"He was magic.”
Kirk Douglas recalled that he was mesmerized by “this guy, this young actor” while watching The Indian Wants the Bronx eons ago and remembered going backstage and telling : “'Mr. Pacino, you're going to be a star.' That was 45 years ago. What took you so long, Al?"
Al Pacino in his speech acknowledged that The Godfather made him a household name and a star and showed gratitude to his Director, Francis Ford Coppola whom he admitted he haven’t seen in a long time and thanked him profusely for standing pat on his choice of the actor that will portray the coveted role of Michael Corleone"
"I hardly ever see him anymore," he said. "Francis didn't just put me in the Godfather. He fought for me. Even when I no longer wanted to be in it. I wouldn't be here without him."
Francis Ford Coppola in his videotaped tribute in turn revealed that while reading the book, The Godfather by Mario Puzo , the only face that he could picture to portray Michael Corleone was Al Pacino and thereby pursued him rabidly against the odds (Paramount Pictures Executives and all).
Come to think of it, it would have been a great loss for all cinema fanatics had Coppola wavered and Pacino had passed on the role. But as they always say, he was destined to be Don Vito Corleone's fair-haired boy.
Michael Mann, who directed Pacino with another equally very talented actor Robert De Niro in Heat as well as in the thriller The Insider, confirmed that the actor "doesn't fear. He's willing to go out on a live wire without a net."
The method actor in Al Pacino made him choose some roles that were really quite risky and unconventional. He was never afraid to experiment with his choices that sometimes made his stars plummet and lose some of its luster.
Like in several instances after the success of the first installment of The Godfather Trilogy, he starred in some mediocre flicks and made some daring career moves that alienated his fan base and shunned away from his movies.
It was an open book that he was down on his luck for a time starring in one box office flop after another when the script that will bring back the life in his career dropped into his lap just like that--impressed by his talent and charisma Brian de Palma and Oliver Stone want him to be their Tony Montana in Scarface and so he went to Miami to film the said movie determined to get out of his rut.
And he did get out of his funk and just like that as the old cliché goes that “you cannot put a good actor down,” his career was revitalized and he went on to be the toast of tinseltown, acknowledged by peers and critics alike as one of the best actor of his generation if not of all time.
The record speaks for itself--
He was a two-time Tony Award winner and although he was snubbed by the Academy Awards too many times (7x), he finally bagged the coveted acting plum for his role as Lt. Col. Frank Slade in the 1992 film "Scent of a Woman."
He was also honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 by the Independent Feature Project and The Hollywood Foreign Press Association presented him with its prestigious Cecil B. De Mille Award at the Golden Globes in 2001.
Andy Garcia could have not said it better when he referred to him not only as an artist but a poet and a clown as he praised him deeply and he shared his experiences with the actor and the man:
“The depth of your artistry is only more overwhelmed by the generosity of your spirit and your warmth."
"You're Van Gogh. You're Modigliani. That's who you are."
For all the success and accolades that he received in his career, Mr. Pacino never forgot his roots and showed us the “ordinary” human side of him when after receiving the award from Sean Penn, he was almost speechless for a moment and made light of his nervousness, "I don't have a character tonight."
"I see my life in movies. I have one question. Why aren't I in rehab?" in answer to Andy Garcia roasting him earlier.
He went on with his speech and honored his acting mentors Charlie Laughton and Lee Strasberg for helping him of what he has become today. He said that he studied with them and they gave him the world in return.
He recalled one particular instance where Mr. Strasberg after watching him doing a scene told the class afterwards “you see we take all kinds here” to the delight of the crowd.
He also confessed on “looking at my reflections at subway doors” and telling himself, “hey you’re an actor!”
He added that "Charlie and his beautiful wife" took him in their home at "44th Street and 19th Avenue" when he was a teenager in Manhattan and their home became his home away from the South Bronx.
He mentioned producer Marty Bregman who coaxed him to go to Los Angeles and audition for the The Godfather and Signore Coppola for their roles in shaping his acting and movie career.
And he also thanked Lady- luck for smiling on him.
Surely Al Pacino being well- respected and admired in the world of show business not to mention the clout and the perks that goes with it, is one lucky guy indeed.
So, say hello to my little friend no more, he’s been a GIANT from the very first moment he painted his face into the silver screen.
Let’s watch Andy Garcia do an Al Pacino impersonation and ritual before takes…