In a 6.17 q & a with Badass Digest‘s Devin Faraci, Karina Longworth, the author of Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor, discussed Pacino’s transition from a spirited but psychologically rooted actor into the “hoo-hah!” guy — the florid mannerist and shouter. And yet whenever I think of my favorite Pacino performances, it’s almost always a performance that includes the shouty stuff. The excitable gay bank-robber in Dog Day Afternoon, Vincent Hanna in Heat, Lowell Bergman in The Insider, the Devil in Devil’s Advocate, Big Boy Caprice in Dick Tracy. The only quiet Pacino performances I’ve really admired are those in Glengarry Glen Ross, You Don’t Know Jack and The Godfather pics. My favorite all-time Pacino moment? The “inches” speech in Any Given Sunday.
Longworth is here in Paris but she has no English-language copies and neither does her local rep, but I’ll be able to snag a copy when I return to NYC.
“Scarface was the first time Pacino experimented with a screen performance that was intentionally not psychological or about physically manifesting an internal truth that the viewer could relate to,” she says, “[and] that was all about external action, and so in some sense you could call that a turning point.
“But if I think if there’s a real dividing line, it comes after Pacino wins the Oscar for Scent of a Woman. When I saw that movie when it first came out, and I was, like, 12 years old, I thought that was great acting. When I watched it again to write the book, I was a little baffled by it. He makes certain choices that are just patently absurd, that have absolutely nothing to do with mirroring any sort of reality. That this was the performance that earned him the ultimate show of respect from his peers — and not any of the Godfather films, which taken together, I think, still hold up as maybe the best male screen acting of the century?
“It almost seems like it flipped a switch in him, where after he got that validation he was like, ‘Oh, so this is what you guys like? Okkkaaaaay…'”
Pacino’s performance in The Godfather Part III is skillful and impressive in and of itself, but the Michael Corleone in this 1990 film doesn’t agree with and could never have flowed out of the malevolent ice man in The Godfather Part II.