When Alfredo James Pacino entered the world on April 25th, 1940, he was ensconced with his parents who had settled in East Harlem. Life was tough and when the boy turned two, his father, Salvatore who worked in insurance split with his mother, Rose. She relocated to settle with her parents in the neglected and forgotten neighborhood in the South Bronx. Salvatore moved to California to open a restaurant he named Pacino’s but youngPacino rarely saw his father whilst he was a boy.
Being the sole child without siblings, his mother who had retained custody of him and his grandmother and grand father who were protective of him,rarely let him out of their sight. Although money was scarce, occasionally Rose would take her son to the cinema where young Alfredo would sit on the edge of his seat, drinking in every nuance the actors portrayed on the big screen. Home again, he would re-enact the storyline in detail for his grandparents. Considered shy, having been sheltered until he was seven,Alfredo possessed a vivid imagination and could conjure tales for his classmates of ‘his days’ in Texas. Growing up was difficult for this introverted soul but when he turned 14, he saw a performance of Chekhov’s The Seagull and was no impressed he began to acknowledge an inner passion for acting.
He attended theSchool of Performing Arts but failed almost every class except English. Disillusioned, he decided at 17, he’d had enough; he was wasting his time. However, he retained a certain temerity and his ambitious nature drove him toward a string of jobs that taught him the duties of a janitor, what a postal clerk’s work involved, the duties of a messenger and a busboy. Determined to make a name for himself, he continued to work in order to pursue his studies in acting. He joined the theatrical underground in New York, playing bit parts in basement plays until eventually, he was drawn to the Herbert Berghof Studio. But at 21 his mother died and her loss tore him in two and almost destroyed him until he gave himself time to truly grieve.
The 1960’s were particularly difficult for Al Pacino who while he had enrolled for acting lessons at theActor’s Institute, endured times of pennilessness and homelessness. Those times however,rose to remind him of his humble beginnings in the South Bronx. In a way those days had served him well as with his growing tenacity, he learned the strategic techniques of Method Acting and eventually made a signature performance of his own. He debuted in Hello Out There off-Broadway directed by an old acquaintance, Charles Laughton and finally won an Obie Award for his work in The Indian Wants The Bronx, together with a Tony for his performance in Does The Tiger Wear A Necktie? Pacino followed through with his first television appearance in NYPD in 1968.
He was twenty-eight years old and his experience on the streets had begun to show in his acting thus he won a role in 1971 playing a heroin addict in a movie namedThe Panic In Needle Park. His ability drew the scrutiny of Francis Coppola, a director who was so impressed, he offered the young Pacino a role in The Godfather, playing Michael Corleone. That film earned him an Oscar nomination that confirmed his place in Hollywood as a fine performer and made the film 1972’s unforgettable blockbuster. Pacino’s performance in Serpico brought him to the forefront and when he played Michael Corleone again in The Godfather Part II, which was acclaimed as one of the finest films ever made, he had earned the title of a well respected actor. Next came Dog Day Afternoon, in which Pacino portrayed bank robber John Wojtowicz, a bi-sexual man.
He earned no less than four nominations at the Academy Awards for that performance. It was to be the early Eighties that would prove challenging until in 1983 when he was cast in Scarface which netted over $45 million at the box office and returned his faith in himself. After a short hiatus, he returned to making movies and in 1989 played opposite Ellen Barkin in Sea of Love. He followed with Dick Tracy but did not taste the ultimate success of an award until 1992 when he won an Oscar for his role in Scent of a Woman. From struggle in his early life to a position wherein he was able to choose and refuse parts in major films, he remained true to himself and gave integrity to those performances he did make in films such as Donnie Brasco and The Insider.
Although prolific as an actor, Pacino has remained a bachelor although his affairs were considered prominent as was his relationship with Diane Keaton. It was 2001 when he and Beverly D’Angelo had twins, a son Anton and a daughter, Olivia but their relationship floundered and D’Angelo moved to L.A. with their children. Al Pacino has a daughter, Julie Marie, from a previous relationship with Jan Tarrant but to date has never married.
Main Image: Flickr