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Al Pacino

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Alongside fellow Italian super star, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino is one of the greatest actors of all time, taking the film world by storm in the early 1970’s and quickly evolving from a short nobody to an Academy-Award contender. Powerfully menacing in whatever role he takes on, Pacino has become a fan favorite and made the job of film critics everywhere that much easier. The long list of cinematic masterpieces that garnish his resume are just as intimidating as the long list of films he turned down, including “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Star Wars,” “Pretty Woman” and “Crimson Tide.” Born Alfredo James Pacino in April of 1940 to a pair of Italian immigrants living in East Harlem, Pacino was interested in acting since the age of three when he would return home from a trip to the movies and act out the scenes to his grandfather. Along with inventing fictional histories for himself to impress his schoolmates, Pacino also took part in many of the school plays and was even voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” At fourteen, Pacino left home for the High School of Performing Arts, but was shortly expelled after scoring poorly in the classroom. Three years later, the young actor left home to pursue a career on the stage and worked odd jobs as a theater usher and janitor to keep himself from living on the streets. During his time looking for work as an actor, Pacino was also arrested for carrying a concealed weapon when a group of his friends were stopped by police wearing black ski masks and looking ominous, but he talked his way out of jail by explaining to the cops that it was an acting assignment. After his run in with the law and five more years of uninspiring work, Pacino enrolled in acting lessons with Charles Laughton at the Herbert Berghof Studio until he was finally accepted in to the acclaimed Actor’s Studio.

Pacino dabbled in some off-Broadway productions and made a few appearances on the screen, but it wasn’t until director Francis Ford Coppola offered him the role of Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” that his career was truly on the track to success. His performance in the final acquired plenty of critical recognition and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but Pacino was far from finished. He followed up his award-worthy performance with a revival of the Corleone family in “The Godfather: Part II,” as well as other fabulous performances in “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Scarface,” “Frankie and Johnny” and “Carlito’s Way.” The butt end of Pacino's career hasn't been nearly as impressive as his earlier stuff, but his eventual decline in the Hollywood food chain isn't that painful when compared to other big names like De Niro and Brando. While his choices haven't been the greatest (i.e. "The Devil's Advocate," "Insomnia" and "The Recruit"), he never fails to turn a bad script into an amazing performance. Case in point: edging out an Oscar nomination as the cartoonish Big Boy Caprice in "Dick Tracy" is a hard feat in its own, but Al Pacino is a Hollywood legend that will never die.

In 2019, Pacino starred opposite Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in "The Irishman."

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Bullz-Eye Features


Between Good and EvilBetween Good & Evil: Hollywood heavy hitters going toe to toe

De Niro and Pacino - There's just something about two great actors squaring off that makes for some of the most memorable cinematic moments.

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Al on the Web

IMDB
An online database of Pacino's wonderful film and TV career.

New Yorker Profile
Overview of Pacino's career.

Life Lessons from "The Godfather"
Here's a fun look back at the film with some life lessons you can learn from the movie. It includes some great quotes from Al Pacino as Michael Corleone.


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Al on the Screen

Rolling out the blueprints to Pacino's career can be a bit tedious, but his film work has been so prominent throughout the past 30 years that it would be a shame not to touch on his greatest movies. Joining Robert de Niro in the ranks of overused Italians in the mob film, Pacino has made a living on a number of these roles, most prominently with his Hollywood breakthrough performance in Copolla's "Godfather" trilogy and Brian de Palma's "Carlito's Way." Pacino's also been a straight-out baddie in early films like "Scarface" and "Dog Day Afternoon," and in later films like "The Recruit." Pacino's also been on the flip side of crime in "Serpico," "Donnie Brasco," "Heat" and "Insomnia." Some of the actor's more recent films have given the short-statured actor some interesting characters to play, like the burnt-out football coach in Oliver Stone's "Any Given Sunday," taking down the cigarette industry alongside Russell Crowe in "The Insider" and as a blind lieutenant in "Scent of a Woman." Regardless of what direction he takes his career, Pacino will always be one of the most talented actors on the market.

"Donnie Brasco" (1997)
Pacino stars opposite Johnny Depp in this crime drama following an FBI agent (Depp) who infiltrates the mob by defriending a washed-up hitman (Pacino). This film gives us "the nuanced and understated Pacino who perfectly captures a character desperately trying to make it in a harsh world where younger members of his crew are passing him by."

Comments from the Don

On CGI film characters:
"It's easy to fool the eye but it's hard to fool the heart."

On acting:
"The actor becomes an emotional athlete. The process is painful--my personal life suffers."

On fame:
"You hate to say you get used to it, because you don't really get used to it, but it gets easier. You accept it more. And you finally have to become more comfortable with it. That's what's happened to me, I think."

Related Content

"Dog Day Afternoon" from 1975 is one of Pacino's best films. We covered this in our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide with the release of the 40th Anniversary DVD:

Based on the true story of a bank heist gone horribly wrong, Sidney Lumet’s “Dog Day Afternoon” is one of the seminal films of the 1970s and among the best crime movies ever made. It was also way ahead of its time with its portrayal of LBGT relationships, which makes this new 40th anniversary edition particularly timely in view of the recent transgender movement. Though it took Al Pacino 17 more years before he would finally win his first Oscar, he’s absolutely electric as amateur bank robber Sonny Wortzik, while John Cazale delivers excellent supporting work as his inscrutable partner in crime. The remastered video from the 2007 release still holds up pretty well by today’s standards, and there’s a solid collection of bonus material spread across the two-disc set, including a director commentary, a four-part making-of featurette and the 2009 documentary “I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale.” Any self-respecting movie lover should have “Dog Day Afternoon” in their collection, and what better time than now to remedy that error by adding it to your wish list?