Lee Strasberg ( above left) as Hyman Roth, inspired by the real life Meyer Lanksy (below)
One of my greatest movie quotes of all time is when Hyman Roth (played by Lee Strasberg) gives his speech 'This is the business we've chosen' to Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in the Godfather Part 2. I will reproduce it here:
Hyman Roth: There was this kid I grew up with; he was younger than me. Sorta looked up to me, you know. We did our first work together, worked our way out of the street. Things were good, we made the most of it. During Prohibition, we ran molasses into Canada... made a fortune, your father, too. As much as anyone, I loved him and trusted him. Later on he had an idea to build a city out of a desert stop-over for GI's on the way to the West Coast. That kid's name was Moe Greene, and the city he invented was Las Vegas. This was a great man, a man of vision and guts. And there isn't even a plaque, or a signpost or a statue of him in that town! Someone put a bullet through his eye. No one knows who gave the order. When I heard it, I wasn't angry; I knew Moe, I knew he was head-strong, talking loud, saying stupid things. So when he turned up dead, I let it go. And I said to myself, this is the business we've chosen; I didn't ask who gave the order, because it had nothing to do with business!
But one of the more interesting things to note is that the character of Hyman Roth was inspired by Meyer Lansky. Here is some very interesting tid bits about that relationship which I found on Wikipedia.
The character Hyman Roth, portrayed by Lee Strasberg, and certain aspects of the main character Michael Corleone from the film The Godfather Part II (1974), are based on Lansky. In fact, shortly after the premiere in 1974, Lansky phoned Strasberg and congratulated him on a good performance (Strasberg was nominated for an Oscar for his role), but added "You could've made me more sympathetic." Roth's statement to Michael Corleone that "We're bigger than U.S. Steel" was actually a direct quote from Lansky, who said the same thing to his wife while watching a news story on the Cosa Nostra. The character Johnny Ola is similar to Lansky's associate Vincent Alo. Additionally, the character Moe Greene, who was a friend of Roth's, is modeled upon Bugsy Siegel. The film reflects real life in that Lansky was denied the Right of Return to Israel and returned to the U.S. to face criminal charges, but fabricated details regarding Roth's attempts to bribe Latin American dictators for entry to their countries, as well as Roth's ultimate fate.