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Al Pacino: All About Everyone’s Favorite Movie Mobster, From ‘The Godfather’ to ‘Scarface’

Learn about everyone's favorite godfather

“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!” Its one of Al Pacino’s most well-known quotes, and for good reason. Not only does it showcase the actor’s versatility, exemplify the emotion he can bring when it comes to portraying certain parts, remind us of Al Pacino young, but it also instantly suggests his most iconic role of all, Michael Corleone.

Yet as powerful as his portrayal of that character from The Godfather trilogy is, it’s just a fraction of what Al Pacino young — and old — has achieved.

Al Pacino young

Alfredo James “Al” ‘Pacino was born on April 25, 1940 in Manhattan, New York to a set of Italian parents, who divorced shortly after he was born. Those left to pick up the pieces fell into poverty, leading a young Al to have bouts of depression which, in turn, led to boredom with regular schooling.

Al Pacino in 1970
Al Pacino in Scarface (1983)Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer/Getty

The one saving grace Al Pacino young had though? Acting. As a child Pacino could often be found making up voices or recreating scenes he had seen in different TV shows and movies. He also found solace acting in school plays.

This all led to his getting accepted into the Actors Studio in 1966, where he would study under Lee Strasberg, creator of the Method Approach that would become the trademark of many 1970s actors.

Al Pacino in 1970
Al Pacino in the ’70sArt Zelin / Contributor/Getty

After his time there had ended, Pacino finally landed a spot in an off-Broadway play called The Indian Wants the Bronx, which would earn him a 1969 Tony-winning starring role in Broadway’s Does the Tiger Wear a Necktie?.

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Al Pacino young and his journey to Hollywood

Al Pacino in 1972
Al Pacino in 1972Roy Jones / Stringer/Getty

In 1968 Pacino was cast in his first ever TV show, N.Y.P.D. It might have only been for one episode, but it opened massive doors for the actor. He would go on to work on three more shows before director Francis Ford Coppola discovered him and cast him in The Godfather.

Al Pacino in The Godfather

In 1972 Pacino landed one of the most sought after roles at the time: Michael Corleone in The Godfather (1972). But getting there wasn’t easy.

Paramount Pictures wanted someone more well-known for the role — they were even in talks with Robert RedfordWarren BeattyJack Nicholson and Robert De Niro — but director Francis Ford Coppola fought for Pacino and won.

Al Pacino in 'The Godfather' (1972)
Al Pacino in The Godfather (1972) moviestillsdb.com/Paramount Pictures

“When I actually read The Godfather book, I kept imagining him,” Coppola explained. “And I didn’t have a second choice. It was, for me, always Al Pacino. That’s the reason why I was so tenacious about getting him to play Michael. That was my problem.”

Al Pacino in 'The Godfather II' (1974)
Al Pacino in The Godfather II (1974) moviestillsdb.com/Paramount Pictures

But how did Pacino feel about getting the part? Well, in 2022 the actor opened up about that, saying, “For an actor, that’s like winning the lottery.”

“I felt like, all of a sudden, some veil was lifted and all eyes were on me. Of course, they were on others in the film. But The Godfather gave me a new identity.”

Al Pacino and Diane Keaton in 'The Godfather III' (1990)
Al Pacino and Diane Keaton in The Godfather III (1990) moviestillsdb.com/Paramount Pictures

The Godfather went on to have two sequels in 1974 and 1990. Pacino would also earn two Oscar nominations for his work in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II.

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Life outside of The Godfather

In between Godfather movies, Pacino’s professional career continued to thrive, because of his work in films like the acclaimed Serpico (1974) and Dog Day Afternoon (1976) — both of which earned him Oscar nominations.

Al Pacino in 'Serpico' (1974)
Al Pacino in Serpico (1974) moviestillsdb.com/Paramount Pictures

However, Pacino didn’t exactly feel like one of those was earned, believing his portrayal of real life NYPD detective Frank Serpico — who was responsible for exposing corruption in the police department— could have been better.

“I’ll tell you, I met Frank Serpico; they introduced me to him. [Before] I met the person that I was supposed to do, I didn’t wanna play him. It was an odd thing. Not because he was negative or positive, but I just felt I couldn’t be him.”

Al Pacino in 'Serpico' (1974)
Al Pacino in Serpico (1974) moviestillsdb.com/Paramount Pictures

That soon changed, though, with Pacino saying, “But when I met Frank, I knew there was something I could paint there. There was something that I could sort of serve. He had an earring, long hair and was strange looking. But he had a look in his eye that I thought, ‘There it is.’ I got to know him very well and hung with him.

The Scarface era

Aside from his work in The Godfather, Pacino is also often recognized for his portrayal of Tony Montana in the 1983 film Scarface.

Al Pacino in 'Scarface' (1983)
Al Pacino in Scarface (1983) moviestillsdb.com/Universal Pictures

“I look at Scarface, and I don’t see that as the metaphor. I see what Brian De Palma was talking about when we made it. It was the crazy Eighties, the decade of avarice, greed and introducing that into the world,” Pacino said.

“I know a lot of people who don’t deal drugs who are inspired by it. It’s about a kind of ingenuity, suddenly coming from the bottom and rising, which is why the original was so inspiring for me.

Al Pacino in 'Scarface' (1983)
Al Pacino in Scarface (1983) moviestillsdb.com/Universal Pictures

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Al Pacino in the ’90s

The nineties were also a great decade for Pacino. During those 10 years, the actor earned two Oscar nominations for his work in both Dick Tracy (1991) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1993). Additionally, he won one for his work in the 1992 movie Scent of a Woman.

Scent of a Woman was also the film where Pacino uttered the iconic phrase “Hoo-ah!,” which he came up with himself.

Al Pacino in 'Scent of a Woman' (1992)
Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman (1992) moviestillsdb.com/Universal Pictures

“[That] came from this guy who was teaching me how to load and unload [a .45 caliber handgun] blind. You know, it’s complicated, [you] gotta pick it apart and then put it back together again in 45 seconds. And there’s a lot of little things you gotta learn,” Pacino explained.

“So I was forever having practice with this guy, [who was] teaching me how to do it. This was a real lieutenant, this guy. And every time I would do something good or even a little good, he would go, ‘Hoo-ah!’ And I said, ‘What is that?’ He said, ‘Oh, that’s what we do. Hoo-ah! With the troops going along.’ I go, ‘I gotta use that.’ So that somehow got in the part. That comes from heaven, that stuff.”

Al Pacino in 'Scent of a Woman' (1992)
Al Pacino in ‘Scent of a Woman’ (1992)moviestillsdb.com/Universal Pictures

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Pacino in the new millennium

Al Pacino in 'Ocean's Thirteen' (2007)
Al Pacino in ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’ (2007) moviestillsdb.com/Warner Bros

Pacino was ready to take the new millennium by storm. Between the years of 2000 to 2010 the actor worked on 15 different projects, including Two for the Money (2005) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007).

Al Pacino in 'House of Gucci' (2021)
Al Pacino in ‘House of Gucci’ (2021)moviestillsdb.com/Universal Pictures

Then, from 2011 to 2020, Pacino could be found in Phil Spector (2013), Salomé (2013), Hangman (2017), Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019), House of Gucci (2021) and Knox Goes Away (2023), the actors most recent project.

The personal life of Al Pacino

Al Pacino and Lucila Sola in 2016
Al Pacino and Lucila Sola in 2016Paul Morigi/WireImage/Getty

Al Pacino has never been married, however he was been in two very serious relationships. One with Beverly D’Angelo from 1997 to 2003 and then with Lucila Polak from 2008 to 2018. He has four children. He’s 84-years-old.

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