Over the years many actors and performers have ducked out of sight for a year or two (Robert Downey, Jr., Dave Chappelle, Winona Ryder, Eminem, Britney Spears), but as far as I can recall only three big-time movie stars absented the screen for several years — Henry Fonda, who vacated after 1949’s Jigsaw and didn’t re-appear until 1955’s Mister Roberts, Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie to Ishtar) and Al Pacino, who disappeared between Revolution (’85) and Sea of Love (’89).
Who am I forgetting? Contenders don’t measure up to Fonda, Hoffman and Pacino unless they were a big star when they dropped out, and they had to stay away from movies at least three or four years.
Warren Beatty doesn’t count. His post-Reds career has mostly been about not pulling the trigger.
Pacino was technically vapor for three and three-quarter years with Revolution opening in December ’85 and Sea of Love debuting in September ’89, but you might as well call it four. The legend is that the moody and whimsical New Yorker was lost and depressed, or maybe he was just charging his batteries. But however you slice it Pacino was a movie ghost all through ’86, ’87, ’88 and most of ’89.
But once he finally returned, Pacino made history with the best decade of his career and indeed his life. Nine grandslam performances in ten years — Dick Tracy (Big Boy Caprice), Glengarry Glen Ross (Ricky Roma), Scent of a Woman (Colonel Frank Slade), Carlito’s Way (Carlito Brigante), Heat (Lt. Vincent Hanna), Donnie Brasco (Lefty), The Devil’s Advocate (John Milton/Satan), The Insider (Lowell Bergman) and Any Given Sunday (Tony D’Amato).
[Thanks to Robert “Kid Notorious” for nudging me about Hoffman.]