Legendary Actors: Al Pacino

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal
-There are actors who have captivated audiences and permeated the big screen like no other. While for me, I tend to be partial to black actors in general, one actor who I've always had the utmost respect for was Al Pacino. He's earned respect from the hip hop community for his roles in Scarface and The Godfather series, and he remains one of the greatest actors of our time. My favorite performances from Pacino isn't in his two most famous roles as Tony Montana and Michael Corleone, but rather his role as Detective Hanna in Heat and his role as the coach of a fictional football team in Any Given Sunday. These roles stick out the most to me in his storied career, but I think the point is made that there is a Pacino performance for everyone. With his legacy solidified, I gathered the team to talk this amazing actor, his best roles, and why we love this legend.

Hollywood has always been overpopulated by mediocrity, ans sometimes we get good actors, but every now and then we get phenomenal actors. I can only think of about 10 who have cemented their spot in Hollywood as the epitome of great, and Al Pacino is one of those people. His greatness however is much more than his on-screen performances. Pacino’s early exposure to acting started on Broadway, he’s had a hand in filmmaking, and he’s the co-president of “The Actors Studio”, where he originally studied acting. He’s been immersed in every avenue of the craft and took it further as a business venture. Pacino is the exemplar of finding your niche and mastering it, but for the purposes of this article I’ll just focus on his acting.

I have to start with the humble beginnings, so let me take you back to 1966. It was his training and learning from the Actors Studio that year, that would set Pacino apart from the rest. He reached near perfection as a “method actor”, which he learned from Lee Strasberg (who my fellow Godfather 2 fans will know as Hyman Roth). It taught him how to not only execute the character, but to convince the audience that HE IS that character. He uses this ability throughout his film career and truly gave us some of the greatest movies of all time. For someone who has 51 films under his belt, it would be impossible to cover all of them, but let me take you through my absolute favorite roles, characters and scenes that in my opinion earned Pacino his ranks.

I’m going to start with what I think is the most critical year in his career. 1971. That would be the year Pacino starred in a movie called “The Panic in Needle Park”, where he played the role of a heroin addict. Using the skills he learned in method acting, he portrayed his character so well that it would catch the attention of Francis Ford Coppola and would land him the supporting role in the Godfather trilogy. Although Robert Redford and Jack Nicholson were both considered for the part of Michael Corleone, it ultimately went to Pacino. Coppola did himself and the world a favor because he perfected the character, and this would prove to be pivotal in his career. This is my all time favorite movie and the reason why Pacino shares the number one rank as my favorite actor. Truthfully, I can't ever do his performance justice, but what stands out to me are the scenes that are so believable and executed so well that the lines between him and his character are blurred. Take the scene where he’s sitting in the room with his brothers planning the killing of the police commissioner, as he tells Sonny “it’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business”. His seriousness, detachment, and confidence is exactly that of a Don in the making. Even though he committed such heinous crimes, audiences were captivated and found themselves siding with Mafia. That’s just one scene, but both Godfather 1 & 2 are ridden with examples and even Part 3 has some that are noteworthy.

The roles kept pouring in year after year, and as much as I love “Serpico” “Dog Day Afternoon” and a couple others, I’m going to fast forward to another one of my all time favorite movies “Scarface”. Pacino goes from prim, proper and high ranked Michael Corleone to a low level, grimy, dope slanging, gangster Tony Montana. Fans get exactly what they know they can expect: Fantastic charisma and flawless execution. The character is a hybrid between real life Al Capone and novel character Tony Camonte and named after NFL QB Joe Montana. Since the greatest movie of all time was already taken, in “Scarface”,  Pacino went on to create what is widely considered one of the top characters ever in a film. The beginning scenes from the chainsaw massacre in the bathroom of the motel to burying his face in a mountain of cocaine, Pacino, once again makes us believe he is the head of a Cuban drug empire. The man is a force to be reckoned with, not to mention, his ability to coin phrases that transcend decades...”Say hello to my little friend”.

As much as I love “Donnie Brasco”, “Carlito’s Way”, “The Devil’s Advocate”, “Any Given Sunday” and “Heat”, I had to save his best acting performance for last. “Scent of a Women”, which to me shows his refined, polished and true mastering of method acting. I was so fascinated by this performance that I read up on how he was able to portray a visually impaired person so well and sure enough, on and off-screen he played the part, he was helped by a school for the blind and met with people who had lost their vision so he could “feel” the part. He had the anger and depression down perfectly and he showed it flawlessly throughout the film. If you remember the courtroom with his speech:

“I'd show you, but I'm too old, I'm too tired, I'm too fuckin' blind. If I were the man I was five years ago, I'd take a flame-thrower to this place. Out of order, who the hell do you think you're talking to? I've been around, you know? There was a time I could see.”

And also the airplane scene where he’s talking about women:

“But I still smell her... Women! What could you say? Who made 'em? God must have been a fuckin' genius. The hair - they say the hair is everything, you know. Have you ever buried your nose in a mountain of curls, just wanted to go to sleep forever? Or lips - and when they touched yours were like that first swallow of wine after you just crossed the desert.” 

Everything Pacino does is memorable, engaging and everything he says truly resonates with audiences. After all he’s to thank for Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade’s tagline “Hoo-Hah!”

There you have it. The reasons why I hold Al Pacino in such high regard. He has been incredibly consistent, flawless in delivery and the only person who could get me to watch a full length feature about football and love it. His passion, his devotion and his discipline with every undertaking is what I admire the most. He is truly an example of perfection and even when his movies aren’t great overall, it’s never the acting that gets criticized. He will always be a legend in Hollywood and will forever be my favorite actor to ever grace the big screen. Such a gem.

I think Al Pacino has a little bit of everything that captures the audience's attention. My only issue with him in some way is the fact that he at times would get Hispanic roles. But he was brought up in East Harlem and raised in the Bronx, so perhaps that allowed him to understand the Hispanic culture somehow to make the characters believable. I'm sure that sounds terrible to say, but it's of course only my opinion. However, this doesn't take away from his legendary pedigree.

He is definitely one of the best actors of our time and I know what you're thinking. "He was a boss in Godfather". I wouldn't know because I have yet to see those films. I just don't have that amount of time yet (they are pretty long). However, Scarface is the one that started my appreciation for him. He embodied that character so much and it is still quoted today. A few scenes from that movie are even GIFs presently. Another movie that's a personal favorite is Carlito's Way. By now you must know that I'm a huge fan of mobster films. I could never choose between Donnie Brasco or The Devil's Advocate. The writing for both films were brilliant.

The GOAT of Al Pacino films to me has got to be Any Given Sunday. The speech in that movie is still quoted till this day. It actually made you believe and perhaps got you closer to football. Pacino is truly a one of a kind actor in that regard. Such a legend.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-At the end of the day, when it's all said and done, there will only be a few cemented in history for their acting performances. Pacino is on that short list. Whether you love him in Scarface or hate him in his other roles as an antagonist, there should be no denying that Pacino is legendary. One thing that's always stuck out to me is that Pacino is one of those rare actors who has no problem meeting his demise nearly every single film he is in. From The Recruit to Insomnia to Carlito's Way to Scarface to a few others, one thing that I've always admired (oddly enough) is Pacino bringing an end to his characters in death, closing the story of his performance. It's somehow the perfect finish to a great acting performance and it's one thing I admire about Pacino. What's your favorite Pacino performance? Post your comments below and join the conversation.



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