Who is “The Godfather: Part II” Character Hyman Roth Based On?

Similar to its predecessor, many of the characters in The Godfather: Part II (1974) are based on real-life individuals. Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) shares many of the same characteristics as the Florida-based mobster Meyer Lansky.

Like Roth, Lansky was a prominent figure in Jewish-American organized crime and had strong ties with the Italian Mafia. Lansky played a major role in Havana’s infamous casino business, which dismantled after the 1959 Cuban Revolution and the rise of communist revolutionary Fidel Castro, who nationalized the country’s hotel-casinos and outlawed gambling.

Along with Lucky Luciano, an Italian-American mobster many consider the father of organized crime, Lansky was instrumental in the development of the National Crime Syndicate, a multi-ethic American crime ring, believed to have been founded at a conference in Atlantic City in May 1929 by Johnny Torrio of the Chicago Outfit, whose bodyguard Al Capone, would later inherit his empire. Lansky was also a close associate of Bugsy Siegel, who served as the inspiration for The Godfather’s (1972) Moe Green (Alex Rocco).

But, where Roth simply wished to retire and live in Israel under the Law of Return, Lansky fled to Herzliya Pituah in 1971 to escape federal tax evasion. However, both are ultimately denied admittance into the country due to their criminal records. Lansky was deported back to the United States in 1973 and Roth was killed at the Miami airport by Rocco Lampone (Tom Rosqui). Roth’s death is ordered as a result of his involvement in the botched assassination attempt on Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) at the beginning of the film.

Although Lansky was eventually acquitted of all criminal charges, he died of lung cancer in 1983.