Alfredo (Al) James Pacino (born April 25, 1940 in East Harlem, New York) is maybe best known for his role as Michael Corleone in the three Godfather movies and for the movies: Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface, Serpico and Heat. He also received an Oscar as Best Actor for his role as Frank Slade in the movie A Scent of a Woman (1992). He has directed and produced a smaller number of films.
Al Pacino was son of Italian-American parents Rose and Salvatore Alfred Pacino, who were divorced when Pacino was two years old. He moved with his mother to South Bronx, while his father moved to Covina, California. Hoping to become an actor Pacino inscribed at High School of Performing Arts, a Department of Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music and the Arts in New York City. He dropped out, however, at the age of 17, which led to an argument with his mother, and Pacino left home. Subsequently he worked among other things as delivery boy and dishwasher to earn enough money to finance acting lessons.
He starred in various underground theater setups in New York, where he met acting teacher Charlie Laughton, who became his mentor and best friend. During this period he was often unemployed and homeless, and sometimes he had to sleep on the streets, in theaters or at friends places.
In 1962 his mother died at the age of 43 years and the following year his grandfather, James Gerardi, who stood him very close also died. In 1966, after several failed attempts, he managed to be admitted into The Actors Studio. Here Pacino was taught by Lee Strasberg and he has later on described the years at The Actors Studio as fantastic years that served as a turning point in his life moving him towards the carreer as a professional actor. Thus, he was also in 2009 co-president of The Actors Studio with Ellen Burstyn and Harvey Keitel.
In 1968, Pacino played in Israel Horovitz’s play The Indian Wants the Bronx at the Astor Place Theater. The play opened on the 17th of January ’68, and was followed by 177 shows. Pacino won an Obie Award as best actor for the role and gradually he began getting some attention. He now got a minor role in one episode of the series NYPD before he in 1969 film got his movie debut in Me, Natalie. The same year he had his Broadway debut in Don Petersen’s Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?
The new decade began really well for Pacino, and in 1971 he played the main character as the drug addict Bobby in Panic in Needle Park. The film was seen by director Francis Ford Coppola, who one year later chose Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Already established actors as Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty also showed interest in the role, but Coppola chose to the great surprise of many, the unknown Pacino. Although it was only Pacino’s second role as leading actor the performance gained him an Oscar nomination the following year. The success meant also that Pacino was now able to choose the roles he wanted leaving aside considerations of economic sort. Thus, in 1973 he chose the role as Frank Serpico in Sidney Lumets movie by the same name about an honest New York cop who will do away with the corruption in the corps. In preparation for the role Pacino invited the Frank Serpico of the real world for visits in order to get as close to the authentic person as possible.
The following year he once again played Michael Corleone, now as the main character in the Godfather Part II. In 1975 he starred in yet another authentic movie, namely the tragic bank robber drama, Dog Day Afternoon. During filming Pacino collapsed because of fatigue and he chose to take a break from the movie world after finishing Dog Day Afternoon.
The roles as Michael Corleone in the Godfather-movies and Serpico and Sonny Wortzik in Dog Day Afternoon earned him Oscar nominations four years in a row without succeeding to actually winning an Oscar.
In 1977 Pacino returned to the big screen in the romantic drama Bobby Deerfield. Here he plays the famous American racer Bobby who falls in love with the enigmatic Lillian, played by Swiss Marthe Keller. The film was not as successful as the earlier ones, but this changed in 1979 with the courtroom drama And Justice For All, which gave him yet another Oscar nomination.
In the early 1980s Pacino’s career stalled a bit. At first because of the controversial movie Cruising and subsequently with the comedy-drama Author! Author! The critics were not particularly happy about Brian de Palma’s Scarface from 1983. They found the film, with a screenplay by Oliver Stone, unnecessarily violent. The cinema audience seemed, however, quite satisfied with what they saw, and the role of the Cuban émigré Tony Montana was a career highlight and a defining role for Pacino. In spite of bad reviews, the movie did surprisingly well and Pacino’s line “You want to f*k with me? Okay. You want to play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend” became movie history.
Revolution from 1985 was Pacino’s biggest failure to date. Even though it was directed by the award winning British director Hugh Hudson the story was not good enough and it was not only a economical disaster. Pacino was nominated for a Razzie Award as worst actor but fortunately Rambo Part II was out the same year and in stead Sylvester Stallone won the award.
But nevertheless Pacino’s fame had fainted and he did not reappear on the beig screen untill 1989 in the movie Sea of Love. In the role as detective Frank Keller he investigates the serial killing of young women. Pacino’s role was originally written for Dustin Hoffman, but as Hoffman wanted too many corrections and changes the part was given to Pacino. The following year he got the role of Mafia boss Big Boy Caprice in Dick Tracy. The film was inspired by the 1930s popular comic strip about the detective Dick Tracy. The film also takes place in a cartoon-like world of crime and seeks to maintain the ironic style of the comic book. Warren Beatty directed, produced and himself played the lead role, while Pacino in many ways took the limelight as the vicious mob boss, and he also received his sixth Oscar nomination for the role.
So the 90s began in a really good manner for Pacino. He also returned as Michael Corleone in the third part of the Godfather trilogy even though it is said that Pacino and Coppola had a minor disagreement on the actors pay for the movie. No matter what the movie helped reestablish Pacino as a part of Hollywood’s absolute elite.
In 1991 he played with Michelle Pfeiffer in Frankie & Johnny and in 1992, he would finally receive an Oscar for his leading role in The Scent of a woman. His portrait of the blind, retired military lieutenant Frank Slade received great recognition. Pacino was helped by a school for the blind, so he would know what it is to be blind and he often stayed in the role even though the cameras were turned off.
He also played the role of Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross, a role that also earned him an Oscar nomination as best Supporting Actor. In 1993 he reunited with director Brian De Palma, and played lead role in his gangster-drama Carlito’s Way. Based on Edwin Torres’ novels, acting the story of Carlito ‘Charlie’ Brigante (Pacino) has just been released from prison. He tries to put his old lifestyle behind him. But it is difficult and not getting any easier as his good friend, lawyer David Klein Feld (Sean Penn) suddenly drifts into trouble. The movie was a great success for Universal Pictures.
In 1995 once again a crime story was the basis of a big hit. Michael Mann’s Heat starred Pacino and Robert De Niro in the roles of the detective (Pacino) and the criminal (De Niro) playing cat and mouse. In City Hall from 1996 the accidentally killing of a boy initiates a history of corruption in the city. Mayor Kevin Calhoun (John Cusack) must investigate the matter, while Pacino plays John Pappas. Bridget Fonda, Danny Aiello and Martin Landau is also in the cast. In 1997 Pacino starred in yet another gangster film, namely Mike Newell Donnie Brasco. As undercover FBI agent, Johnny Depp plays the role of Donnie Brasco, who exploit the confidence of petty criminal Benjamin Ruggiero (Pacino) to get to Mafia boss Sonny Black (Michael Madsen).
The same year, Pacino played opposite Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron in the mystical thriller The Devil’s Advocate while in 1999 he took on the U.S. tobacco industry in The Insider. Any Given Sunday from the same year was a classic American sports drama, while Chinese Coffee from 2000 was Pacino’s real debut as feature film director. (Previously in 1996, he had directed the documentary Looking for Richard, with dramatized scenes from William Shakespeare’s play Richard III from 1592).
In this millennium, it has been a lot of crime movies including People I Know, Insomnia, Two for the Money and 88 Minutes. In 2002, he played the main role in the Sci-Fi movie S1m0ne or just Simone. He plays the movie producer Viktor Taransky who becomes so tired of actors’ endless demands that he chooses to invent a digital actress Simone that he can get to do exactly what it should. And best of all, she need not have any salary. It however becomes problematic as the entire American press wants to get an interview with her.
The following year, Pacino played in Martin Brest’s huge flop Gigli with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, a film which ranges among the world’s worst.
Pacino has always been a great admirer of Shakespeare. He has appeared in several Shakespeare plays at theaters and when he was offered the role of Shylock the film version of The Merchant of Venice, he was quick to accept. Most recently, it was possible to see Pacino as the villain and casino owner Willy Banks in Ocean’s Thirteen, and in Righteous Kill, which has once again joined him with Robert De Niro. Although recent years not have brought him so much acclaim as before, he is still very active. Thus, he has several productions currently under way; particular the biographical drama Mary Mother of Christ, Shakespeare-movie version of King Lear (where he will play the title role) and a new project as instructor; Wilde Salome, a drama-documentary in the style of his previous film Looking for Richard. This time for Oscar Wilde’s controversial Salome work.
As to his personal life Pacino has always been guarding his privacy well. He has never married but are the father of three children Julie Marie, Anton James and Olivia Rose.