A Talk with Al Pacino: An Appetite for Acting

It is a rare experience when Al Pacino gives an interview. But when the time comes, he seems to really enjoy it. On the Hollywood legend's 82nd birthday, we remember a very special conversation: Al Pacino leans far back in his armchair and makes a casual hand gesture to greet the interviewer.
Text Rüdiger Sturm
Photo Marco Grob / Trunk Archive

Mr. Pacino, you’re considered by many to be one of the best method actors of contemporary American cinema, not to mention a director and producer. Do you ever look back on your career? And if you do, which films…
Al Pacino: Never. Maybe it’s a blessing for me, and I thank God for that, because I just don’t do it. Of course there are some occasions, like when retrospectives of my films are shown, and I just go with the flow. And I am grateful for everything I have been allowed to experience. But I don’t really like to look back if I can avoid it.

But considering all of your achievements, looking back would be pretty agreeable, wouldn’t it?
You know what I like? I like it when I meet someone and they say, “I met you three years ago and you were so nice to me.” It’s wonderful when someone says that to you. But I meet a lot of people and sometimes I don’t remember the situation. Then it’s like reading a biography of myself where it says, “Al Pacino wasn’t a bad guy.”

But don’t you enjoy other people’s admiration? Javier Bardem basically called you the God of actors…
In the past, I would struggle with praise like that. I didn’t know how to react. Now I see things differently. It’s enthusiasm, and I let people have their feelings. I appreciate where it’s coming from. But I don’t take it literally. I understand that I mean something to these people – just as other actors have meant something to me. And that makes me happy.

»I didn’t actually become an actor.
Fact is, I already was an actor.«

Al Pacino

Are there any other compliments that can make you happy?
Someone once said I was as “groovy” as Mick Jagger. I like that: “groovy”. And I like being compared to Mick Jagger.

Did you become an actor because you were looking for the good feeling that comes with such compliments?
I didn’t actually become an actor.

You didn’t?
Fact is, I already was an actor. I just didn’t know it. People started calling me an actor when I was still in school. I grew up in the South Bronx, we didn’t have a lot of money, my father left the family when I was two years old. My mother worked a few odd jobs, and I was pretty much raised by my grandparents. Growing up like that, you don’t plan on becoming an actor. Let me tell you about Blanche Rothstein. She was my drama teacher when I was around eleven or twelve, and she took a liking to me. I was reading the Bible aloud in assembly, and I did it with a certain amount of gusto and verve, so she put me in her plays. And one day she came to the South Bronx and climbed up five flights of stairs to have coffee with my grandmother and tell her what I should do with my life. That’s why I love teachers. Though my grandmother sure had no idea what she was talking about.

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