It’s not often you get the chance to see a real Hollywood legend being interviewed in front of a live audience in Glasgow. The tickets were expensive, but highly sought after.
The audience sat quietly waiting for the Godfather to appear, and after a 20 minute delay – the air hung with anticipation and a slight nervousness. A film montage set the scene – the list of movies endless, and everyone a winner – from The Godfather, Serpico, Sea of Love, Scent of a Woman, Heat, Donnie Brasco, Carlito’s Way, and many more …
Al Pacino is 75 and wearing well. He counts Johnny Depp as a good friend and looking at him, you imagine he adopts the quirky younger actor’s dress sense, as the large screen behind him allows glimpses of his hands which are adorned with clunky rings.
And as Pacino wandered on stage, he introduced Scottish broadcaster and music journalist Billy Sloan, who had the squeaky bum job of interviewing the Godfather …
We went back to Pacino’s upbringing in the Bronx where he would reenact various movie roles for two aunts, one of whom was deaf. We heard how Francis Ford Coppola was adamant that the then young unknown Pacino would star as Michael Corleone in 1972’s smash hit film The Godfather, much to the bewilderment and annoyance of Warner Brothers. Pacino himself wanted fired from the movie because he wasn’t enjoying filming and the feeling of not being wanted. However, it turned out that Pacino’s portrayal of Corleone showed a canny character interpretation which he had taken from the book by Mario Puzo on which the film was based. The producers were finally convinced after they saw him act out the restaurant scene when Corleone kills Virgil Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey in cold blood.
There was a lot of good-natured and impromptu humor too, as Billy Sloan set up the questions and allowed Pacino to go full flow from one engaging story to another, occasionally gently reining him in and prompting him in another direction. And Pacino proved an engaging and entertaining story teller. There was the first meeting with his idol Marlon Brando, who had a disconcerting way of eating chicken with his fingers while simultaneously chomping and chatting, with hilariously messy consequences.
Then there was the time Pacino left the studio while filming Serpico, and hadn’t quite left his character behind, because he tried to pull another car over for creating too much pollution.
He said he was still waiting for Harrison Ford to thank him for his career because Pacino turned down Star Wars. And who does the best Al Pacino impression? Kevin Spacey does a good one but according to Pacino, it’s his pal Johnny Depp.
The audience questions were at times cringe-worthy but when asked what young actors would still be around and being afforded the same adulation – he singled out a few – namely Johnny Depp and Leonardo di Caprio, although he admitted it could be argued that they are not really “youngsters”.
From gangsters, to cops and the romance of Frankie and Johnny to the role of Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman, which won him the long-awaited Oscar, he rightly has legendary status.
Movies aside, he makes no secret of his love for theatre and writers such as Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. And it was good to see an acting legend displaying his craft. Pacino read a section of the Mamet stage play American Buffalo, which he performed in London in 1984. Even better was his recital of The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde.
Bringing us up to date, he also discussed movie Danny Collins which was released around the time of his tour, where he plays an ageing rock star.