A great profile of Al Pacino

September 15, 2014 • 10:34 am

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, SerpicoDog 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.

Beverly Hilton Hotel

10 thoughts on “A great profile of Al Pacino

    1. “You ain’t a lawyer no more, Dave. You a gangster now. On the other side. A whole new ball game. You can’t learn about it in school, and you can’t have a late start.” Carlito Brigante

      One of his best roles imho. DePalma got two of the best performances from this genius.

      Thanks for the article, really well written and realized.

  1. A truly great actor. I agree that Godfather II was his most powerful role. I would go beyond that and say it is one of the strongest acting performances ever.

  2. Ditto regarding John Lahr’s prose. His biography of his father Bert Lahr (Notes on a Cowardly Lion) is wonderful, particularly regarding Bert’s performing the American debut of Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”.

  3. Wow!! Thanks for this!! Just saw him in two new movies in a row on Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival.

    The Humbling (Gary Levinson film made from a novel by Philip Roth)

    Fantastic both and I believe both will be released (but not sure when).

  4. Not a great actor for me at all. Too shouty and unsubtle. Everything he does has to be great big over the top Al Pacino tour de force. Even his silent malevolence face is somehow too loud and caricaturish. In short, he’s very self-consciously thespy and can’t drop the stage actor mode when doing a movie.

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