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Al Pacino Reflects, From 'The Godfather' To 'Manglehorn'

Jun 18, 2015
Originally published on June 22, 2015 6:57 am

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Legendary actor Al Pacino is known for outsized performances in “The Godfather” films, “Scarface” and his Oscar-winning turn in “Scent of a Woman.” In his new film “Manglehorn,” Pacino takes on a much more subdued character.

He plays small-town locksmith A.J. Manglehorn, whose closest relationship is with his cat – he’s still pining for the woman he lost years ago. The role was conceived for him by director David Gordon Green and written by Paul Logan.

“When they want you for something and they see you in the part and they wrote it for you, you wonder if they’re seeing something that you don’t see,” Pacino told Here & Now’s Robin Young.

Interview Highlights: Al Pacino

On what drew him to ‘Manglehorn’

“Anything that a director – especially one with the talents of David Gordon Greene – when they want you for something and they see you in the part and they wrote it for you, you wonder if they’re seeing something that you don’t see. … Look – Francis Coppola – he wanted me for Godfather. That was it. He was adamant even though the studio and everybody else was telling him, ‘no – what are you going to do with this kid?’ And that was a big lesson for me, because I didn’t see in myself what he saw.”

On the uncertainty he’s felt throughout his life

“Firm footing? I haven’t felt that for a while. I think in this life, the way you start out is sort of, finally, in some ways, the way you end up. And so in a sense I’ve never felt on firm – maybe that’s good too, because it keeps you going. You understand that – what is firm footing? Is that sleep? That’s what it feels like to me.”

On his co-stars sensing a ‘whiff of danger’ around Pacino

“Gee, wow. I’m going to take that as a compliment. The danger probably she’s feeling is that I’m going to forget my lines.”

On his character in ‘Manglehorn’

“If it means anything, the character I play has a touch of Asperger’s, and I think every once a while, that is a fun thing to live with as a character. He gets awkward in certain situations. It’s his nature.”

On co-star Chris Messina’s admiration of Pacino

“A lot of people grow up with movies you’ve done. That’s the game. It’s always been in the game. I had it with actors I’ve worked with in the past. I got to work with mine; you know, Brando was an inspiration to me as a young actor, as a person – my whole life. Still is.”

On inspiration versus imitation

“I don’t want to go on too much, because this is what older people do. They just keep talking and they go until people start to sleep. But I did Scarface because I saw Paul Muni’s great performance of the original Scarface. And after I saw that performance, all I wanted to do was go out there and imitate it, because it inspired me.

“But the truth be told, you don’t imitate it, you’re only inspired by it. When you get to apply yourself to it, it’s totally different because I have a totally different instrument, the movie was set in Cuba. It’s a different thing, but at the same time, you get inspired and that’s sort of like playing a real character that exists, because you’re never going to be them. When I play Frank Serpico, I’m not Frank Serpico the way he really is. But I’ve been inspired by him, watching his movements, and he’s made me feel like sometimes you look in the mirror and you think you’re going to see another person.”

On thinking about his characters’ futures

“That is such a deep question, and so, it would require a memory – which I don’t have. The characters I’ve played … that’s very interesting that you say that, because it’s an interesting thing to think on. When I’m trying to fall asleep I’ll think on some of those characters so maybe I can lull myself to sleep, thinking of characters I played and what they’re doing with their lives.”

Guest

  • Al Pacino, actor and filmmaker. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in “Scent of a Woman,” and has received seven other Oscar nominations.
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