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When Pacino was thirteen and performing in a school play, an adaptation of “Home Sweet Homicide,” he already identified so strongly with his role that when his character was supposed to get sick onstage he became nauseated. At one point, Pacino, with a carnation and a floppy handkerchief in his jacket pocket, even pops up as Wilde himself.(“Somebody came up and said to my mother, ‘Here’s the next Brando.’ I said, ‘Who’s Brando? When I do a movie, and I come back, I’m stunned for the first twenty minutes. Part of Pacino’s fervor for Wilde comes from a desire to claim the writer’s intelligence and eloquence.Yes, there are flaws, but in them are things you’ll remember.”Pacino protects his talent by leaving it alone, which accounts for his vaunted moodiness.**“**There are various superstitions connected with reaching his center, and he doesn’t want to discuss them ever,” Mike Nichols, who directed Pacino in “Angels in America,” said. And the somewhere else does not have to do with words.” Pacino almost never talks shop.“He assumes their identity so completely that he continues to live a role long after a play or movie is over.” Once, when Pacino was playing Richard III in Boston, Jacqueline Kennedy came backstage to greet him. “I was so into it that night that I continued to be the King. After the first few readings of the script for “You Don’t Know Jack,” Levinson recalls wondering “when Kevorkian will show up.” “I remember we were in wardrobe. We were talking and, all of a sudden, I could sense that Kevorkian was coming alive,” he said, adding, “Once he latches on, then he’s off to the races.” At the finale of “You Don’t Know Jack,” after Kevorkian has unsuccessfully defended himself in court, the judge looks at him and asks if he wants to take the stand. His portrayal of the blind Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in “Scent of a Woman” (1992), for instance, was considered hammy by some, but, in Pacino’s thinking, the character was a lunatic—a suicidal, narcissistic man who drew attention to himself through his affectation of swagger—and he played him that way.
“I believe I have not reached my stride, which is why I persist,” he told me in an e-mail. “Oscar had the brains to back it up.” Pacino, whose formal education ended in tenth grade, grappled for years with a sense of intellectual inadequacy. Having a script to work from gives him, he said, a kind of license. The language of great writing frees you of yourself.”Most actors of Pacino’s stature—Brando, Jack Lemmon, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro—began in theatre and rarely returned.
When he was at the Actors Studio, in the late sixties, whenever Strasberg gave him notes, he said, “I would actually count numbers in my head not to hear what he was saying. I thought it would fuck up what I was doing, where I was going with my own ideas.”Even Pacino’s speech patterns, which forge a kind of evasive switchback trail up a mountain of thought, serve as a defense against too much parsing of his interior.
“Al is dedicated, passionately, to inarticulateness,” Nichols said, pointing out that in conversation Pacino has no “chitchat.” Playing dead in social situations is his instinctive strategy.
” But, with two new movies waiting in the wings (Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” about the man who supposedly killed Jimmy Hoffa, and a Brian De Palma bio-pic about Joe Paterno), and a David Mamet play, “China Doll,” in the works for Broadway in 2015, the answer is not soon. The den is a sort of Camp Pacino, overflowing with toys: a pinball machine, a drum kit, electric guitars, dolls, a mound of games, balls, rackets, and swimming gear crammed into baskets against the back wall. “There are more demands put on you when it is on the stage,” he said.
A low table holds a sprawling Lego construction in progress. To Pacino, there is no such thing as a fourth wall.
“He was so sensitive that he was insensitive to his surroundings,” Diane Keaton, with whom Pacino had an on-again-off-again relationship in the seventies and eighties, wrote in her memoir “Then Again.” “Sometimes I swear Al must have been raised by wolves. He added, “Oh, it felt so good.”While working on his first production of “Richard III,” in 1973, at the Church of the Covenant, in Boston, Pacino and his assistant developed a pre-show routine for launching him into the role of the anarchic, manipulative “lump of foul deformity” who would be king. “She’d peek through the door and say, ‘Half hour,’ then, ‘Fifteen minutes.’ She’d come back again and say, ‘Five minutes.’ I would say, ‘Fuck off,’ each time,” Pacino told me.