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Getting to Know: Al Pacino

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Five decades have passed since Al Pacino made his screen debut. In the latest tribute to those performers who have lit up the screen, Cinema Paradiso looks back on the career of a distinctive talent who shows no signs of easing up.

According to legendary acting guru Lee Strasberg, 'Some actors play characters. Al Pacino becomes them.' This rare ability to assume an identity has shaped a career that has seen the New Yorker become one of the few actors to have notched up the triple crown of an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy. Moreover, he has 17 Golden Globe nominations to his credit and, in 2003, he was voted the biggest film star of all time in a poll conducted by Channel 4. So, who is Al Pacino and why is he held in such esteem?

Sonny From the Bronx

Born in East Harlem on 25 April 1940, Alfredo James Pacino grew up in the South Bronx after his 20 year-old father, Salvatore, divorced his mother. As he lived with Rose's parents, Kate and James Gerardi, Pacino grew close to his grandfather, an illegal immigrant from Corleone in Sicily, who worked as a plasterer and delighted in spinning yarns to amuse 'Sonny', as he was known in their tough, but vibrant neighbourhood.

A still from The Lost Weekend (1945)
A still from The Lost Weekend (1945)

Pacino became an accomplished storyteller in his own right, especially after Rose got a job as a cinema usherette and started sneaking her four year-old son into screenings. He soon started acting out scenes that had made an impression on him, most notably searching the apartment for a bottle in the manner of Ray Milland's alcoholic writer in Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend (1945). In later years, Pacino would suggest that his occasional tendency to over-emote came from the fact that he wanted to make sure that his deaf aunts could follow his performance.

Smoking by the age of nine and drinking at 13, the young Pacino was no angel. He would often play truant from school and set his heart on a sporting career after joining the Red Wings baseball team, which played in the Police Athletic League. However, Blanche Rothstein, the drama teacher at Herman Ridder Junior High School recognised Pacino's talent when he was reading a Bible passage during assembly and began casting him in school plays. Following his performance in Home Sweet Homicide , an audience member congratulated Rose on her son's talent and joked 'Here's the next Brando'. But Pacino had no idea who Marlon Brando was, even though he would soon become an inspiration.

Having acquired the nickname, 'The Actor', Pacino secured a place at the High School of Performing Arts, although he dropped out at the age of 16 and started taking menial jobs as a messenger, janitor, busboy and mailroom clerk. He retained his ambition to act and planned to use the name Sonny Scott. However, he was rejected by the Actors Studio and began his training under Charlie Laughton at the Herbert Berghof Studio, where he honed his craft in children's productions and satirical reviews. He even tried his hand at stand-up comedy and discovered that he could express himself more freely in character than he could in person.

A Jobbing Actor

In the early 1960s, Pacino lost his mother and grandfather within a couple of months and it took him a while to recover from the shock of being completely alone. However, acting brought him consolation, as being on stage reminded him of his childhood performances and brought 'a sense of being at home, together again'. Laughton remained a close ally, most notably after Pacino's first line in his Off-Off Broadway bow in William Saroyan's Hello Out There had provoked unintentional laughter. He had sobbed in an alleyway behind the theatre during the interval and it was only Laughton's faith that persuaded him to keep going.

He found his feet in another Off-Off production of August Strindberg's Creditors and, on 17 January 1967, he won a place at the Actors Studio after Lee Strasberg had been impressed by the way he linked speeches from Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh and William Shakespeare's Hamlet . Among the other newcomers that term was Dustin Hoffman and Pacino quit his part-time jobs to devote himself to his art. He spent a season at the Charles Playhouse in Boston, where he began a five-year romance with Jill Clayburgh, who would go on to win the Oscar for Best Actress in Paul Mazursky's An Unmarried Woman (1978). On returning to New York, Pacino and John Cazale won Obie Awards for their work in Israel Horovitz's 1968 Off-Broadway production, The Indian Wants the Bronx, in which Pacino first discovered that he could summon an explosive power while playing tough characters.

Talent manager Martin Bregman was so impressed that he offered to represent Pacino and landed him a role alongside Clayburgh in 'Deadly Circle of Violence', a November 1968 episode of the TV series, NYPD . He also helped Pacino make his Broadway debut in Don Petersen's Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? The play only ran for 39 performances, but it earned Pacino a Tony Award, which he followed up by making his first movie, Fred Coe's Me, Natalie (1969). Patty Duke won a Golden Globe for her performance as the ugly duckling who lives left field and discovers the artist she is sleeping with is married. Pacino played a rough kid at Duke's graduation dance, but he did enough to land the lead in Jerry Schatzberg's The Panic in Needle Park (1971), which was adapted from a James Mills novel by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne and teamed Pacino with Kitty Winn, as a heroin-addicted dealer who shows her kindness after a botched abortion. Everything would change, however, with his next screen assignment.

An Offer He Couldn't Refuse

A still from The Godfather (1972)
A still from The Godfather (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola was so impressed by Pacino's performance as Bobby the pusher that he risked the ire of the Paramount hierarchy by insisting on casting him in The Godfather (1972). Source novelist Mario Puzo was also convinced that Pacino was better suited to playing Michael Corleone than studio favourites Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Ryan O'Neal. However, he was dismayed when the 31 year-old showed up for the audition with a hangover and proceeded to ad-lib because he couldn't remember his lines. With the suits now backing James Caan for the part, Coppola insisted on doing two more tests. But Pacino lost interest and Clayburgh had to tell the director to leave her boyfriend alone.

Coppola persisted, however, and studio chief Robert Evans eventually gave way. Having realised the importance of the project, Pacino begged playwright Israel Horovitz to persuade housemate/producer Irwin Winkler to release him from James Goldstone's The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight (1971) and he reported to Coppola's set after the role of Mario in the Mob comedy went to Robert De Niro. Accepting a flat fee of $35,000, Pacino more than held his own alongside Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, James Caan and John Cazale and became so convinced of the merits of his work that he boycotted the Academy Award ceremony after being nominated for Best Supporting Actor when he was on screen longer than Brando, who won the Best Actor award.

During the shoot, Pacino became close to co-star Diane Keaton, who was best known for her collaborations with partner Woody Allen. However, they became an item after they reunited for The Godfather Part II (1974), which became the first sequel to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Pacino missed out on the Best Actor prize, although De Niro took the award for Best Supporting Actor for playing the young Don Corleone in Italian. By contrast, the concluding part of the trilogy, The Godfather Part III (1990), failed to convert any of its seven nominations, with Pacino missing out altogether for a final outing as Michael Corleone that divided the critics.

Back in the early 1970s, however, everything Pacino touched seemed to turn to gold. He drew another nomination on the back of winning the Best Actor prize at Cannes for Jerry Schatzberg's Scarecrow (1973), an outsider road movie in which Pacino plays Lion, a sailor returning from five years at sea, who wants to meet the child he has never seen in Detroit and hooks up with Max (Gene Hackman), who has just come out of prison on an assault charge and wants to set up a car wash in Pittsburgh. This offbeat buddy movie was followed by Sidney Lumet's Serpico (1973), which was based on Peter Maas's book about Frank Serpico, an undercover NYPD cop who refuses to follow his corrupt colleagues in the 1960s and becomes a target when he decides to testify before the Knapp Commission.

Pacino received his fourth consecutive Oscar nomination for his bold display in Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon (1975), which drew on the actual experiences of John Wojtowicz in following Sonny (Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) in their ill-fated efforts to rob the First Savings Bank of Brooklyn in order to pay for a sex-change operation for Sonny's lover, Leon (Chris Sarandon). Critic Robin Wood recognised the growing maturity of Pacino's acting style, as he shed a marked 'flamboyance of manner and expression' in favour of 'a deep intensity and vulnerability' that reflected his growing off-screen insecurity, as he struggled to cope with the pressures of fame and sought refuge in alcohol.

A still from And Justice for All (1979)
A still from And Justice for All (1979)

He channelled his confusion into Sydney Pollack's underrated Bobby Deerfield (1977), in which he plays a Formula One driver who is reluctant to return to the circuit until he is given a new lease of life by Marthe Keller (with whom Pacino would also become romantically involved off-screen). While this melodrama was dismissed in most quarters, Pacino received another nomination for Best Actor in Norman Jewison's ...And Justice for All (1979), in which he plays crusading lawyer Arthur Kirkland, who is well aware that judge John Forsythe is guilty of raping a younger woman, but is urged to play the game while defending him by presiding judge Jack Warden.

He lost out to Dustin Hoffman for his performance in Robert Benton's Kramer vs Kramer (1977), which Pacino had rejected. Jon Voight similarly picked up an Oscar for another Pacino discard, Hal Ashby's Coming Home (1978), and one can only imagine how different his career might have been if he had not nixed Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976), George Lucas's Star Wars , Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) and John McTiernan's Die Hard (1988) among others.

You're a Big Boy Now

As America celebrated its Bicentenary in 1976, Pacino was enduring his very own Lost Weekend. He didn't release a film that year, as he struggled to conquer his demons. But, even when he returned to cinema, a string of misfires further sapped his confidence. William Friedkin's Cruising (1980) remains the biggest miscalculation of his career, as Pacino essays rookie NYPD cop Steve Burns, who is ordered to go undercover to catch a serial killer on the New York gay scene. However, Burns is drawn into the culture and LGBTQ+ audiences continue to despise the demonising depiction of the lifestyle.

While markedly less contentious, Arthur Hiller's Author! Author! (1982) also flopped in centring on playwright Ivan Travalian (Pacino), who has to cope with raising five kids after being cuckolded by wife Tuesday Weld and having to rework a new play that he hates, even though he's beginning to fall for leading lady Dyan Cannon, a neurotic film star making her stage bow. Thirty-six years on, Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983) is regarded as one of Pacino's seminal movies, as he throws himself into the role of Cuban gangster Tony Montana, as he embarks upon a reign of terror in Miami. But, on its release, critics accused Pacino of gorging on the scenery and he was so slated for his performance as Bronx-accented Scottish fur trapper Tom Dobb in Hugh Hudson's muddled War of Independence adventure, Revolution (1985), that he ducked out of the limelight and entered what Vanity Fair called his 'clandestine phase'.

Looking back, Pacino has described this as one of the best periods of his life, as he felt 'as close to egoless as I've ever been' in taking on the odd stage project. He particularly enjoyed working on David Wheeler's The Local Stigmatic (1990), a short adaptation of a Heathcote Williams play to which he kept returning throughout the decade to tinker with the scene transitions and experiment with some flashforwards. After four years in the cinematic wilderness, however, he was ordered back to work by Diane Keaton, who presented him with the screenplay for Harold Becker's Sea of Love (1989), which earned him respectful reviews for playing NYPD cop Frank Keller, who places a lonelyhearts ad in the hope of catching a serial killer and begins a passionate affair with suspect Helen Kruger (Ellen Barkin).

A still from Frankie and Johnny (1991)
A still from Frankie and Johnny (1991)

Clearly out to have some fun, Pacino donned layers of latex to steal the show in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy (1990), as criminal mastermind Big Boy Caprice turns the screws on Beatty's ace detective in a gloriously kitschy adaptation of the cult Chester Gould comic strip. Pacino's involvement also earned him a guest slot in Alex Keshishian's documentary, In Bed With Madonna (1991), as the singer was dating Beatty when he cast her as Breathless Mahoney. The following year saw Pacino give one of his most understated performances in Garry Marshall's Frankie and Johnny (1991), a slow-burning romantic drama adapted from a Terrence McNally play, in which he plays an ex-con who lands a job as a short-order cook at the New York coffee shop where Michelle Pfeiffer works as a waitress.

His next two pictures would put Pacino firmly back on the A-list, as he became the first person to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in the same year he was also nominated in the Best Supporting category. The latter recognition came for James Foley's Glengarry Glen Ross , which was adapted by David Mamet from his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play and cast Pacino as Ricky Roma, who makes a living competing for sales at Premiere Properties in Chicago with Shelley Levene (Jack Lemmon), Dave Moss (Ed Harris) and George Aaronow (Alan Arkin). However, the long-overdue victory came for Martin Brest's Scent of a Woman (both 1992), a remake of Dino Risi's 1974 film of the same name that saw Pacino play blind Army Ranger officer Frank Slade, who gives New England preppie Charlie Simms (Chris O'Donnell) the run around when he is hired to babysit him over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Not everyone was sure that Pacino's consciously mannered turn merited the award, but he roared back with another larger-than-life display in Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way (1993), in which he plays Carlito Brigante, who vows to go straight after opening a nightclub after being sprung from prison after only five years of a 30 year stretch on a legal technicality by his cocaine-addled lawyer, Dave Kleinfield (Sean Penn). However, some of his old friends and new rivals refuse to give Carlito a break. Despite being scripted by Joseph Stefano, who had adapted Robert Bloch's novel for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), James Foley's Two Bits (1995) was a much quieter affair that harked back to the 1930s to centre on a South Philadelphian, who promises 12 year-old grandson Jerry Barone a quarter for a ticket at a newly opened movie theatre if he helps him reconnect with old flame, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

The Prince of Players

Although they had both appeared in The Godfather Part II, Pacino and Robert De Niro hadn't shared any scenes and film fans were beginning to despair of ever seeing them act opposite each other when Michael Mann cast them in Heat (1995). In fact, the acting legends come together all-too-briefly in scenes that were cut to limit the number of two-shots depicting them together. But the contrast in styles was compelling, as the Strasberg-inspired Pacino plays cop Vincent Hanna, who is hell-bent on nailing crook Neil McCauley (Stella Adler devotee De Niro) before he can execute one last heist before his retirement.

Pacino didn't remain on the right side of the law for long, however, as Harold Becker's City Hall (1996) saw him play New York mayor John Pappas, whose reputation is on the line when deputy Kevin Calhoun (John Cusack) launches an investigation after a child is killed in the crossfire between a gangster and a cop. The concept of villainy clearly fascinates Pacino and he ventured behind the camera for the first time to consider the crimes of one of Shakespeare's more engaging dastards in the documentary, Looking For Richard (1996). Indeed, he continued to explore along the same lines in Mike Newell's Donnie Brasco (1997), a fact-based story about FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone (Johnny Depp) who assumes the identity of jewel thief Donnie Brasco and befriends hitman Benjamin 'Lefty' Ruggiero (Pacino) in order to infiltrate the Mafia. The more evidence Brasco amasses, however, the more he endangers the life of his unsuspecting friend. But Pacino is definitely the one seeking to lead an innocent into temptation in Taylor Hackford's The Devil's Advocate (1997), which sees him on impish form as John Milton, the head of a high-powered New York law firm whose excessive demands drive hotshot new recruit Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) away from wife Mary Ann (Charlize Theron), who has doubts about Milton's morality.

A still from Any Given Sunday (1999)
A still from Any Given Sunday (1999)

Having cropped up among the many famous faces in Kenny Hotz and Spencer Rice's Pitch (1997), a knowing documentary that sees the co-directors try to find backers for a project at the Toronto Film Festival, Pacino reunited with Michael Mann on The Insider (1999). This multi-Oscar-nominated fictionalised account charts the attempts made by the American tobacco industry to discredit whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe) after producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) persuades him to do an interview with Mike Wallace (Christopher Plummer) on CBS's flagship 60 Minutes programme. But, while Pacino seemed to be increasingly content to take character roles, he was very much front and centre in his last film of the century. He had ruffled Oliver Stone's feathers by opting not to play Ron Kovic in his Vietnam veteran biopic, Born on the Fourth of July (1989), but the director had clearly decided to forgive him by the time he strode into the world of American Football in Any Given Sunday (1999), which sees Miami Sharks coach Tony D'Amato (Pacino) having to deal with both problems in the locker room and the demands of new owner Christina Pagniacci (Cameron Diaz).

Busier Than Ever

Since the turn of the millennium, Pacino has branched out into television, while also regularly returning to the stage to reconnect with his audience. He remains a cinematic titan, however, although few got to see his first dramatic outing as a director, Chinese Coffee (2000), an adaptation of an Ira Lewis play in which Pacino also played a struggling writer who loses his job as a doorman and seeks out photographer friend, Jerry Orbach, for a loan. This was very much an actor's piece, but Pacino revealed an interest in new technology, in essaying director Viktor Taransky in Andrew Niccol's S1m0ne (2002), who decides to use a computer-generated avatar (Evan Rachel Wood) when actress Nicola Anders (Winona Ryder) refuses to finish his latest picture.

His next two assignments saw him exploring emotional fragility. A remake of a 1997 Norwegian thriller by Erik Skjoldbjærg, Christopher Nolan's Insomnia (2002) cast Pacino as Will Dormer, an LAPD detective under scrutiny by Internal Affairs whose mind starts to unravel after he accidentally kills partner Hap Eckhart (Martin Donovan) while investigating a teen murder in Nightmute, Alaska. Made the same year, Daniel Algrant's People I Know took Pacino to New York to play PR guru Eli Wurman, whose dwindling portfolio has taken such a toll on his mental state that his foibles are exposed when politically ambitious client Cary Launer (Ryan O'Neal) gets involved with femme fatalish TV actress, Jilli Hopper (Tea Léoni).

Powerbroking with a glint in the eye has become a Pacino speciality of late and he is on inscrutable form in Roger Donaldson's The Recruit (2003), as CIA bigwig Walter Burke, who hires college whizz kid James Clayton (Colin Farrell) to root out a mole. Owing director Martin Brest favour for his Oscar, Pacino cameos in the much-maligned Gigli (2003) as Starkman, a New York mob boss who hopes to stay out of jail by hiring lowlife Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck) to kidnap the younger brother of the federal prosecutor. While he rather cruised through this assignment, Pacino rose to the challenge presented by his return to the small screen in Mike Nichols's Angels in America (2003), an adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-winning play for which he won a Primetime Emmy and a third Golden Globe for his portrayal of Roy Cohn, a closeted right-wing fixer in the Reagan era who refuses to acknowledge he has AIDS, even as he undergoes a radical new form of treatment.

Returning to the Bard, Pacino gave a thoughtful reading of the controversial part of Shylock in Michael Radford's The Merchant of Venice (2004), a handsome adaptation that also boasted Jeremy Irons as Antonio and Joseph Fiennes as Bassanio. His scheming was more schematic in DJ Caruso's Two For the Money (2005), in which he plays Walter Abrams, a sports consultant who lures onetime college football star Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey) off the straight and narrow when he embroils him in a betting scandal. But Pacino reminded us of his vulnerable side in Jon Avnet's 88 Minutes (2007), a tense ticking clock thriller in which forensic psychologist Jack Gramm learns that he is going to share the fate of a serial killer who is awaiting execution as a result of his testimony.

A still from 88 Minutes (2006)
A still from 88 Minutes (2006)

Having guested in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Thirteen (2007) as Willy Bank, a ruthless Las Vegas operator who is taught a lesson by Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew after cheating investor Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), Pacino reunited with Jon Avnet for Righteous Kill (2008), which also brought Pacino back together with Robert De Niro to play detectives Tom 'Rooster' Cowan and David 'Turk' Fisk, who are investigating the so-called 'Poetry Boy' case, in which a serial killer leaves a short verse beside the bodies of his victims, who are always known criminals. Few were impressed, however. Indeed, Pacino picked up another Razzie nomination for this and 88 Minutes, only to be pipped by Mike Myers in Marco Schnabel's The Love Guru (2008).

More gratifyingly, Pacino won a second Emmy and a fourth Golden Globe after returning to television for Barry Levinson's You Don't Know Jack (2010), a fact-based drama about Jack Kervorkian, the Michigan medic who earned the nickname Dr Death after he started offering an assisted suicide service in the face of fierce opposition from religious pressure groups. His return to the big screen in Dito Montiel's The Son of No One (2011) was relatively low key, as he settled for the supporting role of Detective Stanford, who had helped dispose of the evidence in 1986 that would have convicted his friend's son of the self-defence killing of two youths. Now, in 2002, Jonathan White (Tatum Channing) is a rookie cop in Queens with a wife and young family, as well as a guilty secret.

Pacino was far from idle during this period, however, as he returned to the director's chair for Wilde Salomé to examine the history of Oscar Wilde's ground-breaking play about the death of John the Baptist. In addition to playing literary detective, Pacino also appears as King Herod in a stage production opposite Jessica Chastain as his vengeful daughter. Moreover, Pacino also helmed a film record of the Los Angeles stage show for Salomé (2013).

Having discovered in 2010 that business manager Kenneth I. Starr had been embezzling him, Pacino found himself having to make commercials and accept roles that paid well without providing much professional challenge. Consequently, his second screen excursion of 2011 was less propitious, as Dennis Dugan's Jack and Jill racked up a record 12 nominations at the Razzies. This time Pacino came out on top in the Worst Supporting Actor category for playing himself being persuaded by advertising executive Jack Sadelstein (Adam Sandler, who took the Worst Actor and Actress awards) to headline a Dunkin Donuts advert to promote their new Dunkaccino coffee.

The One and Only

Ever the trouper, Pacino bounced back in Fisher Stevens's Stand Up Guys (2012) by playing Val, who emerges from prison after 28 years for refusing to squeal on a partner in crime and hooks up with old muckers Doc (Christopher Walken) and Hirsch (Alan Arkin) for a night out, during which a dangerous secret forces them to do some frank talking. He also started to look back on his career in such documentaries as Jeff Wurtz's Inside the Actors Studio (2006), Kevin Burns's The Godfather Legacy (2012), Joey Allen and Rob Goldberg's Inside Story: Scarface (2013) and Pappi Corsicato's Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait (2017).

A still from Inside Story: Scarface (2013)
A still from Inside Story: Scarface (2013)

What's more, Pacino continued to prove he was an awards contender when he drew another Emmy nomination for his performance in the title role of David Mamet's contentious HBO teleplay, Phil Spector (2013). He also landed another Golden Globe nomination for his performance in Dan Fogelman's Danny Collins (2015), which was inspired by the story of folk singer Steve Tilston and turns around an undelivered letter from John Lennon that persuades a hard-living 70s rocker to mend his ways and catch up with his estranged son, Tom (Bobby Cannavale).

Pacino had been in equally reflective mood in David Gordon Green's Manglehorn and Barry Levinson's The Last Act (both 2014). In the former, he had revealed his gentler side as a locksmith who had withdrawn from the world with his cat before being enticed out of his shell by bank teller Holly Hunter, while the latter - an adaptation of Philip Roth's novel, The Humbling - saw Pacino excel as ageing actor Simon Axler, who is contemplating suicide when he becomes involved with Pegeen (Greta Gerwig), the much younger bisexual daughter of an old flame (Dianne Wiest). However, he was more difficult to read in Shintaro Shimosawa's debut thriller, Misconduct (2016), as the head of a legal firm who agrees to support the ambitious Ben Cahill (Josh Duhamel) in his bid to bring a class-action lawsuit against Arthur Denning (Anthony Hopkins), the owner of a major pharmaceutical company who has tampered with the results of some sensitive drug trials.

The experiences of Canadian journalist Jay Bahadur inspired Bryan Buckley's Pirates of Somalia , which sees rookie reporter Evan Peters head to East Africa after being told by his journalistic idol (Pacino) that he stands a better chance of making a name for himself on the frontline than in a classroom. Brittany Snow plays the hack seeking a scoop in Johnny Martin's Hangman (both 2017), which teams Pacino with Keith Urban as a couple of cops in Monroe, Louisiana who are trying to catch a serial killer who keeps leaving clues in the manner of the eponymous children's word game.

Since playing a famous Penn State football coach in Barry Levinson's TV-movie, Paterno (2018), Pacino has amusingly cameoed as Marvin Schwarz, the casting agent who advised TV cowboy Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) to start making Spaghetti Westerns in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Hollywood . Moreover, he has finally made a film with Martin Scorsese, as he plays Teamsters union boss Jimmy Hoffa in The Irishman (both 2019), a reworking of Charles Brandt's book, I Heard You Paint Houses, that also stars Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci. In another career first, Pacino has been 'youthified' in some scenes, thanks to a special camera nicknamed 'the three-headed monster'.

As he prepares to play King Lear, Pacino is clearly as committed to his craft as ever. But, as he told GQ, he also has a new mission: 'I'm starting to want to do films that aren't really very good and try to make them better.'

A still from The Irishman (2019)
A still from The Irishman (2019)
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