"Say hello to my little friend," scowls Al Pacino in Scarface, referring to his machine gun. The line is vintage Pacino on screen, that is. "The charac-
ters [I played] would say these things that I could never say," admits the legendary tough guy. "Things I've always wanted to say, and that was very liberating for me."
Alfredo James Pacino was born on April 25, 1940, to Salvatore Pacino and Rose. His parents split up when he was two years old, and Al and his mum moved in with his grandparents in the South Bronx, a tough urban borough of New York City. Intelligent, but never motivated by school work, he found solace and fulfilment in acting.
"It started when I was very young. I mean, really young," he says. "I wasn't let out much. I was kept in. And while I was home I found myself repeating the roles from the movies I saw with my mother. Sometimes she'd take me to the movies when she came home from work. That was our date," he said. The two enjoyed a very close relationship, and Pacino was devastated by her death in 1962 after a long illness.
Aged 16 Pacino won a place at the prestigious High School for Performing Arts in Manhattan, but dropped out after just one year. He moved to Greenwich Village, did the off-off-Broadway thing and by 26 was accepted into Lee Strasberg's famed Actors Studio, a stomping ground for De Niro, Keitel, and other assorted legends.
Pacino struggled for a while, but soon scored a Tony Award for a Broadway production of Does A Tiger Wear A Necktie? He thrived on stage "my first love," as he describes it and only came to Hollywood in his 30s. He won rave reviews for his screen debut as a heroin-addicted criminal in The Panic In Needle Park, but it was The Godfather that truly ignited his career. Ironically, the studio was dead set against hiring Pacino for the film, hoping to cast a "name" in the role. Director Francis Ford Coppola won out, and Pacino received not only the critics' plaudits but the first of eight career Oscar nods. He finally won in 1993 for Scent Of A Woman.
Pacino, who is of Sicilian descent, went on to star in a string of acclaimed films including Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. His career hit the skids, however, in 1985 with Revolution largely considered one of the worst films ever made. But he returned triumphant in 1989 with Sea Of Love opposite Ellen Barkin.
That same year he made his directorial debut with The Local Stigmatic, and while the film was never released, his follow-up, 1996's Looking For Richard, was a celebrated achievement. Career highlights from the Nineties include the mob thriller Donnie Brasco and Michael Mann's Oscar-winning The Insider.
Pacino is among Tinseltown's most famous bachelors. He has never been married, but has enjoyed several high-profile romances with Diane Keaton while filming The Godfather: Part III and actress Penelope Ann Miller. A brief dalliance with acting coach Jan Tarrant in the late Eighties resulted in the birth of a daughter, Julie.
"I've never been married, but I like it that way," says the Any Given Sunday star. "I might get married one day. I was close once in my life, but it didn't happen; one day I'm sure it will." He may be speaking of his current companion, the actress Beverly D'Angelo, with whom he has twins, Anton and Olivia.
These days Pacino seems to have settled down somewhat. He stopped drinking in the late Seventies and kicked a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit in 1994. He's grown accustomed to being photographed with his children and, having passed the age of 60 with his career still thriving, the 5ft 6in actor seems content. "It does look to me like I'm a little more accepting of things," he said. "Pretty soon you just count whatever blessings you've got. I've found that happiness is cool."