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Al Pacino

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Name: Al Pacino

Birth Name: Alfredo James Pacino

Height: 5' 6"

Sex: M

Nationality: American

Birth Date: April 25, 1940

Birth Place: New York, New York, USA

Profession: actor, director, writer, producer

Education: High School for the Performing Arts, NYC (dropped out)

HB Studio, NYC (studied with Charles Laughton)

Actors Studio, NYC

Relationship: Beverly D'Angelo (actress; born on November 15, 1954; enggaged in 1997; broke up), Penelope Ann Miller (actress; born on January 13, 1964), Jan Tarrant (acting teacher), Diane Keaton (actress; born on January 5, 1946)

Father: Salvatore Pacino (insurance salesman)

Mother: Rose Pacino (died in 1962)

Son: Anton James (born in January 2001; mother: Beverly D'Angelo)

Daughter: Olivia Rose (born in January 2001; mother: Beverly D'Angelo), Julie Marie (born in 1989; mother: Jan Tarrant)

Claim to fame: as Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972)



Alfredo James Pacino--called "Sonny" by his friends and family--was born on April 25, 1940 to parents Salvatore and Rose Pacino, in East Harlem, New York City. His parents divorced when Al was two years old, and he and his mother went to live with her parents, the Gerards, in the South Bronx. Al's relationship with his father was never a good one, and they rarely saw each other or spoke when he was a child; instead, his male role model was to become his grandfather James (who emigrated to the US from none other than Corleone, Sicily, if you can believe it), with whom Al became irrevocably close to. Pacino was raised in a comfortable, sheltered environment; they didn't have much money, but they were still happy nonetheless.

When Al was a little boy and his mother came home from work, she would bring her son to the movies (usually every Saturday). Al soon became fascinated by them. He would spend hours reciting and acting out his favorite scenes, imitating his favorite actors. He particularly enjoyed mimicking dramatic deaths, and his favorite was to reinact the entire scene from The Lost Weekend where a drunken Ray Milland is having trouble finding his booze bottle. Al would perform it at most family gatherings and parties, and when his relatives struggled to keep in their uproarous giggles, the little boy would frown at them. "Why are you laughing!? The guy can't find the bottle! It's serious!"

"I remember, I would come home--this is interesting to think of it now--I'd come home [from the movies], I'd always make an entrance at night... And [when I made my entrance], usually it was a 'dying' entrance. I'd come in and 'die' all the way to the kitchen."

Pacino struggled as a child amongst his peers. He had many friends, but he was constantly being teased because of his height, obsession with acting, and countless other pointless things that made him different from other kids. He was also rather susceptible to injuries. While playing a game of cops and robbers with a pal, little Pacino ran straight into a barbed wire fence and caught his lip on some of the wire. Al had reinacted pain and horror so many times that his friend at first thought he was pulling his leg, but soon Al's screams finally triggered the kid to run for help. The moment Mrs. Pacino saw her son dangling by the lip, she fainted on the spot.

Leading such a sheltered life made Pacino a confused kid, especially when living in the South Bronx, which is not exactly New York's easiest neighborhood. Al even told peers he was part of a street gang, that he was from Texas or that he had ten German Shepards that would eat men alive. He'd do anything to try and fit in; there's a myth he even lost his virginity at age nine.

Despite his obvious intelligence, Al was an underachiever in school and was constantly bored and unmotivated. He dropped out at age 16, hoping to begin a stage career. It didn't come easy, however. He went through a long and severe period of depression, rejection after rejection. He was also arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and sentenced to a hearty fine. He did, however, befriend famed actor Charles Laughton, which was a huge honor on Pacino's part. Laughton could easily see that this kid had the spark that it takes to become a great actor.

Finally, his luck started to turn, when he got a break and was accepted into New York's prestigious Actors' Studio when he was 26 years old. He studied with some of the best teachers in the business, most notably Lee Strasberg, who was a key developer of the famously American form of acting: The Method. During this period, Al struggled namely because an actor of similar age, similar height, similar circumstances and similar appearance named Dustin Hoffman had a career that took off in 1967's The Graduate. Pacino could not deny his jealousy, and people constantly coming up to him, seizing his shirt and demanding, "Are you Dustin Hoffman?", "You're Dustin Hoffman, aren't you?" and "Look, it's Dustin! Dustin Hoffman!" only made it worse. He later reflected with a smile, "Maybe someone's pulling his shirt now and saying, 'You're Al Pacino!' "

The Godfather was a bestselling novel written by Mario Puzo in the 1960s. It tells the story of an Italian family, the Corleones, and their tragic legacy as one of the great Mafia Families in fictional history. When director/screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola wanted to bring the epic novel to the screen, he collaborated with Puzo and wrote a screenplay. Marlon Brando was cast as the head of the family, Don Vito Corleone. James Caan was set to play the Don's oldest son, Santino "Sonny" Corleone, John Cazale (who would go on to make several movies with Al) was to play the second-eldest brother, Fredo. Robert Duvall took on the role of The Don's stepson and the Family consiglieri, Tom Hagen, and Coppola's own sister, Talia Shire, was cast as the youngest Corleone child, Connie. All that was missing was an actor to play the story's central and most haunting character: Michael Corleone.

Coppola had seen Al Pacino perform on stage and immediately became enamored with the young man's talent. In the director's head, Al was the man for Michael. Studio executives and producers, however, begged to differ. They wanted someone with huge star status to play the role; this was, after all, a big-budget production from Paramount Studios. Some of their ideal choices included James Caan (who, as previously mentioned, was later cast as Sonny, Michael's brother), Martin Sheen, and even Robert Redford. But Coppola refused to budge. He contacted Al and had him come in and do a screen test with Diane Keaton, who was to play Michael's future wife, Kay Adams. Luckily for Al, he and Diane were already close friends, so the chemistry was automatically perfect on-camera. Al did his best, and then hoped for it, too.

The executives at Paramount turned him down. Al was obviously hugely disappointed, but he told Coppola that perhaps he just wasn't meant for the role, thanked him for giving him the chance, and went on his way. Coppola wasn't finished, though. He would take Al and sneak him in for a screentest every chance he got; in the end, executives were in possession of (reportedly) nearly 100 tests with this actor nobody had ever heard of. Al was starting to get restless. "At the time, I told [Coppola], 'I don't respond well to being in situations where I'm not wanted,'" he recalled nearly thirty years later. It got to the point where he was being taunted and teased by the bigshots to his face, and Al had practically had enough. Coppola still reassured him that everything would be all right in the end, and at last, the executives gave the hesitant thumbs-up.

But things weren't over then. Al was in constant fear of being fired on the set, since when Coppola wound send executives finished takes, they said that Al's performance was too dull, too boring. But that all changed when Coppola coaxed them to watch a scene from the 1971 little-seen film The Panic in Needle Park (1971), Al's first starring role in which he gives a gritty and unbelievable performance as a young heroin addict named Bobby. That 8-minute clip was all it took. They were left stunned. And it was set. Al Pacino, whom to Hollywood was just a thirtysomething nobody from the South Bronx, was to play Michael Corleone.

Needless to say, the film was a smash. Pacino's performance had critics practically kissing the ground beneath his feet, and he earned an Academy Award nomination. Suddenly Al was thrust into a world which he was completely unfamiliar with: fame, fortune, glamour, pizzaz...he was finally one of those guys he had so admired as a little boy at the local cineplex.

After that, Al's professional life took off. He earned three consecutive Oscar nominations for his roles in Serpico, The Godfather Part II (which was just as successful and brilliant as the first,) and Dog Day Afternoon. He refused to take roles simply for financial gain; instead he accepted parts that were powerful, meaningful, important; this helped establish him as a powerful new force amongst his peers.

Filming Revolution in 1985 was most likely the toughest shoot in Pacino's long list of credits; horrible weather conditions and numerous financial difficulties challenged the production, and Al was also diagnosed with a serious bout of pnemonia. He was also in a depressed state of mind, since his relationship with Marthe Keller had come to an end. It didn't help matters when the film was released: it was labelled one of the worst movies to come out of the 1980s and declared an embarassment for all who were involved with it. Though he was still getting numerous offers from studios, Pacino fell into depression from the bad reviews of his previous film and went on a four-year hiatus from movies. He starred in a few plays but generally stayed out of the limelight (he now says it was the best thing he ever did for himself). He had brief flings with actresses Carol Kane (his co-star from Dog Day Afternoon who played the teller who is phoned up by her husband during the heist), and Kathleen Quinlan.

He reuinited with Scarface director Brian de Palma to play yet another Spanish-speaking gangster, this time in the 1993 movie Carlito's Way. During this time, Al had been dating director/producer Lyndall Hobbs. When their relationship began to take a turn for the worse, it is rumored that Al had an affair with his attractive Carlito's Way co-star Penelope Anne Miller. Pacino and Hobbs did not last, nor did he and Miller. He had a short role in 1995's Two Bits, and then what seemed to be a gift from the action-flick gods was released: Heat, directed by Michael Mann had Pacino starring opposite Robert de Niro (who had played Al's father in The Godfather Part II, however in that they had no screentime together). The movie was a smash. After that came the mediocre political drama City Hall co-starring John Cusack and Bridget Fonda.

Al tried his hand again at directing in the clever documentary Looking for Richard, which basically entails the story of Pacino trying to direct, star, and produce a production of Shakespeare's Richard III. This time, he released the movie to the public and it was very well-recieved; he even won the Best Director of a Documentary award from the Director's Guild of America.

In 1997, Al co-starred with Johnny Depp in the fantastic Mafia movie Donnie Brasco, then went on to play Satan himself in The Devil's Advocate next to Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. In 1999, he reunited with director Michael Mann to make the excellent drama/thriller The Insider with Russel Crowe. The movie was highly praised and nominated for seven Academy Awards. Then Pacino worked with renowned director Oliver Stone in the epic football film Any Given Sunday, followed by yet another movie directed by and starring Pacino, Chinese Coffee, which is at last due for release in 2005.

Around this time, Al became romantically involved with actress Beverly D'Angelo, and things seemed to be going very smoothly between them. In 2001, D'Angelo gave birth to twins--Olivia and Anton (perhaps named after one of Pacino's favorite playwrights, Anton Chekhov)--on January 25. Soon after, however, they decided to split, and a fierce custody battle ensued. Al claimed that Beverly was charging him money to see their children, while D'Angelo said that Al was abusing his custody rights and demanding to see the children more than he was allowed. The battle was long and exhausting, and the results were not disclosed to the public; however it is known that Pacino (grudgingly) had to move to LA so he could see the children three times a week. Al now rotates his schedule between New York--still his favorite place to be--and Los Angeles, so he can try and spend time with both Julie and the twins.

In 2002, he co-starred with Robin Williams and Hilary Swank in the tense and fascinating Insomnia, then made a comedic switch by playing a disgruntled director who creates a computerized diva in S1m0ne. He made a film called People I Know with Kim Basinger and then starred with Colin Farrel in the 2003 hit The Recruit as a corrupt CIA agent.

For old time's sake, Al agreed to make a cameo in Scent of a Woman director Martin Brest's film Gigli, starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. And I don't think it's necessary to say how that movie turned out. Still, Pacino once again fascinated audiences everywhere when he took on the TV miniseries Angels in America, playing the infamously slimy, homophobic hotshot lawyer Roy Cohn struggling to deal with his own homosexuality whilst dying from AIDS. Al won a Golden Globe, SAG Award and Emmy for his performance.

Most recently, Al starred in the beautiful and accomplished adaptation of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice (released late December 2004), which costarred Jeremy Irons, Joseph Fiennes and Lynn Collins. Other upcoming movies include 88 Minutes, a psychological thriller directed by James Foley and Two for the Money, a picture about sports gambling co-starring Matthew Maconoughay and Renee Russo. He's also slated for Torch, to be released in 2006, a drama set in 1920's Chicago and to be directed by Harold Becker.

It's been a long and difficult road for Pacino. He's certainly had his share of ups, but there have been downs. He's been a strong and courageous man, and an excellent reciever of both his fans and his fame: he takes it very much in stride and with courtesy. And it is, obviously, needless to say that he is and always will be one of the most talented actors of all time.

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