I’m not big on articles about Hollywood stars, but this is an exception. John Lahr, the head drama critic for The New Yorker (and son of Bert Lahr, the Cowardly Lion), has written a terrific profile of actor Al Pacino, and I’m pleased to say that it’s online for free.
Pacino hasn’t done much lately, for, as Lahr notes, he was swindled out of millions of dollars by his business manager (now in jail), and has had to take some pretty crummy roles, including a tour in which he simply talks to audiences, to recoup his dosh. But Lord, the man has some great roles behind him, including those in The Godfather series (especially #2), Scarface, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and a number of plays on Broadway that I’ve never seen.
What really struck me about Pacino, now 74 years old, is his absolute immersion in his craft and his character—to the extent that he lives his character well after the camera has stopped rolling, and and seems to have very little life beyond acting. He’s had children and girlfriends, but never a permanent relationship. Lahr discusses Pacino’s longest-term relationship, with actor Diane Keaton:
The conversation turned to Diane Keaton’s bittersweet second memoir, “Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty,” which had been published the week before and in which she discussed “the lure of Al.” “His face, his nose, and what about those eyes?” Keaton wrote. “I kept trying to figure out what I could do to make them mine. They never were. . . . For the next twenty years I kept losing a man I never had.” Sola expounded on the astuteness of Keaton’s observation. “Al has this ephemeral, childlike quality about him,” she told me. “His friend Charlie used to say he’s like smoke. He’s there, but he’s not there. That’s maybe what drove the women crazy. You want to catch him, but you can’t because Al is—”
It sounds like an incomplete life, but, oddly, I found myself envying Pacino. He is in “the flow” nearly all the time, and that makes him avoid having what most people consider a normal life. He doesn’t seem to miss it, either. At any rate, I’d recommend reading Lahr’s “Al Pacino’s Driving Force.”