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Calgary Sun, October 11, 1997, PACINO PLAYS THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE
St. Petersburg Times, FILM GREATS CRAVE THE STAGE
Toronto Sun, October 12, 1997, STILL PLAYING DEVIL'S ADVOCATE
Calgary Sun, October 11, 1997
PACINO PLAYS THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE
By Louis B. Hobson
NEW YORK -- It's a devil of a chore getting Al Pacino to do interviews.
He's excited about his new horror fantasy The Devil's Advocate, opening Friday, but by his own admission, Pacino is chronically shy.
"My first language was shy. It's only by having been thrust into the limelight that I have learned to cope with my shyness," admits the 57-year-old Oscar winner.
Pacino had only ever considered himself a New York stage actor, but all that changed in 1971 when he starred as a junkie in the low-budget drama The Panic in Needle Park.
His riveting performance caught the attention of Francis Ford Coppola, who cast him the following year as Michael Corleone in The Godfather.
It was the first of seven Academy Award nominations Pacino would receive before winning his Oscar in 1992 for Scent of a Woman.
"Over the years, I've become far more interested in film. That's why I've been doing so many movies back-to-back.
"Also, to give a year to doing a play at my age is a very big commitment."
Looking back at his three decades as a film star, Pacino admits he was "far too selective at the beginning of my film career. An actor acts, and I wasn't acting because I was waiting to be inspired by the material.
"As you get older, you realize your time is running out, so you take the best of what is offered to you and do everything in your power to make it work."
In The Devil's Advocate, Pacino plays Satan, who has set up an earthly kingdom in New York. He has positioned himself as the head of a powerful law firm that controls interests around the world.
Things really begin to heat up when the devil brings in a new hot-shot lawyer, played by Keanu Reeves.
"This is a script that kept coming back to me in its various incarnations. I finally got excited when (director) Taylor Hackford brought me this version.
"He had this idea for a really contemporary devil, and the idea of putting him in a law firm really resonated with me."
Pacino was also intrigued with the idea that he "could do almost anything with the role. How are you going to be judged? Anything goes when you're playing the devil."
Pacino says he's finally learning to cope with the celebrity that makes people consider him a legend.
"I can't pretend it's ever been easy, but celebrity has been a part of my life for so long now it's beginning to seem natural."
He has learned that if he chooses to attend a public event, he has to expect a certain level of attention.
"What hurts is when you're in an exotic place for a holiday and the paparazzi stalks you. I love Paris, but I just don't go there any more because things have gotten so out of hand. I've tried going out in Paris in disguise, but that always backfires and, when the photos appear in print, you look so ridiculous.
"But let's face it, the perks outweigh the woes."
Pacino admits he has one real career regret.
"No one ever asked me to play Hamlet. I don't think I'm right for the part, but it would have been nice to be asked."
St. Petersburg Times
FILM GREATS CRAVE THE STAGE
By Steve Persall
Wednesday, September 15, 2000
"You're a tightrope walker, and you have the
wire up 100 feet,'' Al Pacino tells an audience at the Telluride Film Festival.
All the world's a stage, and some players make it into the movies. Switching to a different acting medium doesn't work for everyone.
For every Al Pacino or Angela Bassett, there are scores of Victor Garbers and Patti LuPones: outstanding stage performers who never quite adjust to performing for a camera after playing to the rafters of legitimate theaters.
Funny, though, that so many film actors rush back to the stage when their careers are secure. The money and perks of stage work aren't comparable to those in Hollywood, and the daily grind of stage engagements is tougher.
Established Hollywood stars have chosen that option with regularity, especially on Broadway. Oscar winner Kevin Spacey moved theatergoers as Hickey in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh, while Magnolia co-stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and John C. Reilly swapped roles nightly in a revival of Sam Shepard's True West. Glenn Close, Nicole Kidman and Jessica Lange also have wowed Broadway in recent years.
Those actors didn't need the jobs, yet somehow craved them. Pacino credits this to the daredevil attraction of live theater.
"You're a tightrope walker, and you have the wire up 100 feet," Pacino philosophized earlier this month at a panel discussion of stage and screen acting at the Telluride Film Festival.
"You start going across, and if you get shaky, you have to either get to the other side or go back again and start over, which you certainly don't want to do. That's theater."
"Movies are like the same thing, only the wire
is on the floor."
"In films, there are other chances to get a performance right. But anything can happen on the stage. You get used to that adrenaline thing the theater has. All kinds of chemicals start to work for you in your body. You can start to miss it. You want to get back to that kind of feeling, 100 feet up there."
Pacino and others, including Bassett, Willem Dafoe and Stellan Skarsgard, conceded that performing on film provides a safety net. Everyone has a mark to hit, a properly angled camera, and extra takes if mistakes need to be concealed.
But those factors can limit an actor.
Pacino made an name for himself on- and off-Broadway in the late 1960s in The Indian Wants the Bronx and Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? The performances earned him his first screen lead, as a heroin addict in The Panic in Needle Park.
Pacino also got his first lesson in the creative differences between stage and screen.
"I never wanted to know where the camera was going to be," Pacino said. "I didn't want anything to keep me from doing things the same way I did them on stage. That doesn't work.
"In the theater, you're employing the entire instrument, voice and body, in one continuous performance. In movies, it's a close-up for one line (of dialogue) and a medium shot for another, then the performance is patched together in the editing room."
"For some people, it's a tough period of adjustment. There is a temptation to get a little lazy or distracted."
For nearly 90 minutes, the actors spoke warmly of the riskier business of stage plays. Conversation bounced from one performance aspect to another, chasing elusive answers about the appeal of putting oneself on the line before a live audience.
"Rehearsal is a big difference between the two mediums," said Skarsgard, a veteran of the Royal Dramatic Theater in Stockholm, Sweden, before starring in films including Breaking the Waves and Good Will Hunting.
"In theater, you learn to construct your role, to build the curve that your role is going to take," he said. "It's a slow process, taking weeks to perfect before actually taking it to an audience. There is so little time to rehearse for movies that when you do the scene, you're still exploring it. I don't ever think a scene on film is finished."
Neither is a stage performance, countered Bassett, whose stage credits include a 1998 stint as Lady Macbeth for the Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York. The former St. Petersburg resident noted that external factors bring new shadings to performances from day to day.
"Your co-star may be (acting) different, what they're bringing for your character to react to," Bassett said. "Every audience's response is different. If you're aware and open to how you're being affected by that, your performance changes. Not drastically, but it does change. That's exciting, and it leads to some electric moments."
Yet, those "glorious accidents," as Skarsgard called them, that may embellish a role have a short shelf life, according to Pacino. He recalled a stage role early in his career when an impromptu response to another actor left a fresh, effective impression.
"Whatever it was that I did, it was spontaneous," Pacino said. "It worked, and I kind of fell in love with it."
"The next night, I tried it again, and it fell flat because it didn't come from the source. It was spontaneous before, but now it just seemed like another bit. I realized that I needed to put that particular acting choice to rest."
Perhaps Pacino's audience that night didn't notice anything wrong. But he did and felt uneasy enough to learn a privately embarrassing lesson. Live theater encourages such acting traps and escapes, without the margin for error that filmmaking provides.
"It's a real training ground, learning who you are in relation to the role, expanding yourself," Pacino said. "We have a tendency in the movies to work in naturalism, which is sort of the operative today. You play roles that people can recognize as themselves or the people down the street.
"But, what happens is that there can be a sameness in the work, doing the same kinds of roles in the same situation. You get pegged into a certain type of character."
"In theater, especially repertory, you're doing all kinds of roles that aren't mirrors of what goes on today. Grand plays with bold characters: Shakespeare, O'Neill. It widens your horizons, opens your imaginations.
"If there is a problem with film acting today, it's that too many young actors don't experience the stage first."
Toronto Sun, October 12, 1997
STILL PLAYING DEVIL'S ADVOCATE
By Liz Braun
Quintessential anti-hero of the '70s, Al Pacino marches to his own beat
NEW YORK -- Bad hair, bad fashion, good movies: that would be the '70s.
Whatever else happened in that decade that came after free love and before expensive greed, the '70s, cinematically speaking, belonged to Al Pacino.
Now 30 years into his profession, Pacino -- older, wiser, cuter -- is still making waves. In a career move that takes him from anti-hero to anti-Christ, Pacino currently stars in Devil's Advocate -- opening Friday -- a Rosemary's Baby meets The Firm kind of undertaking that co-stars Keanu Reeves.
Reeves plays a green go-getter, a hick lawyer lured to the modern Babylon (New York, natch) for a lucrative career with a gigantic law firm. Pacino is the Machiavellian head of said Manhattan firm.
Our youthful hero defends scum clients and gets rich and famous and attracts beautiful babes and gains the whole world but nearly suffers the loss of his immortal soul, and so forth. Then Reeves' character discovers who his boss really is: The Prince of Darkness. Satan. The Devil. Lucifer.
Sparks fly, not to mention fire and brimstone.
"What was gratifying was being able to play a character you could do almost anything with," says Pacino with relish. "Anything goes. Our idea was to make him a more tempting devil, to take it to an almost Faustian level."
He pauses before adding, "And then there's the whole idea of the devil."
Pacino hates interviews, but he is relaxed, humorous and characteristically inarticulate today as he promotes Devil's Advocate, winding unfinished sentences together into an old ball of twine for the press. Twice in the film, Pacino's character names Vanity his favorite sin. Asked what his own favorite sin is, he smiles right up to his eyebrows and murmurs, "That's why I didn't want to come here today."
The conversation goes elsewhere for a few minutes before he suddenly blurts, "Omission. Sins of omission," and grins.
The connection between Devil's Advocate and the films of the '70s that made Pacino famous -- The Godfather, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon -- is a thread you might call social consciousness.
Pacino says he took the role in Devil's Advocate, a script he'd already turned down more than once, because director Taylor Hackford took over the project and had something specific to say about the way we live now. Devil's Advocate is a satirical thriller about greed, vanity and the contemporary conscience.
It's not that movies are worse now, cautions Pacino. They're just different. "In the '70s we seemed to be addressing the socio-political issues of the day." Now, he notes, TV and the media in general have filled that gap.
"In Dog Day Afternoon, that's maybe the first time you ever see the media dealing with a real-life situation. Today, something like that is just run of the mill.
"You see it all the time on TV."
As for looking back, Pacino says he recently went to a 25th-anniversary screening of The Godfather -- the first time he'd seen the movie on a big screen. "I went when it opened, but I didn't stay. I was too nervous."
Everyone in the original cast was at the screening. "And I was interested to see the reactions. It's like looking at an old photograph of yourself. You just wonder. You say, `I can't quite relate.' "
Pacino says he prefers to keep looking forward, not to the past. Fame aside, he says he has never lost certain professional insecurities. "I always think, the next thing I do had better, it has got to be, ah -- it just never changed for me."
Being a legend, he says, is hard to compute.
"The work is reality. That other stuff is fantasy."
The eight-time Oscar nominee reluctantly talks about celebrity, prefacing his comments by noting that he figures it's okay to talk about because he's had the experiences.
The example he offers is about a trip to Paris, some years ago, when he was hounded endlessly. The point is, says Pacino, that the next time you work out in advance how to avoid all that.
"When you're in a public-enterprise thing, that's what you have to expect. But it's the persistence that causes you to react."
He doesn't want to dwell on the woes of stardom: that's a tiny, tiny `w,' the actor says. The perqs outweigh the negative stuff. What he most appreciates is something he calls access. "I remember in East Berlin, they knew me at Checkpoint Charlie." His face lights up at the memory. "So that was great."
Only once, says Pacino, did he actually put on a disguise. He glued on a beard to go to a baseball game.
He was noticed anyway, as was his `date,' Beverly D'Angelo. The actor's ploy was revealed all over TV and newspapers. "So that beard is in the museum of mistakes now," he says, laughing. On the subject of ambition, Pacino makes several attempts to explain that while ambition is not a bad thing, just wanting to work is mostly his thing. "My grandfather was a plasterer, and the thing about him, because he raised me, was his love of what he did," says the actor.
"And he went away and did that for eight hours every day, and you felt he really wanted to go back and do that again."
Then he quotes David Mamet, but not without worrying out loud beforehand about quoting someone without his permission. According to Pacino, when Mamet was asked how he could write, write, write his plays and books and movies all the time, Mamet responded, "It beats thinking."
And, "I kind of agree," murmurs Pacino.
THE AL PACINO FILE
ABOUT OSCAR: Pacino won for Best Actor in 1994 for his performance in Scent of a Woman.
ABOUT HAMLET: The self-confessed Shakespeare fanatic has, oddly, never played the Prince of Denmark. Frankly, he doesn't think he's right for the role. "But I think I should add," says Pacino, "that I've never been asked."
ABOUT DIRECTORS: Pacino -- hard to believe -- has never worked with Martin Scorsese, and would like to.
ABOUT FAMILY: Pacino has an eight-year-old daughter from a past relationship. As women go, many are called but few are chosen.
ABOUT BAD HABITS: A tone point, Pacino's nickname was Al Cappuccino because of his coffee habit. He now smokes herbal cigarettes only, and very few, but as for quitting altogether, he says, "I've given up giving up."