AL PACINO


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Al Pacino was born Alfredo James Pacino in New York City in 1940, the son of Italian immigrants from Corleone, Sicily. He went to the High School of Performing Arts, but failed most of his classes and dropped out when he was 17. He took up acting, and had a series of crappy jobs while he studied acting and acted in amateur productions. In 1966, he was accepted at The Actor's Studio (after being rejected many times) and he studied under Lee Strasberg (the two would act together in 1974 in The Godfather Part II!). It seemed he was destined to be a stage actor. In 1967, he had his first break in Awake and Sing in Boston, where he met Jill Clayburgh (she would move back to New York with him after the play, and they had a five year relationship). The following year he starred in an off-Broadway play called The Indian Wants the Bronx, and he won the Obie Award for Best Actor (John Cazale was also in the play and he won Best Supporting Actor, and later Pacino and Cazale would act together in the first two Godfather movies and Dog Day Afternoon). The next year he was in a Broadway play, Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?. The play was a flop, but Pacino won the Tony Award for his performance. He also made his movie debut with a tiny role in Me, Natalie. In 1971, he starred in The Panic in Needle Park, where he played a heroin addict (opposite Kitty Wynn) and he gave a magnificent heartbreaking performance. When Francis Ford Coppola saw this movie, he knew he had found his Michael Corleone for The Godfather, and he hired the pretty unknown Pacino over actors like Robert Reford and Warren Beatty (who wanted the part), much to the dismay of the studio, but of course Pacino was superb. That made Pacino a star, and he made three wonderful movies: Serpico (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), The Godfather Part II (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film), and Dog Day Afternoon (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film) in 1975. But his career slumped considerably after, and he did more Broadway, and fewer movies. Between 1975 and 1983 he made four movies, Bobby Deerfield (a real dud), ...And Justice for All (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film; an interesting failure with a great Pacino performance), Cruising (another loser), and Author! Author! (another loser). In 1983 he made a strong comeback with his performance as Tony Montana in Scarface, but he followed it with the dreadful Revolution, and he took four years off from movies and stayed on the stage. In 1989 he returned with a lackluster film, Sea of Love, but the following year he gave a great performance as "Big Boy" in Dick Tracy (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), but offset it with a dreadful performance in the major disappointment, The Godfather: Part III. He gave two good performances in Frankie and Johnny and Glengarry Glen Ross (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), and in 1992 was the lead in Scent of a Woman (winner of the Best Actor Academy Award for this film; "Hoo-aah"). Since then he has given some good performances and some lesser ones. For me, one of his very finest was in Donnie Brasco, where he was heartbreaking as 'Lefty' Ruggiero. It is impossible to deny that Al Pacino is one of the very finest actors of the past 40 years. But while he gave many amazing performances throughout his career, one can't help but wonder how many others he might have delivered, had he made some different career choices. As of 2020, he is alive at the age of 79.
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