A name like “Al” can strike an image of a common and normal kind of guy. But when you add the last name Pacino, you don’t have to use any imagination to visualize this iconic actor of award winning theatrical performances and intense and bold portrayals of indelible charters in cinematic history. Al Pacino: One Night Only at the Durham Performance Arts Center (DPAC) on May 20th was a montage of visual presentations, discussions, spontaneous banter, and rare opportunity to get a full dose of Mr. Pacino’s talents and personality. His open and casual honesty of his career and thoughts showed a glimpse of his humble view of fame and possibly, for some, left the audience with a comfortable feeling to just call him “Al”.
The evening began with an introduction by Richard Brown, a friend of Pacino and the New York University professor who started the International Centerfor Film and Television. The stage had a simple theatrical setting of two traditional leather reading chairs, and a large screen projection served as the backdrop that showcased film clips, new works directed and produced by Pacino, and a live feed of the interaction on stage. Brown guided the conversations with highlights of Pacino’s career and questions for Pacino and emphasizing that the audience saw not just the actor, but his thoughts and passions as a theatrical and film actor as well.
Pacino spoke of his early beginnings growing up in South Bronxand life as a “bohemian,” then delved into his backstage stories, notable experiences, and perspective of theater and film. He explained that theater was like an addiction to a “point of no return” and lured him to the unpredictable nature of live performances, facing the inherent fears of forgetting lines of Shakespearian plays, and so on. In turn, he said acting in movies was “like walking on a tight rope but it is painted on the floor”. He expressed his joy of films but said the theater was his home. The questions and exchange continued between Brown and Pacino with personal stories during film productions. Pacino attributed director Francis Ford Coppola to the success of his career in “The Godfather” and acting in his second film. Coppola insisted to producers and cast members who doubted Pacino’s ability to cast the unknown Pacino for the role of Michael Corleone. Other film clips and personal narrative of his works and interests in “edgy” themes included Angels in America, a film he directed, The Local Stigmatic (1990) and explanations of the characters Bob and Don, and a glimpse into his pride, joy, and stress of his latest interpretive documentary and film production of Oscar Wilde’s once banned and controversial work, Wilde Salome.
The audience had another one-on-one opportunity to ask questions and hear further insights into the depth of Pacino’s personality and character, not just as an actor but as a man seemingly down to earth about fame and willingness for his ardent fans to witness this easy going fun side. He confessed his interests to become a standup comic and admiration for Robin Williams, who performed at DPAC. During this spontaneous and relaxed exchange, he also shared his new founded respect for Justin Bieber and his talents after surrendering to the confinements of an airplane trip and watching Bieber’s new movie.
He treated the audience to the origins of a famous line, “Hoo-ah” (a signature cry of the U.S. Marine’s call), which he said was inspired by a military instructor for Pacino’s role in “Scent of a Woman,” and appeased the fans with another belt of “Hoo-ah!” The performance energy is then directed to his intensity and passion for literature and theater with a reading of the poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” by E.E. Cummings and other movie scripts. Unlike the elaborate productions and performances of Pacino’s works, the setting and production was simple that evening. For one night only, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a full dose of the legendary actor, Mr. Al Pacino.
See the full list full movie credits of Al Pacino and watch in-depth interview with James Lipton: Inside the Actors Studio Al Pacino.