Storytelling

Rick Rubin, Paul Heyman, and Michael Corleone

4 min readFeb 16, 2024

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I listen to a lot of podcasts.

Some are just one-offs because I like the guest and want to hear more from them, or I hope to get some unique insight into their personality or creative process. Most of the time, I have a list of podcasts I like because of the host, the guests, or a combination of both. Podcasts like Smartless, Inside of You, Literally! and many more are fun distractions when walking the dog or driving in my car. They are literally famous people interviewing other famous people.

Also, as a fan of University of Illinois athletics, I listen to several podcasts covering the Illini, such as The 200 Level, I on the Illini, The Illini Inquirer Podcast, Keeping in Orange and Blue, and others. I like the insight and observations I get with these, and they enhance my enjoyment of watching Fighting Illini sports.

I have other fun podcasts in my queue, such as The Incomparable (geeky media), Seeing Red (St. Louis Cardinals), The Town (Hollywood happenings), and Three Sides of the Coin (KISS) that scratch a particular itch.

However, recently, I learned that producer Rick Rubin has a podcast where he talks to various people from all sorts of backgrounds. I found his podcast called Tetragrammaton¹ and immediately downloaded episodes. Phil Jackson, Owen Wilson, Will Smith, John Mayer, Marc Andreessen, Adam Mosseri, and so many more caught my eye. Knowing how much of a professional wrestling fan Rubin is, the first episode I listened to was his conversation with Paul Heyman.

Heyman is one of the best conversationalists on the planet. He is quick, eloquent, and knowledgeable. They spoke for three hours, and Brock Lesner and Roman Reigns were at the forefront of the discussion. However, it was the conversation about storytelling that made me stop several times and relisten to a section.

My favorite moment comes at 2:46:47 in the conversation. Rubin and Heyman discuss influences and inspirations from films. Heyman is electric in how he describes the restaurant scene in The Godfather. He describes perfectly what Michael is thinking and feeling via Pacino’s acting in the scene. It is my all-time favorite scene in all of cinema, and Heyman nails it.

Michael Corleone sitting in Louie’s restaurant in the Bronx having been told by Clemenza to come out of the bathroom blasting and he doesn’t come out of the bathroom blasting. He sits back down and now Solozzo is talking and he’s talking in Italian so to the audience, who doesn’t speak Italian, it’s just noise. [Italian sounding words]. You’re sitting going ‘Oh my God I don’t know he’s saying but whatever it is it’s heavy’ and he’s laying it on and he’s talking faster and harsher and angrier. Now the trains coming in and you hear that noise and the camera is shaking ever so slightly and Pacino’s eyes are going left and right because he’s saying, ‘Do I pull the trigger? Do I pull the trigger? If I don’t pull the trigger is he gonna kill me? If I pull the trigger my whole life has changed. I’m a gangster. I’m no longer just a soldier. I’m not a hero.’ This is a war hero. He’s a war hero, this kid, and he didn’t want to get mixed up in the family, and his father doesn’t want him in the family business, but if he doesn’t pull the trigger right now this guy across the table and the dirty cop to his left who broke his jaw are gonna kill his father. He has no choice. He better pull the trigger, but can he pull the trigger? He’s not a gangster. They’re not threatening his very life at this very moment. What does he do? What does he do? And his eyes. And you read his emotions because he’s not sure what to do, but he knows whatever he does this is the defining moment of his life and nothing will ever be the same after this because they’re gonna go kill his father or he’s gonna go kill them. Either way nothing’s gonna be the same and then he gets up and he shoots them both, but it’s the moment before that matters. It’s the emotions that are displayed.

For more context for those of you who have not seen The Godfather, this is the scene he’s describing.

By all means, listen to the podcast. The whole thing is a master class in story and feeling. It’s well worth three hours of your time.

  1. It’s another name for God. I looked it up.

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Most days I’m a professional copywriter, author, essayist, husband, father, and scrambled eggs maker. Find me at seanmcdevitt.com.