Our first month of Star Spotlight is now coming to an end, fellow Maniacs. We began our inaugural column with one man who turned the filmmaking industry on their heels, George Lucas. We continued to one of my personal favorites, the legendary director John Carpenter. We went on to actors who have been elevated to cult hero status in their screen presences by Kurt Russell (amidst talk of remaking Escape From New York) and Samuel L. Jackson. When editorializing about a person deserving to be under that blinding beam of light in the center chair, I believe I should feel passionate about that person.
I need to speak to you from the heart here. I should be passionate above all else because the person who deserves to be Spotlighted here at Mania should be an actor, actress, director, or industry icon whom is deserving of said accolades in my own heart. They would be an individual who have also imprinted their style onto your brain in one style or another. If you come to this site and you partake in our community, you yourself are someone who loves & enjoys in the film industry. You’re just as passionate about the subject as myself and I would think you have personal favorites which match up pretty closely to my own. The icons of our movie pop culture we all are a part of usually resonate within us all after a powerful performance on our own personal levels. We find ourselves staring at the theater screen or television enthralled by the words spoken from that actor or actress on a conscious level to the point where we appear as mind numbing zombies with our mouths open hypnotized by the vocal sounds coming out of that high definition speaker nearest to your ear.
If an actor/director/producer has done his or her job correctly, they will have you entranced where you’re really in an imaginative world of make believed. They have you forgetting about that annoyingly high electricity bill sitting on your countertop. They mesmerize you enough to make the monthly mortgage or that crappy workday you experienced earlier in the week seem light years away from your worries. They have you oblivious to the fact that you have $23.50 less in your wallet or your cable bill is past due. They take you away for two hours of your life to a world where they are “real” and your problems are not. This is the set intention on your parts and theirs for going into the world of any imagination whether you watch a movie, sit down and stare at the television or read a book under the cool shade on a sunny afternoon. The imagination of the person giving you a piece of their mind helps you forget about real life for just but a moment. A moment which seems like an eternity if you’re having a stressful week. A moment which you will remember until your last breath on this earth.
This is why you’re passionate enough to come read our thoughts here and why you’re passionate enough to speak your mind amongst us. Without you on your box with your head held high, we would be nothing. Without your opinions on any number of subjects, there would be no reason to be here. The internet would be nothing and I do mean nothing without you.
This is the kind of passion which drives certain people inside Hollywood to a point where we sit there and stare, oblivious of the world around us. This is what drives the passion of what we love to a point where we can proudly call ourselves Maniacs of the entertainment world.
Like I say.
When I spotlight someone, it has to be an individual inside Hollywood which speaks with that same passion. It has to be someone which has put their stamp of self imagination on the conscious of us all when we allow them take us away from the real world, if only for a short while. It has to be someone of such high caliber, they lead us from our worries and they entertain us above all else.
In this week’s edition of Star Spotlight, I’m going to speak about one man who has been a driving force in the world of entertainment. That would be an amazing actor known as Al Pacino. This is a man who has been in the industry for quite a long time now and a man whom has played roles that will leave an everlasting imprint on our movie trivia infested brains. If you had a problem with Samuel L. Jackson’s spotlight because he sometimes plays over the top characters, you might have an issue with Al Pacino.
I don’t fault actors for being over the top. I don’t consider that a weakness. I consider that a passion inside themselves which drives them to a point where they love the characters so much they’re cradling their own babies with a love and desire that would make some parents blush. When they accept a role, they put their love into every word they dictate from that written script and they mold the character to shape that force which drives them to perform on the big stage. They show us a piece of their own souls in the process. This is what the world of imagination is all about.
Al Pacino is such a man with every character he chooses to portray. I don’t care if it’s a box office dud or an amazing success with every cent that crosses the theater’s countertop, Pacino is the kind of actor which pours themselves into their roles and has you forgetting about your own life for a little while.
Time to give you Maniacs some backstory on Pacino before I talk about the kind of characters he’s portrayed (since you’re as passionate as me, you’re already thinking of these memorable iconic characters of yesterday).
Alfredo (Al) Pacino was born in East Harlem from his father Salvatore and his mother Rose Pacino on April 25, 1940. At the age of two, he quickly learned the facts of real life when his parents divorced. Al and his mother moved to his grandparents' house after the divorce and he became entranced with the industry as such an early age where he began mimicking the plots and characters which drove his own passion. He spent a lot of his young years entertaining his grandmother.
At fourteen, Al went to the High School of the Performing Arts but his grades and school record was not good enough to keep him there. School bored him to a point and he spent the next several years working odd jobs ranging from mail deliverer to an usher in the theatre. He fell in love with plays and stage acting to a point where he knew what he wanted to do with his career. Fed up of odd jobs, Pacino began taking acting lessons under drama coach Charles Laughton's wing at the Herbert Berghof Studio. Like Samuel L. Jackson’s early years (featured last week here) he struggled a bit in life during this time period. He had to suffer through bouts of depression and poverty at times to a point where he had to ask for money to make it to auditions. He paid his dues eventually and he was finally accepted to the famed Actors Studio in 1966. This is when he Less Strasberg (legendary acting coach whom created the Method Approach) took young Al under his wing and taught him the ins and outs of acting success. It’s obvious he was a good teacher because it wasn’t long before he was making headlines with critics everywhere.
Pacino made appearances in various plays early into his acting career before finally hit it big with "The Indian Wants the Bronx". The role gave him an Obie award for the 1966-67 season. He was rapidly gaining notoriety on the theater scene and his success expanded in winning a Tony award for "Does the Tiger Wear a Necktie?". His first feature films made little departure from the gritty realistic stage performances that earned him respect but his second film role in which he played a junkie in The Panic In Needle Park (very similar to Samuel gaining respect after playing a junkie in Jungle Fever) had him in the spotlight in most Hollywood directors’ eyes.
It was time for his life to change forever, Maniacs.
He was chosen by a legendary director named Francis Ford Coppola to play the character of Michael Corleone in The Godfather in 1972. This character was one of the most sought after roles in film making history.You want to know how sought after? Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Ryan O’Neal and Robert De Niro all wanted the role of Michael but Coppola had his eyes set on Pacino from the impact he made in stage acting and his early success. You want to know the irony of that highly iconic film? The producers and the studio hated Pacino for the role of Michael. They gave him hell throughout shooting and called him that “little midget” during filming. Joe Moviegoer is happy they didn’t get their ways though. The role of Michael Corleone brought Pacino his first Academy Award nomination the next year and basically elevated a young Italian to icon status in the movie going public.
He could have taken on many projects after The Godfather but he ended up taking on some rather serious roles. He immediately accepted the roles of Frank Serpico (Serpico) and controversial Sonny (Dog Day Afternoon). To show that he made the right choices even if they were hard choices after the Godfather, Al was nominated for Best Actor in 3 consecutive years.
He was later nominated again for Best Actor with his portrayal of Arthur Kirkland in …And Justice For All in 1979. He would take on some misses when the decade of the 80s hit us all but he would eventually bounce back in a very big way.
Come on, you know which film I’m bringing up next.
Scarface (“Say Hello to my little friend!”) Tony Montana opened eyes and ears everywhere in theaters across the nation on December 9, 1983. This is a character which will live in infamy on the minds of the movie pop culture. The quote above lives onward in the minds of us all, with or without Cuban accent.
Pacino hit a roadblock after such a memorable war with the film Revolution. People talk about the shit that went on during filming of “League of Extraordinary Gentelmen” but that pales in comparison with the shooting of Pacino’s “Revolution”. This is a film which was cursed from the get go of the director first saying “ACTION”. Weather was absolutely horrible, equipment was destroyed on set and Pacino got pneumonia during shooting of this film. It’s considered one of the worst critical bashed films in years. Al took a beating for this film so much that he was out of movies for the next four years. That’s how bad it was for him on a personal standpoint and career based. He went back to stage acting during this time and stayed out of the public spotlight. He even directed a film (The Local Stigmatic) which remains unreleased to the public. As I said during the Star Spotlight of Samuel L. Jackson though and as I’ll continually say, good actors have misses. Nobody’s perfect. It’s how they bounce back which matters. It’s how they adapt which make them legendary in Hollywood and in our own minds.
It wasn’t long before his exile from the spotlight was over and he came back into the Hollywood scene. He ended up being nominated in Best Supporting Actor for his role in the Warren Beatty film Dick Tracy and being nominated again for Glengarry Glen Ross. He finally won an Oscar for his portrayal as a blind man in Scent of a Woman, a true classic for a generation of movie goers everywhere.
In 93, he made another impact once again with his portrayal as Carlito Brigante in Carlito’s Way.
From this point, he was close to legendary status. He experienced the waves of success, misses, success and so much more. He went on to play more memorable characters in The Insider, Donnie Brasco, Heat & The Devils Advocate.
What’s amazing about Pacino is he’s considered a legend with the roles he’s taken but even beyond that, he’s also turned down other legendary characters which may have worked or may have not worked depending on his own presence. He may have changed some franchises by denying some roles but he never faltered from his own presence and acting fate in the process of it all.
Some roles he’s turned down:
It’s all about “choice” on whether an actor deserves the accolades he receives or whether he fades off into the oblivion of yesterday never to be remembered by anyone. It’s their choice and their abilities which drive them to being remembered for being such great characters in the conscious mind of us all. This is why he’s ranked in the top 10 actors of all time by many magazine trades around the globe. This is why he is being centered on this week’s Star Spotlight.
As the Box Office Report columnist here at Mania, I’d normally give you some profitable numbers in history for his resume of films but in my eyes, it doesn’t really matter. Not for Al Pacino. His actions speak louder then box office receipts. His character’s words resonate within us louder then some box office figure.
This column is titled “Al Pacino Speaks For Us All” for a reason, Maniacs. Al Pacino shows the same passion for every role he accepts and displays on the silver screen as you out there on your computers give to us everyday. You have the same passion inside yourselves when you speak your mind at our forums or here at our columns when you find something worthy enough in your eyes to tell us how you feel. Pacino shows that passion in his character’s words. You carry the same passion within yourselves over your beliefs in being a Maniac for the entertainment industry. Salute, Maniacs!
Note: I’m always looking for your thoughts on what drives you to loving movies, television, comics or whatever other medium in the way that drives you to be a fellow Maniac. If you have someone which resonates within you to a point where you make it a mission to have every single one of their films or shows on your Dvd shelf, you should feel free to point them out and tell us why they have enhanced your love for the film industry. Don’t be shy, Maniacs. Speak your mind and let us hear your message. Let us see why a certain actor or director has given you enough passion to visit us and know a part of you.