• Golden Globe Awards

Al Pacino

Al Pacino was born in East Harlem, New York, to Sicilian-American parents. “In America most everybody who’s Italian is half Italian. Except me. I’m all Italian.” He has said, “I’m mostly Sicilian, and I have a little bit of Neapolitan in me. You get your full dose with me.”When his parents divorced, when he was two years old, he moved with his mother to her parents’ house in the Bronx. Her parents coincidentally came from the town of Corleone in Sicily. “When my mother got home from work, she would take me to the movies. It was her way of getting out, and she would take me with her. I’d go home and act all the parts.”

In school where he was nicknamed both “Sonny” and “the actor” his favorite subject was English, but he dropped out at 17. “My first language was shy,” he recalls. “It’s only by having been thrust into the limelight that I have learned to cope with my shyness.”

He moved out of the family house and took low paying jobs to support his acting studies. Much of this time he was unemployed and homeless. He slept anywhere he could, including theaters, friend’s houses and even on the streets. “When I was younger, I would go to auditions to have the opportunity to audition, which would mean another chance to get up there and try out my stuff, or try out what I learned and see how it worked with an audience, because where are you gonna get an audience?”

He was at first rejected from the Actor’s Studio (of which he currently is co-president) but after four years at HB Studio he was accepted. He studied under Lee Strasberg who later appeared with him in The Godfather 2 and … And Justice for All.

“I don’t think actors should ever expect to get a role, because the disappointment is too great. You’ve got to think of things as an opportunity. An audition’s an opportunity to have an audience.” Pacino got his first major paycheck, $125 per week, from the theater in 1967 while spending a season at the Charles Playhouse in Boston. He continued to do plays in New York, where he met Martin Bregman who became his manager and encouraged him to do The Godfather.

“Martin Bregman discovered me off Broadway. I was 26, 25. And he discovered me and became my manager. And that’s why I’m here. I owe it to Marty, I really do,” He did a few small independent films early on, one was Jerry Schatzberg’s junkie drama Panic in Needle Park. That is the film in which Francis Ford Coppola saw him before eventually casting him in The Godfather (reportedly to the dismay of the studio). That film would earn him his first Golden Globe nomination (of a total 17!).

Pacino’s next film Serpico would translate into his first Best Acting Globe. He has a total of four including television-acting awards for Angels in America (2003), You Don’t Know Jack (2010) and Phil Spector (2013).
“I enjoyed playing Serpico because Frank Serpico was there. He existed. He was a real life person and I could – I could embody him. I could, you know, I could work and get to know him and have him help me with the text, the script and become him. It’s almost like a painter having a model to become.”

Pacino was never married but has three children; a daughter born in 1989 and twins born in 2001. “At this point in my career, I don’t have to deal with audition rejections. So I get my rejection from other things. My children can make me feel rejected. They can humble you pretty quick.”

Pacino, who is presently on Broadway performing in China Doll, has acted in dozens of films and plays. He directed four films two of which are docudramas: Looking for Richard and Wilde Salomé, yet he doesn’t seem like he is slowing down anytime soon. “You need some insecurity if you’re an actor. It keeps the pot boiling. I haven’t yet started to think about retiring. I was shocked when I heard about Paul Newman retiring at age 82. Most actors just fade away like old soldiers.”

“When I was a younger actor, I would try to keep it serious all day.” He now says, “but I have found, later on, that the lighter I am about things when I’m going to do a big scene that’s dramatic and takes a lot out of you, the better off I am when I come to it.”