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Al Pacino Oscar Winner Biography
Alfredo James “Al” Pacino (born April 25, 1940) is an American film and stage actor and director. He is most famed for playing mobsters including Michael Corleone inThe Godfather trilogy and Tony Montana in Scarface, though he has also appeared several times on the other side of the law—as a police officer, detective and a lawyer. His role as Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman won him the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1992 after receiving seven previous Oscar nominations.
He made his feature film debut in the 1969 film Me, Natalie in a minor supporting role, before playing the leading role in the 1971 drama The Panic in Needle Park. Pacino made his major breakthrough when he was given the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather in 1972, which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Other Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor were for Dick Tracy and Glengarry Glen Ross. Oscar nominations for Best Actor include The Godfather Part II, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, the court room drama …And Justice for All and Scent of a Woman.
In addition to a career in film, he has also enjoyed a successful career on stage, picking up Tony Awards for Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? and The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel. His love of Shakespeare caused him to direct his first film with Looking for Richard, a part documentary on the play Richard III. Pacino has received numerous lifetime achievement awards, including one from the American Film Institute. He is a method actor, taught mainly by Lee Strasberg and Charlie Laughton at the Actors Studio in New York.
Although he has never married, Pacino has had several relationships with actresses and has three children.
Pacino was born in East Harlem, New York City to Italian American parents Rose and Salvatore Pacino, who divorced when he was two years old. When he was two, his mother moved to the South Bronx near the Bronx Zoo, to live with her parents, Kate and James Gerardi, who originated from Corleone, Sicily. His father moved to Covina, California, and worked as an insurance salesman and restaurateur. Pacino attended the School of Performing Arts in New York. During his teenage years ‘Sonny’, as he was known to his friends, aimed to become a baseball player, though he was also nicknamed ‘The Actor’. Pacino flunked nearly all of his classes except English and dropped out of school at 17. His mother disagreed with his decision; they had an argument and he left home. He worked at a string of low-paying jobs, including messenger boy, busboy, janitor, and postal clerk, in order to finance his acting studies.Early life and education
He started smoking at age nine, drinking and casual marijuana use at age thirteen, but never took hard drugs. His two closest friends died young of drug abuse, at the ages of 19 and 30 (his friend who died at age 30 had not seen Pacino for some years before he died). Growing up in a deprived area, he got into occasional fights, and was something of a minor troublemaker at school.
He acted in basement plays in New York’s theatrical underground, and then joined the Herbert Berghof Studio (HB Studio), where he met acting teacher Charlie Laughton, who became his mentor and best friend.During this period, he was frequently unemployed and homeless, and sometimes had to sleep on the street, in theaters, or at friends’ houses. In 1962, his mother died at the age of 43. The following year, his grandfather, James Gerardi, one of the most influential people in his life, also died.
Actors Studio training
In 1966, after many previous unsuccessful attempts, Pacino successfully auditioned at the Actors Studio. The Actors Studio is a membership organization for professional actors, theatre directors and playwrights in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. Over its long history many famous and successful actors, directors and playwrights have come out of the studio. Pacino studied “method acting“under acting coach Lee Strasberg (who later appeared with Pacino in the 1974 film The Godfather Part II). During later interviews he spoke about Strasberg and the Studio’s effect on his career. “The Actors Studio meant so much to me in my life. Lee Strasberg hasn’t been given the credit he deserves … Next to Charlie, it sort of launched me. It really did. That was a remarkable turning point in my life. It was directly responsible for getting me to quit all those jobs and just stay acting.” During another interview he added, “It was exciting to work for him [Lee Strasberg] because he was so interesting when he talked about a scene or talked about people. One would just want to hear him talk, because things he would say, you’d never heard before … He had such a great understanding … he loved actors so much.”
In 1967, Pacino spent a season at the Charles Playhouse in Boston, performing in Clifford Odets‘ Awake and Sing! (his first major paycheck: $125 a week); and in Jean-Claude Van Itallie’s America, Hurrah, where he met actress Jill Clayburgh while working on this play. They went on to have a five-year romance and moved together back to New York City.
In 1968, Pacino starred in Israel Horovitz‘s The Indian Wants the Bronx at the Astor Place Theater, playing Murph, a street punk. The play opened January 17, 1968, and ran for 177 performances; it was staged in a double bill with Horovitz’s It’s Called the Sugar Plum, starring Clayburgh. Pacino won an Obie Award for Best Actor for his role, with John Cazale winning for Best Supporting actor and Horowitz for Best New Play. Martin Bregman saw the play and offered to be Pacino’s manager, a partnership that became fruitful in the years to come, as Bregman went on to produce many of Pacino’s most acclaimed films, including “Serpico,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” and “Scarface”. Pacino and this production of The Indian Wants the Bronx traveled to Italy for a performance at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto. It was Pacino’s first journey to Italy; he later recalled that “performing for an Italian audience was a marvelous experience”. Pacino and Clayburgh were cast in “Deadly Circle of Violence”, an episode of the ABC television series N.Y.P.D., premiering November 12, 1968. Clayburgh at the time was also appearing on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow, playing the role of Grace Bolton. Her father would send the couple money each month to help.
On February 25, 1969, Pacino made his Broadway theatre debut in Don Petersen’s Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? at the Belasco Theater. It closed after 39 performances on March 29, 1969, but Pacino received rave reviews and won the Tony Award on April 20, 1969. Pacino continued performing onstage in 1970s, winning a second Tony Award for The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and performing the title role inRichard III for a record run on Broadway. In 1980s Pacino again achieved critical success on the stage while appearing in David Mamet‘s American Buffalo, for which Pacino was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. Since 1990 Pacino’s stage work has included revivals of Eugene O’Neill‘s Hughie, Oscar Wilde‘s Salome and in 2005 Lyle Kessler’s Orphans.
Pacino made his return to the stage in 2010 as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. The production continued in October 2010 at the Broadhurst Theatre New York, earning US$1 million at the box office in its first week.
Early film career
Pacino found acting to be enjoyable and realized he had a gift for it while studying at The Actors Studio. However, his early work was not financially rewarding. After his success on stage, Pacino made his movie debut in 1969 with a brief screen appearance in Me, Natalie, an independent film starring Patty Duke. In 1970, Pacino signed with the talent agency Creative Management Associates (CMA).
It was the 1971 film The Panic in Needle Park, in which he played a heroin addict, that brought Pacino to the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola, who cast him asMichael Corleone in the blockbuster 1972 Mafia film The Godfather. Although several established actors – including Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, and a little-knownRobert De Niro – also wanted to portray Michael Corleone, Coppola selected the relatively unknown Pacino, much to the dismay of studio executives. He was even teased on the set because he was short in height. Pacino’s performance earned him an Academy Award nomination, and offered a prime example of his early acting style, described by Halliwell’s Film Guide as “intense” and “tightly clenched”. However Pacino boycotted the Academy Award ceremony, as he was insulted at being nominated for the Supporting Acting award, noting that he had more screen time than Brando – who was himself boycotting the awards.
In 1973, he co-starred in Scarecrow, with Gene Hackman, and won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. That same year, Pacino starred in Serpico, based on the true story of New York City policeman Frank Serpico, who went undercover to expose the corruption of fellow officers. In 1974, Pacino reprised his role as Michael Corleone in the sequel The Godfather Part II, acclaimed as being comparable to the original. The film became the first sequel to win the Best Picture Oscar, and Pacino was nominated for his third Oscar. Newsweek magazine declared that his performance in the film “is arguably cinema’s greatest portrayal of the hardening of a heart”. In 1975, he enjoyed further success with the release of Dog Day Afternoon, based on the true story of bank robber John Wojtowicz. It was directed by Sidney Lumet, who also directed him in Serpico a few years earlier, and for both films Pacino was nominated for Best Actor.
In 1977, Pacino starred as a race-car driver in Bobby Deerfield, directed by Sydney Pollack, and received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actor – Drama for his portrayal of the title role, losing out to Richard Burton, who won for Equus. His next film was the dark drama …And Justice for All, which again saw Pacino lauded by critics for his wide range of acting abilities, and nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for a fourth time. However he lost out that year to Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer— a role that Pacino had declined.
During the 1970s, Pacino had four Oscar nominations for Best Actor, for his performances in Serpico, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon, and …And Justice for All.
Pacino’s career slumped in the early 1980s; his appearances in the controversial Cruising, a film which provoked protests from New York’s gay community, and the comedy-drama Author! Author! were critically panned. However, 1983’s Scarface, directed by Brian De Palma, proved to be a career highlight and a defining role. Upon its initial release, the film was critically panned, but did well at the box office, grossing over US$45 million domestically. Pacino earned a Golden Globe nomination for his role as Cuban drug lord Tony Montana.
In 1985, Pacino worked on his personal project, The Local Stigmatic, a 1969 Off Broadway play by the English writer Heathcote Williams. He starred in the play, remounting it with director David Wheeler and the Theater Company of Boston in a 50-minute film version. The film was never released theatrically but was later released as part of the Pacino: An Actor’s Vision box set in 2007.
His 1985 film Revolution about a fur trapper during the American Revolutionary War, was a commercial and critical failure, which Pacino blamed on a rushed production, resulting in a four-year hiatus from films. During this time Pacino returned to the stage. He mounted workshop productions of Crystal Clear, National Anthems and other plays; he appeared in Julius Caesar in 1988 in producer Joseph Papp‘s New York Shakespeare Festival. Pacino remarked on his hiatus from film: “I remember back when everything was happening, ’74, ’75, doing The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui on stage and reading that the reason I’d gone back to the stage was that my movie career was waning! That’s been the kind of ethos, the way in which theater’s perceived, unfortunately.” Pacino returned to film in 1989’s Sea of Love, about a detective played by Pacino who is trying to catch a serial killer who finds victims through the singles column in a newspaper. The film earned solid reviews.
Pacino received an Academy Award nomination for playing Big Boy Caprice in the box office hit Dick Tracy in 1990, in which critic Roger Ebert wrote that Pacino is ‘the scene-stealer’. Later in the year he followed this up by a return to one of his most famous characters, Michael Corleone, in The Godfather Part III (1990). The film had a good reception, but the third instalment had problems during pre production due to script rewrites and the withdrawal of actors shortly before production. In 1991, Pacino starred in Frankie and Johnny with Michelle Pfeiffer, who co-starred with Pacino in Scarface. The film is about a recently released prisoner (Pacino) who begins a relationship with a waitress (Pfeiffer) in the diner he works in. It was adapted by Terrence McNally from his own Off-Broadway play Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune(1987), which featured Kenneth Welsh and Kathy Bates. The film received mainly positive reviews with Janet Maslin in The New York Times writing, “Mr. Pacino has not been this uncomplicatedly appealing since his “Dog Day Afternoon” days, and he makes Johnny’s endless enterprise in wooing Frankie a delight. His scenes alone with Ms. Pfeiffer have a precision and honesty that keep the film’s maudlin aspects at bay.”
In 1992 Pacino won the Academy Award for Best Actor, for his portrayal of retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in Martin Brest‘s Scent of a Woman. That year, he was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Glengarry Glen Ross, making Pacino the first male actor ever to receive two acting nominations for two different movies in the same year, and to win for the lead role.
Pacino acted alongside Sean Penn in the crime dramas Carlito’s Way in 1993, about a gangster (Pacino) who is released from prison with the help of his lawyer (Penn) and vows to go straight. Pacino starred inMichael Mann‘s Heat (1995), in which he and fellow film icon Robert De Niro appeared on-screen together for the first time (though both Pacino and De Niro starred in The Godfather Part II, they did not share any scenes).
In 1996, Pacino starred in his theatrical docudrama Looking for Richard, which is both a performance of selected scenes of William Shakespeare‘s Richard III and a broader examination of Shakespeare’s continuing role and relevance in popular culture. The star studded cast brought together for the performance included Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey and Winona Ryder. Pacino played Satan in the supernatural thriller The Devil’s Advocate (1997) which co starred Keanu Reaves. The film was a success at the box office, taking US$150 million worldwide. Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun Times wrote, ‘The satanic character is played by Pacino with relish bordering on glee.’ In Donnie Brasco Pacino played mafia gangster “Lefty“, in the true story of undercover FBI agent Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp) and his work in bringing down the mafia from the inside. Pacino also starred as real life 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman in the multi-Oscar nominated The Insider opposite Russell Crowe, before starring in Oliver Stone‘s Any Given Sunday in 1999.
Pacino has not received another nomination from the Academy since Scent of a Woman, but won two Golden Globes since the year 2000, the first being the Cecil B. DeMilleAward in 2001 for lifetime achievement in motion pictures.
Pacino’s film festival-screened Chinese Coffee earned good notices. Shot almost exclusively as a one-on-one conversation between the two main characters, it was filmed in 1997 but not released until 2000. Chinese Coffee was included along with Pacino’s two other rare films he has been involved in producing, The Local Stigmatic and Looking for Richard, on a special DVD boxset titled Pacino: An Actor’s Vision which was released in 2007. Pacino produced prologues and epilogues for the discs containing the films.
Pacino turned down an offer to reprise his role as Michael Corleone in the computer game version of The Godfather. As a result, Electronic Arts was not permitted to use Pacino’s likeness or voice in the game, although his character does appear in it. He did allow his likeness to appear in the game adaptation of the remake of 1983’s Scarface, titledScarface: The World is Yours.
Director Christopher Nolan worked with Pacino for Insomnia, a remake of the Norwegian film of the same name, co-starring Robin Williams. In this film, Pacino delivered a performance of a burned-out character, like in Donnie Brasco. Newsweek stated that “he [Pacino] can play small as rivetingly as he can play big, that he can implode as well as explode”. The film and Pacino’s performance were well received, gaining a rating of 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The film did moderately well at the box office, taking US$113 million dollars worldwide. His next film, S1m0ne, was one that Pacino liked, but which did not gain much critical praise or box office success.
He played the part of a publicist in People I Know, a small film that received little attention despite a strong Pacino performance. Rarely taking a supporting role since his breakthrough, he accepted a small part in the box office flop Gigli in 2003 as a favor to director Martin Brest. The Recruit, released in 2003, featured Pacino as a CIA recruiter and co-stars Colin Farrell. It was well received, despite being a film Pacino said he “personally couldn’t follow”. Pacino next starred as lawyer Roy Cohn in the 2003 HBO miniseries ofTony Kushner‘s play Angels in America. For this performance, Pacino won his third Golden Globe, for Best Performance by an Actor in 2004.
In Two for the Money, Pacino works as a sports gambling agent and mentor for Matthew McConaughey, alongside Renee Russo. The film was released on October 8, 2005 and received mixed reviews. Desson Thomson wrote in The Washington Post, “Al Pacino has played the mentor so many times, he ought to get a kingmaker’s award (…) the fight between good and evil feels fixed in favor of Hollywood redemption.”Pacino starred as Shylock in Michael Radford‘s 2004 film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice, choosing to add empathy to a character that had usually been played as a straight villain.
On October 20, 2006, the American Film Institute named Pacino the recipient of the 35th AFI Life Achievement Award. On November 22, 2006, the University Philosophical Society of Trinity College, Dublinawarded Pacino the Honorary Patronage of the Society.
Pacino starred in Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Thirteen alongside George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Elliott Gould and Andy García as the villain Willy Bank, a casino tycoon targeted out of revenge by Danny Ocean and his crew. The film received generally favorable reviews.
88 Minutes was released on April 18, 2008 in the United States, having already been released in various other countries in 2007. The film co-starred Alicia Witt and was critically panned, although critics found the fault to be in the plot instead of Pacino’s acting. In Righteous Kill, Pacino and Robert De Niro co-star as New York detectives searching for a serial killer; rapper 50 Cent also stars in it. The film was released to theaters on September 12, 2008. Although it was an anticipated return for the two stars, it was not well received by critics. Lou Luminick of The New York Post gave Righteous Kill one star out of four, saying: “Al Pacino and Robert De Niro collect bloated paychecks with intent to bore in Righteous Kill, a slow-moving, ridiculous police thriller that would have been shipped straight to the remainder bin at Blockbuster if it starred anyone else.”
Pacino played Dr. Jack Kevorkian in an HBO Films biopic entitled You Don’t Know Jack, which premiered April 2010. The film is about the life and work of the doctor-assisted suicide advocate. The performance earned Pacino his second Emmy Award for lead actor  and his fourth Golden Globe award.
While Pacino has never married, he has three children. The first, Julie Marie (b. October 16, 1989), is his daughter with acting coach Jan Tarrant. He also has twins, Anton James and Olivia Rose (b. January 25, 2001), with actress Beverly D’Angelo, with whom he had a relationship from 1996 until 2003. Pacino also had a relationship with Diane Keaton, his co-star in the Godfather Trilogy. The on-again, off-again relationship ended following the filming of The Godfather Part II. Other relationships he has had over the years include Tuesday Weld, Marthe Keller, Kathleen Quinlan and Lyndall Hobbs.