You might be familiar with an “EGOT,” which refers to a very rare class of award winners that have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. Al Pacino is only one letter away from that group, having an Emmy, Oscar, and Tony.
Unfortunately, unless Pacino’s Dunkaccino rap from Jack and Jill suddenly gets a Grammy nomination, I don’t know the odds are super high on him completing the EGOT.
Al Pacino never actually finished high school. At the age of 17, not only did he drop out, but the act of dropping out put a schism in his family, so he moved out of the house and took odd jobs to take acting lessons. Those jobs included being a messenger, a janitor, a busboy, a postal clerk, and a mailroom employee at Commentary magazine.
In The Godfather films, it’s a well-established fact that Vito Corleone immigrated to the United States from Corleone, Sicily. Al Pacino couldn’t be a better pick as a descendant of Corleone, because he literally is. His maternal grandparents, James and Kate Gerardi, came from Corleone, Sicily.
The “Bad” Choice
Building off of that odd Godfather fact is one that might seem unbelievable: That producers of The Godfather were not happy about Al Pacino’s casting in The Godfather.
The studio was more interested in Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, or Jack Nicholson, as all of them had established careers at that point. Pacino was still relatively unknown at the time, and producers were pissed about him getting the part.
In fact, the only thing that saved Pacino from being recast was when the producers witnessed the filming of the legendary Louis Restaurant sequence, in which Pacino was performing so well, that the producers were finally convinced he was the right choice.
Pacino and Star Wars
Yeah, that probably got your attention.
Al Pacino was one of many actors to turn down playing Han Solo in Star Wars, which is one of the most tantalizing “What If?” scenarios I’ve ever heard of. He also turned down playing Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ted Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer, and various roles in the films Apocalypse Now, Born on the Fourth of July, Pretty Woman, and Crimson Tide.
The Second Greatest Improv of Pacino’s Career
One of the best movies Pacino has ever been in was Dog Day Afternoon, and one of the most famous moments in the film is when Pacino’s character begins to shout out “Attica!” to the crowd. To be fair, while the moment isn’t in the script, it wasn’t entirely Pacino’s idea. He claimed that it was a suggestion from assistant director Burtt Harris.
The Absolute Greatest Improv of Pacino’s Career
Now, if you ask me, the greatest improv of his career (even better than Attica”) is in Heat. The absolutely iconic delivery of Pacino shouting at Hank Azaria “Because she’s got a GREAT A$$!” was nowhere to be found in the script. This explains why Hank Azaria looks so stunned, it was a completely genuine reaction and an attempt to stay in character.
The Great Two
While we’re on the subject of Heat, it’s kind of impossible to talk about Pacino without bringing up Robert DeNiro. They both came up in the New York acting scene at the same time, to the point that both of them auditioned for Michael Corleone in The Godfather. They’ve become close over the years, but they’ve only been in films together four times to date:
–The Godfather Part II (where they don’t share any scenes together)
Something that people forget about Pacino is that he took a break from film acting for four years. He starred in a film called Revolution in 1985 that ended up being a complete flop on all fronts, so he went back to theater acting for many years. He actually started in theater (he won his first Tony award in 1969 before he was ever in The Godfather), so it wasn’t exactly unfamiliar territory to him.
Something worth noting about Hollywood props is how “blanks” work in prop guns. Blanks might not fire a projectile that will kill you (unless you press the gun directly against your head, as actor Jon-Erik Hexum tragically did in 1984). Since the gun is still firing something, the gun still gets physically hot.
Which is how poor Al Pacino managed to accidentally burn one of his hands while filming Scarface. He grabbed a prop gun by the barrel that had just been firing blanks, and it burned his hand badly enough that production was shut down for several weeks so his hand could heal.
The Oscar Double
While Pacino only has a single Academy Award win under his belt, he holds a very unique position among nominees: He’s among about a dozen actors to be nominated twice at the Academy Awards for acting in the exact same year (Scarlett Johansson is the most recent, she pulled it off last year with a Supporting nomination for Jojo Rabbit, and a Leading nomination in Marriage Story).
In Pacino’s case, he was nominated for Glengarry Glen Ross in the Supporting Actor category the same year he was nominated for Scent of a Woman in Best Lead Actor category (and that’s the Academy Award he ultimately won).
That being said, Pacino’s relationship with the Oscars hasn’t always been so nice. When Pacino was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in The Godfather, he didn’t even show up. This was because he felt he’d been cheated out of a Best Leading Actor nomination, considering that Marlon Brando was nominated and has considerably less screen-time than Pacino does.
The One Award You Don’t Want to Win
Pacino has a lot of accolades under his belt, but one that’s a bit less prestigious.
I’ve already joked about it, but now’s the time to fully get into it: Al Pacino is in the Adam Sandler movie Jack and Jill, which is an absolute train wreck of a movie. Not only is Pacino in it, but he also plays himself, and Pacino falls in love with a character that’s literally Adam Sandler as a woman. Oh, and he does a rap about Dunkin’ Donuts too.
For his work, he “won” the Worst Supporting Actor Award at the Razzies that year.
Pacino often prides himself on method acting. The most intense example probably goes to how Pacino prepared for playing Frank Serpico in the film Serpico. Not only did Pacino start frankly meeting and talking with the real Frank Serpico, but they also ended up living in a rented home in Montauk, New York together during filming.
The (Almost) Offscreen Death of Michael Corleone
So, obviously The Godfather Part III didn’t quite turn out as well as its predecessors, but it almost had a completely different story due to a financial dispute between Al Pacino and Francis Ford Coppola. Pacino wanted $7 million to come back, and Coppola was pissed off at that amount of money. He was so pissed that he threatened to rewrite the entire story to start with the funeral of Michael Corleone, effectively removing Pacino from the project.
Pacino settled on being paid $5 million instead.