'The Offer's' Nora Arnezeder on the Complicated Life of the Woman Behind the Man Who Made 'The Godfather'

The actor plays Al Ruddy's wife Françoise, an immigrant who spent her childhood being protected from Nazis, went on to own the Chateau Marmont, and was later seen in 'Wild Wild Country,' known as Ma Prem Hasya.
by Whitney Friedlander — 

Nora Arnezeder in 'The Offer'


The Offer, Paramount+'s limited series about the making of the classic film The Godfather, mainly concentrates on Al Ruddy, the film's producer. Portrayed by Miles Teller, Al apparently had an unwavering knack for selling anyone on anything (according to the show, he sold Hogan's Heroes, the CBS series he co-created, in the room thanks to a pitch fueled by sheer improvisation). 

But, arguably, the most interesting characters in the show are the women who supported him. Ted Lassostar Juno Temple plays Bettye McCartt, Al's in-the-know assistant who would go on to become an influential talent manager. And French actor Nora Arnezeder plays his wife at the time, Françoise — an immigrant who spent her childhood being protected from Nazis and went on to own the exclusive industry hotel Chateau Marmont. (Documentary fans might know her better as Ma Prem Hasya, a follower of Rajneesh who can be seen in archive footage in the Netflix series about that group called Wild Wild Country.)

"She's a businesswoman. She loves to make people feel comfortable. There's a sense that she needs to feel confident and secure," Arnezeder tells Metacritic. "When she was a kid, no one would tell her the truth to protect her. And when she was separated from her mother, she really suffered from not knowing the truth. Because her mother tried to protect her. So when she has to deal with Al Ruddy, who doesn't tell her the truth always, she feels abandoned just the way she was abandoned when she was a kid. It's a very deep character."

Here, Arnezeder talks to Metacritic about playing such an influential, but perhaps overlooked, person in Hollywood lore. 

Were you just overwhelmed when you began to research this woman?

The only thing I've learned was on Wikipedia. I learned her parents are Polish, she grew up in France and she was hidden during the war and was reunited with her mother after the war. Her father died during the war. She went to Israel and went into the army. Her mother got scared and said to her daughter, "I almost lost you to the Nazis. I'm not going to lose you with you going into the army." 

So, they went to New York and Canada. And she moved to L.A., and she was doing nails in L.A. when she met her first husband, Mr. Glazer. He actually bought the Chateau Marmont for her. And then she met Al Ruddy, who was working for RAND Corporation. He wasn't an established producer at all. But she saw something in him. He was a fish out of water, just like her when she moved to America.

So, basically, this is what I've learned from Wikipedia because there's nothing about her. So I had to build history. I had to let my imagination flourish. So, what I did is that I met this amazing woman who has a very similar story to Françoise's, who actually was hidden during the Second World War. And she told me heartbreaking stories. She was also reunited with her mother after the Second World War: Jewish, hidden in the south of France. And that actually really helped me to build her emotional journey.

You're French and your mother is a Sephardic Jew. I don't know your mom's backstory, but did having a family lineage similar to Françoise help you?

There is a sense of having to rebuild yourself. My mom was born in Egypt. And when Gamal Abdel Nasser became president, all the Jewish people had to go to another country. So, half of my family went to Italy. The other half went to France. And so, there's the sense of not really belonging to any country, but always having to rebuild yourself and start fresh. 

And that's like the story of Françoise. She was never really at home anywhere. And there's also this identity crisis that she went through. At least, that's her emotional journey that I built.

It was also interesting because my mom is an astrologist. So I did her astrology.

What did you learn?

She loves food. She says she's a foodie person. She loves to enjoy life. She loves beautiful things. And everything makes sense.  She's passionate: when she falls in love, she falls in love; when she's no longer in love, it's done. It's over. Again, this is only her astrological chart. And maybe people who knew Françoise may say something different.

Did you go to the Chateau when you were filming to see if you could feel her?

We didn't go to the Chateau during filming because of [COVID]. We filmed somewhere else. But I've spent a lot of time at the Chateau with friends. It was the spot where we'd meet. And I have a lot of memories there, which I also used for my character.

This TV show is about Al Ruddy's struggles to make The Godfather. But it's also really about the careers of the women behind-the-scenes who helped him. Is it frustrating to you that Françoise's story is so sidelined in history?

Especially in the '60s, '70s, it was a very male-orientated culture. And what I loved about Françoise is that she's a strong woman in that kind of world and she's very empowering. She empowered Al Ruddy to be able to do what he did. To me, she's a force of nature.

There is something about the walk and posture you gave her where you know immediately when she enters a room that this is someone we should be acknowledging.

I know this is basic acting and coaching, but I always give an animal to my characters. And Françoise, I decided she was going to be a peacock. And I think giving her the peacock helped me build her physicality. Because building physicality is not something that you intellectualize — it's something that happens instinctively when I do the scene. 

Is it easier to play a person who actually existed versus playing a fictional character?

Not necessarily. I mean, of course, you have some elements that's given to you right away when you play a real person, but it's also intimidating. In the beginning, I was like, "Oh my God, I need to make sure that Françoise is depicted the way she really was." But there's also something very spiritual about embodying someone who existed. I felt her energy throughout.

I would love to see a whole miniseries about her. I don't know if anyone has approached you about that.

Oh, talk to Paramount. I would love that. Which era are we going to do?

The Offer is


Get to know Nora Arnezeder: 
Prior to The Offer, Arnezeder appeared in such series as Mozart in the Jungle (Metascore: 76), Zoo (55), and Riviera (45).